Austin Pollock had made the same trek to Silver Bluff High School three times a week all summer.
But something felt different about the first day of football practice for the teams quarterback. He set his alarm for 5:45 a.m. Friday and didnt think of banging the snooze button.
I jumped right up and brushed my teeth, he said. Getting up early and getting back in the habit, its all very exciting.
Coaches across South Carolina were looking for this type of enthusiasm on the first official day of football practice. With opening games less than a month away, the opening day of practice was the first of a series of steps as teams progress toward their first game. Whats next for South Carolina: Tuesday, the first day of full pads; Thursday, the first opportunity to scrimmage.
Im excited, South Aiken coach Robert Wrightenberry said. When it dont get exciting, you need to quit. You can teach school, go home and walk or go fishing.
Coaches stressed different things on the first day. For South Aiken, it was consistency on offense (turnovers felled the Thoroughbreds last year in a 3-9 season.)
The kids have got to realize theyve got to get better every minute on the practice field, Wrightenberry said. If we waste time out here, its going to show on Friday nights.
For Silver Bluff, it was the kicking game, where the Bulldogs typically excel.
No one has returned a punt on us in 16 years, because we stay in our lanes, coach Al Lown hollered at his team during one drill.
For North Augusta, it was the work effort in moving from drill to drill.
We want to stress tempo, tempo, tempo, coach Dan Pippin said in the days leading up to the first practice.
Silver Bluff ended its practice with three groups of players each sprinting 100 yards. They ran six times, working hard enough to please Lown.
The Bulldogs coaching staff wanted the teams offseason conditioning to be more geared toward sprinting. Team members met three times a week at the school for the drills that stressed 50-, 100- and 200-yard running drills. Lown said all but one player made 75 percent of the teams workouts.
That was pretty good, considering it was the first day, Lown said. Our conditioning looked pretty good. But we had no shoulder pads on, a nice breeze (and) it wasnt that hot.
Sports Editor John Boyette contributed to this story
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425