ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- Despite receiving guidance from some of college football's greatest leaders, South Carolina State's new football coach Buddy Pough had to do things his own way.
"I've got 17 of 22 starters coming back. But I've got eight of them in different spots already," said Pough, laughing from behind his desk. "We'll have to see."
Pough ends his first spring practice in charge Saturday with the Garnet-and-Blue game. It's the Bulldogs' first season in 13 years without pioneering coach Willie Jeffries. Jeffries had winning seasons in 13 of his 19 years - he was also coach from 1973-78 - and left Pough with a very large spot to fill on the sidelines.
"How does it feel? Strange. Scared. Sometimes unprepared," Pough said this week. "If you think you're really prepared for all this stuff ... When you get the job, you figure out you really don't know a doggone thing."
That's hard to believe. Especially when you look at the talented and groundbreaking coaches Pough played for and worked with - Dick Sheridan at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High, Jeffries at South Carolina State and, the past three seasons, Lou Holtz at South Carolina.
Pough still picks their brains, but in the end, relies on himself and what he thinks is best for the program.
"You've got to be yourself," Pough said. "Just kind of naturally let what is applicable come to the forefront. I'm kind of set in my ways, too, about some of the things we want to do here."
In fact, Pough keeps as many office mementos of Fairfield Central's 15-0, state title season in 1996 as he does of his three years with Holtz at South Carolina when the Gamecocks' spread attack won two Outback Bowls.
And Pough says he might look to the style of one of Orangeburg's favorite sons, former Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler, when he plans an offense next season.
Pough says junior Reese McCampbell shares some of the attributes that Dantzler displayed when becoming the NCAA's first to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000.
"I need to go out there and put together an offense that was somewhat exciting," Pough said. "The little quarterback we got here ... it's going to be fun to see how he'll adapt to this opportunity."
Many connected with South Carolina State think Pough will adjust and thrive at his alma mater.
"We feel that he knows the formula for winning, and that he will continue the successful note we ended on and eventually return us to prominence in our conference and Division I-AA," South Carolina State athletic director Tim Autry said.
Jeffries said in February it would be strange not to be on the field when spring practice took place. But he was confident that his one-time offensive lineman would bring the Bulldogs back to football success. "There's no doubt in my mind," Jeffries said.
Pough will have to get it done with fewer resources than he had as position coach at South Carolina. The Gamecocks had a top notch video system that served as an amazing teaching tool for players, Pough said.
At South Carolina State, an NCAA Division I-AA school on a limited budget, video tapes are not as sophisticated or plentiful. "That's definitely one area I'm going to spend some money on if I ever find some," he said.
Pough also won't have South Carolina's top talent like Troy Hambrick, Derek Watson and Andrew Pinnock. But Pough plans to keep the Bulldogs, who won their final five games a year ago to send Jeffries out a winner at 6-5, moving in the same direction as last year.
"I don't think you lower your standards because you make a move," Pough said. "We really got a nice corps of kids coming back. If we can figure out a way to get them strong, quick, then we've got a chance to be pretty decent."