When the final scrimmage was over, the Gamecocks rushed over to salute the band that played throughout the exercise as if they were celebrating another home win.
“It felt like we played a game,” senior offensive lineman Taylor Johnstone said. “After every game we win, we go celebrate with the band, so it felt like we just won our first game.”
The scrimmage concluded what many have called the hardest preseason camp they’ve ever been part of at JSU. Between the new staff’s up-tempo approach and all the activity, there was not much idle time. In the end, Clark and the players were confident they have in the last 2 1/2 weeks laid a foundation for a run they hope goes from the opener at Alabama State through well past Thanksgiving.
“It has been probably the hardest camp I’ve been in,” junior defensive lineman Caleb Lawrence said. “The intensity level has skyrocketed. We’ve been out there every day just going after it.”
Added Johnstone: “It was a pretty intense camp. We got put through a lot of things. There was not a lot of down time. Overall, I think it was a pretty good little camp.”
Clark was happy to hear that. It wasn’t because he wanted to be overtly hard on them, but because he understands the value of that approach down the road.
“To me, that’s a badge of honor because they’re going to need it,” he said. “They’re going to need to be able to say, ‘Man I worked my butt off. I’ve been in harder times than this.’ I think they’re going to call back to that. I’m hoping they call back to that as we go.”
The scrimmage itself was closed, but Clark reported there were several explosive plays on both sides of the ball. He was particularly impressed with the Gamecocks’ sharpness on offense. He said the running backs “were starting to see the holes” and the receivers caught the ball downfield.
As with the first scrimmage, no statistics were provided and no hints were given about the depth chart.
Nothing much changed on the quarterback front. In fact, it might have gotten tighter after Saturday. Clark said the Gamecocks would play two quarterbacks, but have made no proclamations on the choices.
“This is going to be an interesting situation,” Clark said. “We’ll go back and look at what quarterback did well, who he was going against.
“This has made it even harder today. Nobody stunk and anybody was great. They all looked good. Our quarterbacks are really pretty danged sharp.”
The scrimmage may have marked the formal end of camp, but it’s not the end of practice.
When it was over, Clark called the players together near midfield. He didn’t deliver some big pep talk — although athletics director Warren Koegel got an ovation for his remarks — just a reminder to be smart in what will be a leisurely next couple of days.
“I am just so big on taking care of the things you’re supposed to take of,” Clark said. “You’ve worked all this time to deserve a rest, but where’s your mind go?
“We’ve got to come back Tuesday. We’ve got seven or eight guys nicked up and we expect to have them. I want to be as close to 100 percent on Tuesday as we can be.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.