COLUMBIA - Spring practice is such a superfluous exercise in so many college football players' minds.
If it ever has been for South Carolina receiver Troy Williamson, it wasn't this season.
Two reasons, the junior says: One, his expectations for his sophomore year weren't met. And two, he had a new boss to answer to.
The Gamecocks didn't hire Rick Stockstill to coach Williamson, specifically, but the Silver Bluff High standout was plenty pleased when another receiver called to tell him that Stockstill was his new position coach.
"I really couldn't believe it," said Williamson, who was recruited by Stockstill when he was still working for Clemson. "I couldn't wait to get back and work with him."
Williamson said he always told Stockstill - "Coach Stock," as he calls him - that he wanted him to be his coach.
"That's a lie there," Stockstill joked, "or he'd be at Clemson right now."
Stockstill's inheritance at South Carolina isn't too shabby.
He has proven receivers who have speed in Williamson and senior Matthew Thomas. Sophomore Noah Whiteside has been spoken of fondly and repeatedly by coach Lou Holtz.
Additionally, Sidney Rice might be able to make a splash as a true freshman, just like someone else did.
Williamson's emergence as a freshman was a shock to most, especially considering he'd played mostly at running back in a Wing-T offense all through high school. His few receiver routes were straight gos.
"People just saw a guy that runs a 4.4 and all this recruiting hype," said Stockstill, who added that Williamson probably could have used a redshirt season, but the Gamecocks needed an immediate playmaker.
"They expect things right away. That's not really fair to a kid in a certain degree."
Williamson had a solid first year, catching 17 passes for 491 yards. With the bar high for his sophomore year, Williamson put up similar numbers (31 catches, 428 yards).
"I just didn't feel like I got any better," he said. "I would say my first two years were mediocre. There's so much more I can do."
Upon arrival, Stockstill said he told Williamson that he wasn't concerned with what he did, just what he could do in the future.
Stockstill has been trying to extract that inner Williamson ever since.
He told Williamson to work on hand strength all summer, to develop a Spider-Man-like ability to snag the ball.
Also points of emphasis this off-season, Williamson said, were getting off the line faster and running crisper routes.
Stockstill said he sees Williamson taking on more of a leadership role in his third year.
"You hope a kid realizes that clock's ticking, that he's running out of time, and that he'll approach it in a different manner, a more serious manner," Stockstill said. "And I think he is. He is very attentive in meetings. He's very eager. He wants to help younger guys, he wants to help older guys."
Helping himself isn't a completely forgotten issue either, though.
"The opportunities I get this year, I'm going to take advantage of," Williamson said. "I don't want to take things for granted since I've been a starter and been here this long and all that.
"I want to be more serious about the things I do. My first two years just weren't up to my ability."
file/sideline carolinaSouth Carolina's Troy Williamson wants to improve on the numbers he put up over his first two seasons with the Gamecocks.
A synopsis of what can be expected of Gamecocks from the area this season:LB Marcus Lawrence, Silver Bluff, senior: Lawrence used last year to adjust, having just transferred in from junior college. Now he's primed to have a breakout season under new defensive coordinator Rick Minter.RB Daccus Turman, Washington-Wilkes, junior: Turman picked up some extra time last year while starter Demetris Summers was out with a concussion; he rushed for a little more than 600 yards. He'll start 2004 as the No. 1 fullback, but will still get carries.WR Troy Williamson, Silver Bluff, junior: Expectations run high once again for the Jackson native. Williamson has said he wants to improve upon his numbers each year. He should have no problem exceeding the 500-yard mark this season.
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