August 7, 2012 at 3:13 AM CDT - Updated June 28 at 3:00 AM
JACKSONVILLE – Jack Crowe led the Gamecocks through the first practice of the 2012 preseason on Monday and there were a couple of young players that caught the eye of the head coach during the opening workout.
"First day, we are just looking for first signs of these young players," said Crowe, who begins his 13th season leading the Gamecocks in 2012. "Tromayne Pope is a very quick, fast and talented football player, which we knew, and Markis Merrill is also an advanced younger player."
Both players are freshman signees with the Gamecocks and are considered two of the top freshman among the 2012 signing class.
Pope was named the Class 4A Back of the Year and finished third in the voting for Mr. Football after rushing for 2,539 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Anniston High School last year. Merrill finished with 1,109 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a senior last year at St. Augustine (Fla.) High School and is a wide receiver for the Gamecocks as a freshman.
"Those two distinguished themselves right off the bat," Crowe added.
Crowe said that he was pleased with the first practice, but he knows the first few days are a learning process.
"We are excited about being out here," added Crowe. "We have reason to be optimistic, but a lot of learning and lot of experiencing, and a lot of coming together."
Jacksonville State, fresh off the school's 18th conference championship last year, worked out for just over two hours on Monday and will work again in helmets on Tuesday.