Longtime NFL defensive assistant Jon Hoke knows firsthand about the possibilities that can exist in a struggling team. As a player on the 1980 Chicago Bears team, Hoke's only season as a player in the NFL, despite a 7-9 season, Chicago had some of the game's most distinguished players on their roster.
"I was very fortunate to be in a locker room with Walter Payton, just to see what kind of man he was, what kind of teammate he was," said Hoke to The Post and Courier. "Dan Hampton was a year older than me, maybe two at the time. He would take me under his wing and make sure I was somewhere for Thanksgiving and those types of things. It was a unique experience. I learned a lot."
As his former teammates would eventually develop into Super Bowl champions on the field, Hoke gained invaluable defensive knowledge from some of the games finest defensive coaches in his 13 years coaching in the NFL.
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Hoke learned details of defense under Dom Capers and coaching philosophy under Lovie Smith. Both Hoke and Steve Spurrier believe the talent is in place for a quick turnaround in Columbia, but the effort has to be there for the defense to return the team to an elite SEC unit.
"The biggest thing is, we just have to make sure we're as sound technique-wise as we can be," Hoke said. "There are four things that are going to drive the defense every day, whether it's a zone blitz or just base coverage, and it's always going to be about assignment, alignment, technique and key. If we can do those four things well, we've got a chance to improve."
Hoke has also been tasked with calling the defensive plays this season for South Carolina, to which he had this to say:
"I don't feel any pressure from that standpoint," Hoke said. "All we're going to do is try to go out there and build a championship defense. It's a day-by-day process. We're going to be very detailed in what we do. It will always be technique over tactics, and it will be a step-by-step process. But we're going to try to improve every day."
If the Gamecocks can simply do that, South Carolina may be returning to double-digit win seasons in a hurry.
(h/t The Post and Courier)