FILE -In this Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 file photo, South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott leaves the field after an NCAA college football game against Clemson, in Columbia, S.C. Elliott wasn't sure what he'd do next after his half-season stint as
Richard Shiro, File
March 25, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Shawn Elliott wasn't sure what he would do next.

South Carolina's interim coach dutifully stepped into a caustic situation and had to steady player emotions last fall after Steve Spurrier walked away in midseason. But without much hope for the permanent job - he was 1-5 as head coach in a 3-9 season - Elliott wondered how much chance he'd have sticking on new coach Will Muschamp's staff.

Players were texting and asking, ''Hey coach, are you in or are you out?'' Elliott recalled.

Turns out Elliott was in as offensive line coach, the position he held before stepping up in 2015.

Players say Elliott is a big reason the transition to Muschamp is off to a smooth start.

''That was definitely a tremendous thing for us,'' junior center Alan Knott said. ''We were worried. We got a new guy in and everybody was going to have to battle for spots again. But it didn't end up working that way and we've worked twice as hard this spring.''

Muschamp saw the job Elliott did at stabilizing a troubled team and knew his reputation as one of college football's best offensive line coaches.

''He's a guy that I'm really excited about to be a part of our staff,'' Muschamp said. ''He's a guy that's done an outstanding job at South Carolina.''

Elliott downplays his time in charge or the role he's played since Muschamp arrived.

''Maybe I'm a familiar face,'' he said. ''But there's a lot of familiar faces on the support staff here.''

None, though, who played as prominent a role in South Carolina's turbulent season.

When Spurrier left with the Gamecocks 2-4, Elliott got a call for a hastily arranged, late night interview with athletic director Ray Tanner. He received the interim job a short time later and had to calm a group of players filled with questions about what had happened.

''One day you wake o-line coach, the next day you're interim head coach,'' he said.

Tight end Hayden Hurst said Elliott didn't sugarcoat problems or shade reality. Elliott's fiery attitude got the players back focused on the game. ''It was easy to relate to coach Elliott,'' Hurst said.

On the field, the Gamecocks continued to struggle after the change.

Elliott led an emotion-filled victory at home over Vanderbilt last October in his debut. The Gamecocks, however, lost their last five games including a demoralizing defeat to Citadel of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Elliott interviewed again after the season for the permanent job, but even he realized he had just a longshot's chance at retaining his position.

When Muschamp's offer came, Elliott quickly accepted - elated that he didn't have leave a program he had joined in January 2010.

''I know those guys wanted me,'' Elliott said. ''Maybe they think I'm doing a halfway decent job.''

Elliott has helped his offensive lineman quickly adjust to a stepped up offseason regimen. Muschamp and new strength coach Jeff Dillman added more intensity to past workouts with different drills, safety T.J. Holloman said.

Muschamp's practices include a fast-paced 11-on-11 sequence where he's pushing players to line up faster, move quicker and take more of a sense of urgency to each snap and drill.

''It's not the same around here,'' Elliott said. ''Things have changed drastically.''

What hasn't changed is Elliott's dream of again one day leading his own program. The 42-year-old said last fall's experience only enhanced his skillset and belief he's on the right path.

Elliott said, ''Every time you walk on the field and have the ability to communicate with guys who want to learn, that just fuels the hunger inside you to want to do something more every day.''

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