Ellington making smooth transition

Bruce Ellington was a two-sport stud at Berkeley High School, earning offers in both football and basketball. After electing to go basketball-only for Carolina coach Darrin Horn for his freshman season, Ellington has decided to try and become a two-sport star in the SEC. Ellington talks about the transition from basketball to football.

Shortly after his freshman year as a South Carolina basketball player, Bruce Ellington faced a difficult decision. Should Ellington become a two-sport athlete or stick with basketball? After much discussion with his family and time spent in prayer, Ellington made the decision to pursue football and become a two-sport star. However, due to NCAA rules Ellington was not allowed to participate in spring practice and forced to wait until the fall to join the football team.

"It was pretty hard when I came out here in the spring and had to sit down and watch," Ellington said following Thursday's second practice of the fall. "It was pretty hard to do, but I'm glad to be out there now."

Though Ellington was a football star at Berkeley High School, he must make the transition from basketball to football, where there will be six more guys that must be accounted for at all times.

"He just needs to learn football," Steve Spurrier Jr. said. "It's a different game. He's used to five-on-five and he's not used to guy that's allowed to hit you anywhere on the field. It was a little worse five or ten years ago, but in the SEC if you're jogging around the field they're allowed to knock you out anywhere. They don't do it as much now, but they will hit you anywhere."

Ellington doesn't feel that it's going to be all that tough to make the transition.

"I've done it pretty much all my life since I was young," Ellington said. "I'm not going into it shaking my head saying, 'I can't do it.' I'm just going to go in and do it."

Ellington was pushed into the fire quickly during Wednesday's opening practice, returning punts along with Stephon Gilmore, Ahmad Christian, Damiere Byrd, Ace Sanders, and DeAngelo Smith. As could be expected, Ellington had trouble early on, dropping a few punts but appeared to become more and more comfortable the more reps he took.

"In high school the ball didn't come that high," Ellington said. "Usually I caught it on the bounce."

After returning punts and stretching, Ellington and the rest of the receivers went through drills with the quarterbacks. Ellington looked much more comfortable there, drawing the attention of his position coach.

"He catches the ball a little better than I thought he would for a guy who didn't play a lot of receiver," Spurrier Jr. said. "He has extremely good ball skills. I'm impressed with that. Right now, I would say he's ahead of schedule, (but) he has a lot of days left. Again, he's talented, mature and tough. I like him and I'm impressed with him."

During one-on-one drills during Wednesday's practice Ellington was quickly welcomed to the SEC by one of the the league's best, Gilmore. Gilmore jammed Ellington at the line, no doubt surprising him and knocking him backward. That was as far as the play went.

"He(Gilmore) told me over the summer when we were working out that he was going to get me," Ellington said on Thursday. "He came and got me. It surprised me a little bit because I had never been jammed before. I'm getting into it now. I'm going to do better next time."

"He wasn't expecting it," Spurrier Jr. said. "I thought it was great. I don't think it will happen again."

Ellington would soon get the better of the Gamecock defensive backs, using his speed to create space and making several nice catches.

"As I've learned the plays, I've gotten more comfortable out here," Ellington said. "Ace Sanders has really helped me even though we're playing the same position. That's kind of surprising because we're fighting for the same spot, but he's a good teammate. Every time I need help, he's been there."

Ellington joins Sanders and a group of receivers that very well could be the deepest group of receivers South Carolina has ever had.

"This is as good a group of receivers as I've ever had," Spurrier Jr. said after Thursday's practice. "All of them. I have 10 guys that are athletic, tough, quick, fast, run, catch. They all look good. We just finished Day 2. We have to keep working. We still have to go full speed and have a lot of coaching. I do have a pretty talented group."

While the Gamecocks may have 10 receivers capable of playing D1 football, all 10 will not be able to play on Saturday's this fall.

"It's hard to coach more than six," Spurrier Jr. said. "They're all good players. I will have more guys that are capable of playing this year than do play, I will say that right now. It will be a good battle. I look forward to watching it."

Everyone knows Alshon Jeffery, D.L. Moore, Jason Barnes, and Ace Sanders will all see playing time this season, but from there it's a log-jam. Smith had an excellent spring and has continued that throughout the summer and into fall camp, and Lamar Scruggs is in his third season in the system and hopes to be able to be more of a contributor this season. Then you have a group of newcomers that includes Ellington, Byrd, and Shamier Jeffery.

As long as Ellington continues to learn the playbook and get used to the game of football, there's no reason to believe he won't be in that group of five or six that gets significant playing time this season.

"He has a lot to learn, but he's a sharp, mature, intelligent, proven SEC talent," Spurrier Jr. said. "We're going to get him ready to play. Right now, I don't know exactly where or how often. We're just going to keep trying to find out what he does best. He does a lot of good things. We have to find out what he does best. He catches the ball a little better than I thought he would. For a guy who didn't play a lot of receiver, he's got a lot of ball skills.

"There are 11 guys on defense and you need to know where they all are," Spurrier Jr. continued. "Anyone can come hit you. He just needs to keep learning all this stuff. He's a sharp kid. He can pick it up."

For Ellington the hardest is yet to come.

"We haven't started contact yet. That's probably going to be the hardest thing to get used to," Ellington said. "It is a lot faster than high school. I realized that everyone is the same speed I am or even faster."

That will come soon enough for Ellington and if the words of head coach Steve Spurrier come to fruition, Gamecock fans will see #23 on the field in some capacity early in the season.

"He's a good player, so he's going to play," Spurrier said Wednesday. "I don't exactly know where yet or how often. All those guys are doing well. I just need to keep coaching them and they need to keep learning. We'll find out what he does best. He does a lot of good things, but we'll identify what he does best and make sure he fits that role."

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