Ladies' Clinic, A Splendid Time Was Had By All

Has it already been a year? I cannot believe it. Most people measure time by the calendar, school year or start of vacation. Gamecock fans measure the year by football events. They come in the order of the Spring Game, SEC Media Days, the first scrimmage and the opening game of the official season (photos included) ...

But squeezed in between is perhaps the benchmark event for most Gamecocks. Namely, the Annual Lou Holtz Ladies Football Clinic. It's the time we ladies are able to get the inside scoop on the upcoming season, which is only four agonizing weeks away. But we gals cannot complain. After all, once again Coach Lou invited us to attend the first scrimmage of the season in two weeks, and once again sans our significant others.

Why is that? According to Offensive Coordinator Skip Holtz:

"We want to talk to an intelligent crowd."

With that announcement after lunch, the 1200 plus crowd of ladies jumped to our feet and the place went WILD!

Ah, yes. It was a day of learning about options, inside and outside zone play, curl flats, screen passing, check releasing, 3 man line defense versus 4 man line defense, shifts, schemes, patterns, offensive line strategic moves, Gamecock playbook inside information…including autograph sessions, lectures and exhibitions by players and coaches.

The morning began with Coach Holtz taking command and immediately jumping into his strategies and plans for the upcoming season. At the end of the last school year, he sent a letter to each of his players at their homes. In it, he outlined his formula for success both on and off the field, which Holtz explained is going to be the foundation laid in 2003.

He stated that it is paramount to build the best football team in the country. With the recruits fully immersed in the sessions, combined with leadership from older players, and mentoring a must, according to Holtz, these factors are vital to set this year's team on the right path.

Holtz also stated that an empathy factor is important to the success of any team. Each player must be valued as equal to any other, whether first, second or third team players. He stressed that this year the Gamecocks were going "to be the hunters, not the hunted". He feels confident that the depth chart speaks for itself in most positions, especially the badly needed quarterback roster. More about quarterbacks later.

Holtz said that the heat in Columbia always becomes an issue during the dog days of August in practice sessions. He went on to say that even the youngest Gamecocks learn early to be responsible for their own health and deal with the heat according to what their body tells them. There are trainers, plenty of water and towels on the sideline to help them if they need to take breaks. Most practices will be conducted during the hottest time of day to coincide with the times games will be played during the season.

Alas, Gamecock faithful, due to a new NCAA regulation, 2- a-days have been banned for the first five practice sessions of summer/fall training, and Coach Holtz does not see the necessity for midnight practices, due to that new reg. I can hear the collective "NOOOOO" from you now. Please don't shoot me, I am merely the messenger.

Actually there are ten new NCAA football rule changes this year. What are they? Ask your wife or girlfriend. We were given them in our information packet!

Perhaps one of the more passionate moments of Coach Holtz' presentation was when he described the changes being made on defense this year. The most important had to be the imminent change from the three man front to four man front. He went on to say that the blitz options would open up, leveling the field for more aggressive play from the team.

In closing, Holtz reminded us that USC has recruited a top ten class for the second year in a row, that the Gamecocks would be facing five of the top 13 rated QBs in the regular season, and he good naturedly answered questions from the floor.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire day was when Holtz quoted a line from a book he had recently read. In it was a chapter about mothers. He quoted "God couldn't be everywhere so He created mothers." He went on to praise all mothers, and especially those of players and coaches.

The above offers me this perfect segue. Seated directly across from 2cocky, Gamecockwoman, my daughter Meredith and I were two very notable team moms, Trish Thompson, mother of defensive end Moe, and Linda Levy, mother of offensive lineman, Jabari. These two women are proud of their sons, the paths they are traveling and most importantly, their choice to attend Carolina, as opposed to the other offers their sons' received from other colleges.

Both are lowcountry moms and we instantly bonded, since I am a fellow Charlstonian. Both boys were rivals in high school football, with Moe attending Stratford and Jabari playing for Berkeley. Trish is exuberant when she speaks about the program Coach Holtz and staff are providing for her son.

"My family is not as large as Linda's. I was looking for a sense of family in Moe's college environment. Needless to say I was delighted when he chose to attend Carolina. I was praying it would be his choice. Carolina is the total package. Not only is the staff concerned about my son's athletic future, but his academics as well. I must praise Moe's academic athletic advisor, Jason Pappas for his concern about my child."

She continued:

"I feel relieved. Home is here at Carolina, when I cannot be with him. As a mother, who could ask for better than that?"

Moe is the youngest of four brothers. He is a sophomore majoring in Hospitality and Sports Management.

Linda Levy did not have to go through the recruiting torment like Trish. Her son, Jabari was Carolina bound from an earlier age.

She said:

"A friend of Jabari's, a former USC student, more than supported his decision to attend. He was pretty influential. I enjoyed the recruiting process. It's exciting now, watching him mature, and making wise decisions. He's come so far in such a short time, and not just athletically. USC is a close knit family, and I am so happy he is attending the university."

