The mood at S.C. State's media day was loose and relaxed. Players had fun smiling for the cameras, although for the position pictures, head coach Buddy Pough was there to make sure his guys were lined up in the proper manner.
The backdrop of media days concerns the head coach who is entering his 17th season as the head coach of his alma mater. He is in his last year of his contract and this is likely his last season patrolling the sidelines at Dawson Bulldog Stadium. On top of that, the Bulldogs have been picked to finish seventh in the MEAC which didn't not sit well with S.C. State defensive lineman Paul McKeiver. The Batesburg-Leesville product was at the MEAC preseason kickoff and he remembers seeing the preseason poll.
"I took pictures and all and put it in the group chat and said if this doesn't make us mad and hungry and want to get a whole lot better, I don't know what will," McKeiver said.
Another Midlands product, Dutch Fork graduate Austin Ruger, admits the players want to do well not just for them, but for their coach who has provided scholarships to players from all walks of life and in the process, given them the tools to be successful people in the community while also coaching them up on the playing field.
"It means the world to us because he's done so much for all the guys here," Ruger said.
"He's given people money who didn't have money, gave people a place in the home, called them their sons. It's the least we can do to put him out with a bang and give him everything we've got because that's all he did for us, give everything he's got."
However, the head coach hopes the players will focus on the process of improvement and not his status.
"I don't know if it's got to do with me as much as it has to do with that fact that we didn't play very well last year," said Pough.
"We're at the point now where the ox is definitely in the ditch, we're at rock bottom. We've got to go and fix a lot of things and I think our guys take that as the main course as to what needs to be done, so, I'm hoping we'll continue to work hard and do the things in the preseason that we need to do to be better in 2018."
Lake Marion graduate and Bulldog defensive back Alex Brown is motivated by the lack of respect the team is receiving as a result of the preseason poll putting the Bulldogs near the bottom of the league.
"We see it as a big opportunity to prove something that nobody believes in us," Brown said.
"So, seventh? (in the MEAC preseason poll) I see us coming in first."