USC players buying into offseason program

During Steve Spurrier's first couple of years at South Carolina, he made several references to the Gamecock players not understanding the importance of the offseason strength and conditioning program. However, with the 2008 winter workouts well underway and a hungry team looking for redemption after a five game skid to close last season, that is no longer a problem.

Bad habits can be hard to break for individuals, but for an entire team it can be almost impossible. While success breeds success, it can be argued laziness breeds laziness. It doesn't matter what a coach is preaching about hard work when a group of wide eyed freshmen come in ready to work only to see their senior leaders skipping workouts.

While attendance has gotten gradually better during Spurrier's tenure at USC, the Gamecocks' winter workout program is being attended with nearly 100-percent dedication this year. In Spurrier's fourth preseason at USC, the players are beginning to understand and fully buy into the significance of Coach Mark Smith's offseason strength and conditioning program.

"Oh, it's great. I don't think anybody's missed a workout yet. Everybody is working hard. Nobody hardly ever misses their time. If we keep working like we are, we should have a great team," said junior wide receiver Moe Brown on the improved attendance at the workouts.

"Everybody's been trying to come work out hard. Attendance has been good, everything is going well," said junior safety Emanuel Cook. "I mean we've got people here who are dedicated this year. Everybody wants to be there. Everybody's working hard, pushing each other to get more leadership out of everybody."

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis says there's no comparison between the attendance he saw when he first got to USC and the attendance he sees now.

"I think it's way better. No one really misses anymore. It's like everybody's on board, we're all ready," said Ellis. "It's been going real good. Everybody is pushing themselves trying to get better. 6-6 is something we don't want to be, so we're trying to work hard to make sure that does not happen again."

Other players agree the 6-6 season helps to motivate the Gamecocks during this offseason.

"Oh, yeah of course it does (make you want to work harder). It shows that we have the ability and the talent to be up there and be one of the top teams in the nation. And now what we're doing that's kind of like our motto. We've got to change this year, not get complacent in our high ranking, and keep having that thirst and that 'want to' to keep getting better," Brown said.

"Oh, yeah, it makes me and my teammates want to work a lot harder," said junior defensive end and team leader Eric Norwood. "We got to No. 6. That was cool. We really didn't ever focus on the ranking, but once it was gone, we felt it a lot."

Some of the players new to the program admit the workouts are tough, but unlike in the past, they seem to understand their importance.

"Winter workouts have been hard, but I'm overcoming it. I'm working hard. I'm trying to get good, trying to get my body right, and trying to be a better person for the season," said sophomore receiver Chris Culliver. "My attendance has been 100 (percent). I'm dedicated. This year I'm just trying to do my thing and try to help my team out anyway that's possible."

"They've been going real fine, I'm just trying to work extra hard. I'm trying to just do better this season and put a little more into it," said senior defensive tackle Jonathan Williams who transferred to the program last season from Mississippi Delta Community College. "I feel a lot more comfortable than I did when I first got in. Everything's been going real well for me right now."

Freshman safety Jay Spearman probably has it tougher than any. The early enrollee was still in high school just last semester.

"It's different. It's like I'm used to working out in (high) school," said Spearman. "It's different, but I'm adapting to it."

Redshirt senior offensive lineman Justin Sorenson provides a unique perspective in all that he has seen at South Carolina throughout his career. The Holtz-era holdover says things have started to change for the better.

"They're going good. The team's doing better. Hardly anyone's missing. Everyone is there working hard everytime which is different than it has been a couple of times in the past," said Sorenson. "It's by far the best attentance. Everyone has been showing up everyday and that's all we can ask for right?"

While the players have been showing the proper dedication Sorenson says there's no doubt he would rather be on the field than in the weight room.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to (spring) practice. I'm always looking forward to practice, it beats running and lifting, right?"

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