Linda also added that she reads GamecockInsider as often as time permits! She enjoys the stories, interviews and opinions expressed.

Jabari is a sophomore majoring in Sports Management and Retail.

A really wonderful addition to this year's clinic was the decision to include the coaches' wives' panel. Upon registration, some ladies had a yellow card in their packets, offering them the opportunity to ask questions when the wives'panel was in session. Questions raised went from the sublime to the hysterical.

Best question of the day from a football fan's wife?

"After a USC victory, is the celebration sex as good as mine?"

The Carolina Center reeled in laughter and applause. The question was then quietly shelved without being answered.

Despite the many obligations that entail being a coach's wife, parent and advocate, surprisingly most of the wives also hold down full time jobs.

Skip's wife Jennifer told a funny story relating to the question about how the children react to Daddy's job.

When they lived in Connecticut, she would bring the kids to practices and let them run around to release energy and have some fun. They would see their daddy on the field and knew why he was there At the first practice here at USC, she once again brought the kids to the fields to run around, become familiar and have fun. One of her children looked out on the field and saw Lou Holtz coaching. He asked his mother:

"What the heck is Poppa doing here?"

I later had an opportunity to sit down with Coach Skip Holtz. He graciously offered me a seat and interview when I told him I was a writer for Russ Perry and GamecockInsider. I said that I wished to ask him a few questions, specifically about some concerns that I read here on the message boards from fans.

Let me say this out of the gate. Skip Holtz is a class act. He offered as much time as I wished, but I told him I just wanted to hit on a few things.

He started by saying that he is totally ready for the new season.

"This is a fun, exciting, young, inexperienced team and I couldn't be happier with them."

"Huh?" I asked.

He continued:

"Team leaders like Travelle Wharton, Hart Turner and others have just been great. So I have an older, seasoned group working with young, simple, uncomplicated players, who are outstanding and talented in their own right. It doesn't get better than that."

Okay….here it is guys. What is Skip planning for our deep bench at quarterback position? Will he use one? Two? Three?

Wow… sounds too good to even think about! Holtz was very quick to answer this one.

"We have an excellent quarterback by the name of Dondrial Pinkins. He is our starter. But Mike (Rath, JUCO transfer from California)is in the second spot if and when we need him."

I had to ask about playing both QB's, as in the case of Georgia. He again quickly responded with an absolute no.

"Mike Rath's presence on the team as back up will propel all of our quarterbacks, but Dondrial is looking exceptionally good and is prepared to be our starter."

He went on to add that Bennett Sywgert is getting healthy, has played nicely thus far, with some limitations, and will be ready for play once recovered. He won't even consider starting freshmen.

I just had to ask the question that our fans have been buzzing about. Comparisons between the national champion winner, Ohio State team with the new kid, and Carolina's chances to even (gulp!) compare this year.

Holtz smiled, and said that he has no idea of OSU's program and that as great as OSU running back Maurice Clarette might have been last season, he had an experienced offensive line protecting him which was instrumental in catapulting him to national prominence. Carolina is filling four spots on the O-line this year. Big difference.

Those players on the Carolina offensive line will include Travelle Wharton, Jabari Levy, John Strickland, Jonathan Alston and Na'shan Goddard.

While mingling with the coaches for a bit during lunch, I seized the opportunity to chat with fan favorite, former Carolina quarterback, Eric Kimrey.

Kimrey is now the Offensive Graduate Assistant. He is working with Skip in training the tight ends.

He admitted that the transition from player to coaching assistant was a difficult one.

"It was touchy. I mean, many of these players were my peers a year ago. But I am enjoying the transition now."

I asked which he preferred, playing or coaching. He was amazingly candid and refreshing in his reply.

"I am not as physically gifted as other players. I was limited as a player. I do not have the strongest arm. I did not throw the farthest passes. But I really enjoyed playing. Coaching will allow me to achieve limitless possibilities. I believe that I bring my strength as a person into my strength as a coach, and I am really excited to see where it will take me."

The day commenced with offensive and defensive workshops, with eager ladies participating, a player's panel and a tour of the facilities at William-Brice and a run through the tunnel to the strains of 2001.

Ladies were also given the first up close peek at the new jerseys to be worn in the upcoming season.

When Coach Lou was asked about the jerseys bearing player's names on the back, he responded that is was going to help a bit in recruiting, and the players had to remember one major thing while wearing them. Namely that if they behave in proper manner wearing their name on the back, they will not embarrass the Carolina name on the front.

Okay guys and gals. Granny is pooped. I need a beer, a piece of chicken and a good night's sleep. I must say that we ladies of GCInsiders had the finest time and know how to have fun. Gamecockwoman and 2Cocky are fantastic galfriends and wonderful Gamecocks. I am only sorry that we did not get to see GarnetandGlad, but there is always tailgating with the GamecockNation. Linda Levy and Trish Thompson will be joining us as well.

Power to the correct people! Women, that is! Gamecock women, specifically.

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