Practice Notebook: Wildcat debut

The South Carolina football team held practice Tuesday morning on the practice fields and practiced for just over two hours. Following practice, head coach Steve Spurrier spoke with the media. Spurrier was in rare form as he discussed a number of topics.

The cat is out of the bag.

South Carolina will run the Wildcat offense with sophomore speedster and former Berkeley High quarterback Bruce Ellington at the helm.

Shocking news I know. I'll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor.

For the first time in the fall, the Gamecocks ran some plays out of the Wildcat formation with Ellington at quarterback with mixed results.

"We were going to keep that a secret," coach Steve Spurrier sarcastically said following Tuesday morning's practice. "See, that's the problem with letting you guys in. We're going to play Georgia or East Carolina and we're trying to surprise them with Bruce in the shotgun and now you are going to tell everyone about it."

The biggest key to running the Wildcat offense is the exchange between center and quarterback. If the snap is too high or too low the play is pretty much ruined and the ball carrier – usually the quarterback – is left to fend for himself. That's what happened more times than not when the Gamecocks tried to run it Tuesday. Many of the snaps were high and Ellington was wrapped up in the backfield, though a few times he squeezed through a hole to get something out of nothing. Though Ellington is smaller than most of the Carolina quarterbacks, Spurrier says that's not the reason for the high snaps.

"It's our center throwing it back too hard or high," Spurrier said. "He's supposed to throw it right around the bread basket area. We've had some errant snaps this year – the center is worried about blocking the guy to the right or to the left before the snap. T.J. was very good last season but he's had a couple of errant ones this season and we've got to get it straightened out."

Spurrier says to expect to see the Wildcat formation in some form every game this fall with Ellington or quarterback Connor Shaw running the show.

At the end of practice, the coaches decided to let all the redshirt freshmen and freshmen go at it for about 20 minutes. Both sides had some success and a lot of players were ran. Kelcy Quarels was helped off the field towards the end with dehydration issues according to defensive line coach Brad Lawing. Quarels was taken inside the cool tent to receive some fluids and did not appear to have to be taking to a local hospital.

"We let the young guys kind of halfway scrimmage there at the end," Spurrier said. "We tried to scrimmage without anyone getting hurt. Dylan Thompson made some pretty good throws today there at the end. Damiere Byrd caught some nice (passes) – Lamar Scruggs caught a few and K.J. Brent caught a couple of nice balls."

The best match-up of the scrimmage was between the two studs of this past year's recruiting class – offensive lineman Brandon Shell and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. On the Dan Patrick Show following practice, Spurrier said that Clowney got the best of Shell early on, but after the coaches told Shell not to let Clowney get around the end anymore, Clowney never got around the end anymore.

Wooten earns scholarship

Senior kicker Jay Wooten was awarded a scholarship for his final season at Carolina Monday afternoon. The former walk-on received the scholarship based on his play on the field.

""We put Jay on (scholarship)," Spurrier said. "He's going to be our kicker this year - definitely field goal and extra point and possibly kickoff, although Joey Scribner-Howard has done well."

Spurrier also took the time to explain the program's policy on walk-on players earning scholarships.

"We like to put walk-ons on scholarship," Spurrier said. "It always seems a lot clearer when we put a player on that only has one year left. It's usually easier that way. When we put players on that has two or three years left we always tell them that this is a one-year deal. We're not obligated and you're not obligated to three years or whatever like that. If we don't renew a player it's simply because it's not available that year. If a walk-on player goes on scholarship he definitely knows it's a one-year deal."

Spurrier was criticized by the media and opposing fans earlier this year when Bryce Sherman announced he was leaving the team because his scholarship was not renewed. Many said Spurrier was sacrificing Sherman in order to sign better players. According to the policy that was not the case at all.

"If a walk-on player goes on scholarship, he definitely knows it's a one-year deal," Spurrier said. "When people say they can't play and we're getting rid of them, they're telling a fabricated story like some of them do a lot anyway. The walk-on kids that get scholarships know they're one year and if they're not renewed, they're supposed to understand that."

Naturally the players that are signed right out of high school do not have the policy. When a player signs to play football at South Carolina, he's on scholarship until he graduates or loses it due being dismissed from the team or failing to qualify academically.

"The guys we sign as freshmen coming in we're pretty much committed to them," Spurrier said. "For example, (former offensive lineman) Ryan Broadhead didn't ever play here and he was on scholarship for four and a half years."

Football team makes history again

The football team has gotten quite used to doing things that's never been done before. On Monday the team learned that they had done something they have yet to do in the Spurrier era – no parking tickets on file at the USC parking department.

"We found out yesterday that we had another South Carolina historical moment," Spurrier said. "We had no football players with a parking ticket on campus. That's the first time since I've been here. Guys seem to have a tendency to park where they shouldn't be and get a ticket or two. That's a good sign that our players know the parking rules on campus now so that was encouraging."

Anybody that has ever attended Carolina or spent more than five minutes on campus knows that this is a rare feat. As someone who accrued enough parking fines to pay for the newest parking garage on campus, I can say I'm quite impressed.

When asked how long this had been the case, Spurrier wouldn't say.

"I don't know how long it's been, but the parking department was proud to announce that to the team yesterday," Spurrier said.

Translation – For a brief period in time some time during the day on Monday, the South Carolina team had a clean slate. Most likely, as the team was hearing the good news there was an officer writing a ticket to one of the players for having the front wheel of their scooter touching the line of their parking space.

For now, Well done players. Well done.


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