The pace of everything has hastened through spring practice, and the pace of play will be the most noticeable change in JSU football when the Gamecocks hold their intrasquad game today at 6:30 p.m. in JSU Stadium.
“We don’t go to the huddle ever,” Clark said. “We can slow that pace down any time we want to, but people will see a pretty high rate of tempo.”
The game will feature red against white teams, with the first-team defense leading the red ream and first-team offense leading white. There will be a regular game clock in the first half and a running clock in the second.
All coaches will be on the field as the staff divides to coach the red and white teams.
The faster pace comes with the new spread offense, which former Oxford High coach John Grass will lead as the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator, but reasons for fast pacing go deep into practice.
“I think it’s so important for us because of reps, and repetitions to me are everything,” Clark said. “We think in terms of a first-string guy getting a lot of reps and maybe even a second-string, but people don’t understand that you’re trying to get a third guy and a fourth guy reps.
“What that does is create competition, where the two can become the one and the three can become the two. It creates depth. It changes morale on your team for people to see they really do have a chance.”
On the field, the pacing is all about wearing down opponents and preventing opponents from substituting. It just so happens that JSU’s opponent tonight will be JSU.
“We’re going to really start at a high tempo,” Clark said. “We feel like any time we need to slow it down to protect ourselves, we can. … It will probably be faster than most people have seen. I won’t be able to do it the whole game because we don’t have the depth.”
The main area of concern is the offensive line, where Preston Hatcher, Tarik Milner and Colt Kennedy have sat out of spring practice with injuries.
“We were already kind of down because of senior losses,” Clark said. “We’ve got 11 offensive linemen that will play in that game, so we really don’t need to get anybody banged up.
“It still won’t quite be the pace, but we don’t want people to kind of get a taste of how we want to do things.”
Clark said the running game will be important for the offense come fall, but fans will see more of the passing game tonight “because that’s what we want them to see.” That will give JSU fans a good look at redshirt freshman Kyle West, who has emerged as the leader among quarterbacks in practice.
Rising senior Coty Blanchard is playing baseball and could be lost to the major-league draft. Stephen Coates, a standout in the 2012 J-Day game, sustained an arm injury early in spring practice.
West has made the most of his chance to shine.
“He’s really a student of the game, but he’s a really good distributor of the ball,” Clark said. “That’s really important when you’ve got a number of receivers.
“He gets the ball out on time, which is important when you’re facing the blitz and not taking sacks and getting rid of the game.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.