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New USC coach making good impressions during practice

In addition to the different blocking scheme and new running plays, Hutch Eckerson noticed something else during his first meeting with Shawn Elliott -- his Southern accent.

South Carolina's first-year offensive line coach and run game coordinator grew up in Camden and attended Gamecocks games as a child when his father, a former highway patrolman, directed traffic outside Williams-Brice Stadium.

"He's a local guy and he understands what the Gamecocks are about, and what we're trying to do around here and our history. I think that's important," said Eckerson, a tackle from Lumberton, N.C.

"It's just not some guy coming in here and (he) doesn't really know the history of the team. We're trying to win an SEC championship around here, and he knows that we've been trying to do that forever."

Elliott was hired in January to replace Eric Wolford, a Midwesterner who left USC after one season to become the coach at Youngstown State in his Ohio hometown.

"I like Wolf. But he's gone," Eckerson said. "Elliott's here, and I'm happy for that."

The word nearly everyone uses to describe the 36-year-old Elliott is "intense." Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus called him a "football-head."

"He's like all of us. We come to work every day and the biggest thing we like to do is get together and start talking ball immediately," Mangus said Tuesday.

"He's very passionate about the offense. He's very passionate about what he does and the way he teaches, and I think that will rub off positively on our team, and definitely on the offensive linemen."

Elliott played at Appalachian State and had spent his entire coaching career at his alma mater before Steve Spurrier called him the day after the Bowl and offered him the job.

Elliott inherits a line that yielded 37 sacks last season, tied with LSU for most in the SEC, and was the brunt of much criticism -- and not just from fans.

"He's got his hands full coaching these guys," Spurrier said Tuesday when asked about Elliott.

"But they're coming around, and we're doing some good things here and there."

Elliott watched the Gamecocks' lackluster 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the bowl game, but said he arrived on campus without preconceived notions about the linemen.

"I walked into a new job. To make judgments on previous film, it was unfair. So I don't make any judgments," he said. "I'll judge after the spring when our 15 days are done. Then I'll make my assessment."