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What Will Shawn Elliott Bring to South Carolina on Saturday?

PHOTO: Associated Press

South Carolina will play its first game in more than a decade without Steve Spurrier as its head coach. Following Spurrier’s resignation on Tuesday, former offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott took over as interim head coach.

So what do we know about the Gamecocks’ new coach?

For starters, Elliott joined Spurrier’s staff on January 3, 2010 as the running game coordinator for two years before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2012.

South Carolina’s offense flourished under Elliott with a 34.1 points per game average and a school-record 452.3 yards per game in 2013. The Gamecocks continued to see offensive success in 2014 with an average of nearly 33 points and 440 yards per game.

So he’s an offensive whiz. But what about head coaching? Will Elliott make any drastic changes taking over after the nearly 11-year Spurrier regime? It seems he already has.

The coach made several attempts to “spice things up” during his first two practices including playing music over the loudspeakers that blared “rap and head-banging music,” according to GreenvilleOnline.com.

Spurrier only allowed music during calisthenics. Elliott, however, believes it provides a motivational factor.

“I think music plays a huge role,” Elliott said. “It moves people. I think we needed a little bit of movement. I wanted our players to be more energetic, take their minds off things.”

The big question facing South Carolina is whether the team has the right mental psyche following Spurrier’s departure. A coaching change will always provide some kind of affect on the current roster.

Spurrier was the only active SEC coach whose legacy far exceeded his program. Even Nick Saban isn’t bigger than Alabama football.

South Carolina’s top commitment, P.J. Blue, decommitted following news of Spurrier’s deparutre. Many of the Gamecocks’ current players likely signed specifically to play for the “Head Ball Coach.”

But it seems like Elliott is making a good first impression in his new role. South Carolina’s players credited the change in energy during this week’s practices under the interim coach.

“Today was one of the smoothest practices we’ve had in a while,” said senior left guard Mike Matulis. “I felt like it was a fast pace. We were hitting more. Everybody was moving. Everybody was listening well. I really, really enjoyed it.”

“A lot of excitement, a lot of energy,” USC linebacker Skai Moore said. ‘That’s what he brings to the table. Everyone was focused today. We came out here and went to work.”

The biggest task will be winning over Gamecocks fans. Spurrier — who will be best remembered for his innovative offense and national championship season as coach for his alma matter Florida — turned South Carolina into a contender in the SEC East after years of finishing toward the bottom of the standings.

He is regarded as a savior to the program, regardless of this year’s lack of success — which he accepted blame for regarding why he decided to resign suddenly. Spurrier’s shoes will be difficult to fill, especially with the Gamecocks’ struggles in several areas.

Fortunately, the team has a favorable matchup against Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Commodores are 5-12 in Derek Mason’s first 17 games and finished last in the SEC in 2014.

South Carolina will be playing with high emotions in Week 7. Whether players chose to honor the former coach, want to win for their new one or just have a chip on their shoulder following Spurrier’s departure, the Gamecocks will likely play with a different attitude on Saturday.

Elliott should be able to manage South Carolina through a favorable matchup in his debut as head coach. There’s a chance that the coaching change could bring a boost in morale and provide the Gamecocks with a surprising turnaround before season’s end.

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