By Ed Giradeau/Photo courtesy of Augusta Gamecock Club
A day after the event of the century (the solar eclipse), the Augusta Gamecock Club met to get ready for the next big thing: the Belk Kickoff Classic in Charlotte pitting South Carolina vs NC State.
“When you cross that river into Georgia, you’re now in Bulldog country,” explained Augusta Gamecock Club President Curley Avant. “It’s good to get together and realize that there are more Gamecocks in this community than you might think.’A group of approximately 65 met at Tin Lizzy’s on Washington Road to discuss the upcoming season and see Cocky, Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland, and former Carolina defensive linemen Preston Thorne and Langston Moore.
“I was a freshman in 2000,” Thorne told the audience. “We were coming off the worst season in Gamecock history (0-11 in 1999), so I’ve been asked why did you agree to come to USC? My fellow freshmen and I could see the players were really working hard and were getting better, as well as the coaches. The big difference, though, were the fans. You guys showed up no matter the record and supported the kids. We could see that and you really make a difference, then and now.”
Moore, the sideline reporter for Carolina football radio broadcasts, gave a report of what to expect in the season ahead, going over each position of both the offense and the defense, as well as the special teams.
“What a difference a year makes. Last year we didn’t know who the quarterback would be, or who the running backs would be, much less the receivers," Moore said. "A year later we know exactly who the quarterback will be (Jake Bentley) and we have a slew of running backs to pick from as well as wide receivers and tight ends.
“I’m excited about Bentley. Not only is he a great athlete, he’s also a very smart kid who has been raised by his father who is a coach. He’s been thinking about being a quarterback since he was a little kid and he is prepared for this more than your normal 19 year old.”
The former NFL lineman also went over the offensive line position by position as well as the backups.
“I expect the line to be a strength of the team under new offensive line coach, Eric Wolford," Moore said.
As a former defensive player, Moore gives a special insight into the defense.
“We have some great athletes on defense. The question will be who is best and when do they need to be on the field," he said. "We have some guys who are great at stopping the run, but need to get better with the pass rush. We also have some guys who are better at the pass rush, but need to get better at run defense. It will be important to have the right units on the field.”
Moore also talked about the special teams.
“Last year, the one thing we knew going in was who our kicker and punter were. They’re gone, so it will be important for the new guys to step up and be consistent," he said.
“Coleman Hutzler is the special teams coach and he’s a loud guy; does a lot of screaming. He sounds just like Sgt. Slaughter from the old WWF wrestling days. He sounds kind of crazy and it’s my experience when your special team’s coach is a high energy guy then your special teams are high energy and pretty good. I think we’re in good shape.”
When asked about the Gamecocks possibly starting the season 4-0, Moore went through the first four games.
“NC State? Yeah sure we’ll win that. The other Columbia (Missouri)? Yeah, we owe them one from two years ago, so we’ll call that a win. Back home for the black out and Kentucky? We can’t lose that. Louisiana Tech….?” Moore paused for a second, “That’s Skip Holtz (one of Moore’s coaches while in school). That will be a tough one, but, yeah, 4-0 sounds about right.
“NC State will be a challenge. They have a great defensive line. It will be a test for our offensive line, but I think we’re up for it. We need to pack Bank of America Stadium and make it a home field for USC.”
So a crowd who was still discussing the sun’s blackout the day before left talking about Gamecock Football and looking forward to getting the season started.