Scrimmage Notebook

The Gamecocks are now less than a week away from their annual Spring Game, but still have plenty of work to put in on the practice fields before next Saturday. Today was another scrimmage for USC, and it was a tale of two halves, as the quarterbacks and offense were efficient early only to see the Carolina defense come on strong in the end.

With an SEC East Championship now on the resume at South Carolina, Coach Steve Spurrier is working toward bigger and better things this spring with his squad of Gamecocks.

South Carolina fans are also watching expectations rise and paying close attention to the progress of the team this spring, but Spurrier cautioned that with one week left in practice, his team still has a lot to work on.

"Oh I don't know that you're ever where you expect to be," said Spurrier. "But a lot of guys are getting a lot of snaps and we're staying healthy, that's what's important. We're just trying to teach guys how to play without making mental errors. So I think we did okay as far as very few mental errors here today."

The schedule for the upcoming week will remain mostly the same, but players and coaches alike know there will be a lot of eyes on them April 9th as they show the world what they have been working on over the past month.

"Well we're just practicing again all next week and we'll have our usual spring game and hopefully avoid injuries. The spring game will be hopefully typical around here, something like 24-17, something like that."

Quarterbacks continue to work

An early storyline in this year's spring practice was the unwelcome news that quarterback Stephen Garcia had to sit out the first week due to suspension. Although the incident had already taken place and the punishment was just then being carried out, it no doubt left an early stain on a season that holds so much promise.

But Connor Shaw has spent the entire spring practice showing what he can do, and will continue to compete with Garcia and Andrew Clifford over the next week and into the summer. And according the Head Ball Coach, the evaluation process will continue and there is still a lot to be determined with who will receive the majority of the playing time.

"Well we're not really putting them in categories this spring, we're just letting them all play and we'll go from there," noted Spurrier. "I really think it's whoever has the best summer. The guy that can train through the summer could come back the best. So we'll see how that plays out."

Garcia threw for 170 yards on 8-of-13 passing in Saturday's scrimmage, while Shaw contributed 83 yards through the air. However, after Garcia started out eight of 10 and faded late, Spurrier pointed out that the rest of the offense was dominated by the "D" in the late going.

"Stephen did well early, didn't do very well late. Connor I think struggled a little bit there late too. It was disappointing but not surprising, let's put it that way. Yeah, I think Connor and Stephen actually had a good day yesterday throwing. (Connor) just gets in trouble when he can't get it out of his hand back there, that's when he gets in bad trouble."

Wide receivers making their mark

With Alshon Jeffery returning as the unquestioned leader of the South Carolina receiving corps, several younger and less heralded players have gotten a chance to strut their stuff this spring.

Ace Sanders, Nick Jones, and DeAngelo Smith are just three of the names that have surfaced repeatedly as making key contributions through both practices and scrimmages.

Both Sanders and Smith caught touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage, with Ace scoring from 43 yards out and DeAngelo hauling in a 61 yard TD pass. Jones had three catches for 33 yards while Lamar Scruggs also had a quality day with 34 yards receiving on four receptions.

"A lot of guys did well," said Spurrier. "Nicky Jones made some nice catches out here today. DeAngelo Smith made another long one for a touchdown. Ace Sanders had a big one. And the receivers I think they all caught the ball pretty well most of the day."

Jones, the high school teammate of Marcus Lattimore, has been coming on strong all spring, with the Head Ball Coach repeatedly insisting that the young wideout will see the field this fall.

"Yeah Nicky can catch the ball," added Spurrier. "He caught about three and got sandwiched in between a couple of linebackers. So yeah Nicky's going to play and Connor had some good throws early, and Stephen had some good throws early. It was just late here that we got in trouble."

Even with the progress, both Sanders and Smith admitted the lack in production at the end of practice has to get better.

"I guess we were more focused (in the first half)," said Smith. "But we'll get better at that, that's what we're working on."

"It went pretty well for the offense, we got off to a good start," added Sanders. "Like the first scrimmage we kind of died at the end so we've got to improve on that and finishing the games off as well."

Young defenders trying to grow up

There isn't a lot of first team on first team practice going on in spring workouts throughout the country, as coaches look to avoid injury and have a full and healthy complement of star players going into the summer and fall.

Ellis Johnson and his defense certainly haven't seen the full brunt of South Carolina's offensive playmakers with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery trying to avoid getting banged up in the more physical action.

At the same time, Johnson has been without some key defenders as they rest and try to get healthy during this time. And while he has seen a lot of young faces on his side of the ball this spring, Johnson said he has not seen the progress he hoped for from them.

With injuries simply a part of life in the SEC, the Gamecock defense will look to add more depth with mature playmakers hopefully developing into the fall.

"I don't pay much attention to that," said Johnson. "We don't have all our good players out there, if you put Alshon and Marcus out there and some of our better ones out there, you might have some kind of judgement. I really don't have a clue. What I see is some players that have never played before not making a lot of progress. There were some young defensive linemen that I don't think made much of a step. We might have won it today but I don't think it means anything but having a great scrimmage. It's all about individuals."

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