Originally created 08/29/98

S.C. changing a lot, except it's head coach



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Brad Scott on Monday promised changes in his lineup and his team's attitude after a disastrous 1-3 start.

Apparently, no one, including athletic director Mike McGee, is promising a change in coaches.

"Brad is our coach, we support him and we support this program," McGee said. "Nobody is more disappointed than Brad, but we're just going to do whatever he needs and the team needs."

Coach's evaluations are done yearly after the sport's season is concluded, not in the middle, McGee said.

"Mike's been 100 percent behind us like he always is," Scott said. "He's an old football coach and he knows what's going wrong out there and how to fix it."

McGee sat in at Scott's weekly media conference, listening like everyone else as the coach he hired nearly five years ago accepted blame and outlined changes on offense and defense.

Freshman Antoine Nesmith will start for fullback Steve Mixon. First-year linebacker Kenny Harney is in for redshirt freshman Willie Offord. Junior college transfer Jim Levandusky will get the chance to supplant Trey Pennington at tight end.

And if tailbacks Troy Hambrick and Boo Williams keep fumbling, freshman Jamie Scott will get the ball in the backfield.

After Saturday's home loss, 38-0 to Mississippi State, Scott called for a new accountability among players and assistants. He said he has talked to players individually and in groups and did not find the finger-pointing or give-up attitude common to losing teams.

"The players have a lot of confidence in coach Scott and his decisions," linebacker Corey Atkins said. "If he feels like we need some personnel changes, we're all behind him."

Nesmith was excited when told of his upcoming start at Ole Miss this Saturday. He gained 55 yards on eight rushes this past Saturday.

Aside from Nesmith, there was little hope in the Gamecocks' defeat. They gave up a kickoff return touchdown and fumbled away the ball for another Bulldogs score. There were missed assignments, bonehead plays and, by halftime, thousands of empty seats at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"That our fans are frustrated and disappointed is understandable," McGee said. "We think we all understand that this is certainly not where we want to be."

Scott and Atkins said a road game comes at the right time -- they think the four September home games have led to a sameness and routine that may have contributed to the poor start.

The five interceptions and seven fumbles in four games have left Scott talking to himself. There's only so much coaching and reminding players to "squeeze the ball until we hear the air come out of it" that you can do, the coach said.

"It comes down to focus and mental toughness," he said. "I've never been part of a team that played like this."

Then again, he said, "I don't want my kids playing cautious."

After Saturday's debacle, Scott spoke at a Christian youth rally. In a voice raspy with a cold, he talked of the differences between winning in life and winning on the field and on lasting through difficult times.

"It was one of the better talks I gave, and about the only productive thing I did that day," he said.