Practice report: Adams will get playing time

As fall camp winds down and the season is a week away, players are beginning to find out what their roles will be this season. One of the newcomers who believes he will make an impact is tight end Jerell Adams.

A lightning strike on the practice field early Thursday afternoon sent players and coaches running for the locker room and ended practice early as ninth-ranked South Carolina continued its preparations for Thursday's season opener at Vanderbilt. Though an official depth chart will not be released until next week, with game day just a week away players are beginning to find out where they stand on the depth chart.

One of the newcomers that is learning his new role is tight end Jerell Adams. Adams spent last fall at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia and will be entering his freshman season with the Gamecocks this year. Adams originally signed in 2011 but did not qualify and spent the semester at Fork Union to get his grades up and become a more disciplined student in the military school.

"We had to be disciplined," Adams said. "We had to have a strong mind. I've learned to be disciplined and have a strong mind."

The Pinewood native who played high school ball at Scott's Branch has joined receiver Shaq Roland and running back Mike Davis as freshmen on the offensive side of the ball that has impressed this fall. In the three scrimmages Adams had eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

"I knew he was a six-foot five guy who could really play basketball," head coach Steve Spurrier said following one of the scrimmages. "If you can play basketball, you can usually run and catch and he can run and catch. He's a talent."

Not only has Adams caught the attention of media, fans, and the coaching staff, he has also caught the attention of the senior leader of the tight end group.

"Jerell's a freak," Justice Cunningham said. "He's a good athlete and can catch the ball. He works hard and tries to get better every day. I like him a lot."

Despite the impressive fall Adams has not broken the starting line-up. Cunningham will start at the ‘Y' tight end and Rory Anderson will start at the ‘A' position when the Gamecocks go with two tight ends. Adams is backing up Cunningham while Drew Ownes and Kelvin Rainey are working behind Anderson.

"They said I will get a lot of reps at the tight end at the ‘Y,'" Adams said.

Even though the two tight end positions are labeled differently, unlike at other positions like wide receiver, there really is not much difference between the two positions. All the tight ends can play both positions and they are all interchangeable.

"The ‘A' is more of a motion and the ‘Y' is more of a three-point stance," Adams said. "You can do both. They're really about the same thing; on certain plays you run certain routes."

One of the things freshmen struggle with the most aside from the speed of the college game is learning the playbook. Many playbooks are the size of notebooks and many players have said that South Carolina's playbook is as difficult to learn as any. Adams expected to struggle learning the plays, but he says through the help of the coaching staff, quarterbacks, and other tight ends, the learning curve has been practically non-existent.

"I did better than I thought I would do," Adams said. "I'm learning the playbook a whole lot better than I thought I would. I thought I was going to look a little messy, but I look pretty good out there."

In recent seasons the tight end has become more of a target in Spurrier's offense. It began with Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders, two freakish athletes, and has carried on with Cunningham and Anderson. Last season the duo combined for 330 yards receiving on 26 receptions and four touchdowns. Even though Spurrier wants to run more sets with two tight ends than in years past, Cunningham downplayed their role being bigger. Adams believes they will play a big role in the offense, even if the ball is not in their hands.

"It's going to be a big role because we're a big target on the field," Adams said. "Most guys will try to cover us and leave the wide receivers open."

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