He's the most quotable coach in the SEC, South Carolina's Lou Holtz is never one to shy away from pointing out the strengths of his opponents and the weaknesses in his team. Jeff Shearer talked to Holtz to find out this year's game plan for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina did not bring Lou Holtz to Columbia to rebuild a football program, they brought him to the Palmetto State to construct one.
Until Holtz came to town, the Gamecocks had won only one bowl game ever. Holtz promptly won two in his first three years. After going 0-11 his first season, the Gamecocks enjoyed their best back-to-back years in school history.
Eight wins in 2000. Nine wins in 2001. Then came last year. A promising 5-2 start gave way to a season-ending five-game losing streak, sending Lou Holtz back to the drawing board. He makes no apologies for the way he does things. He tells his players what to expect and he always gives his team something to shoot at.
"I'm old-fashioned and I don't make any apology for it. I think you have to be accountable, and it's a privilege to be able to play the game of football. It's a privilege to be able to represent the university. You should not take these opportunities for granted. Feel that you're very blessed to have the talent and the opportunity and let's make the very most of it. These are the best four years of your life. One thing about it, our team usually bands together with one common enemy and most of the time during two-a-days that common enemy is me."
The Gamecocks are starting over on offense, almost from scratch. Only two starters are back on offense. Fortunately for South Carolina, one of them is Travelle Wharton. He's one of the best offensive linemen in the country and he's ready to play this year. Wharton says the way the season ended last year was tough but he's happy he can "come back and help my team as much as possible this year. I'm ecstatic."
Late last season, South Carolina handed the offense to quarterback Dondrial Pinkins. At 245 pounds, he's the second-biggest quarterback in the conference and he loves to hurl the pigskin. "I love to throw and run. I just feel like this season I want to go out and if my team needs me to run the ball or if my team needs me to pass the ball, I feel like I can go out and do either one of those, and just try to lead this team to a victory every Saturday."
At age 66, Holtz still connects with teenagers. His last two recruiting classes have ranked in the top 10 nationally. That's another first for this school. Demetris Summers is the biggest prize. He's considered by some to be the nation's number one running back prospect in this year's freshman class. The defense is young also, with only four starters back.
Holtz says his team really has a depth problem. "We couldn't get on Noah's ark, because we don't have two of anything. Depth is a problem for us. If you have a lot of depth, you don't have a good first-team. Woody Hayes always said, 'If you have three quarterbacks of equal ability, you have three third-teamers.'"
Among active coaches, only Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden have won more games than Lou Holtz. For anyone else, this would be a rebuilding year. But for the master motivator, it's hard to predict anything but a return to a winning season.