Rooster Report 24 March 2004

Worthy notes from early Spring Practice - questions that some of you have asked, answered ...

Chad Walker's knee is not looing good. I spoke with Chad in great length about it Tuesday and even he says he is still in a lot of pain and he is beginning to doubt it being any better by Summer. The depth on the offensive line is hurt by this. More of the freshmen are going to have to be pressed into service - check out the Hotsheet.

Preston Thorne has really come a long way. Both he and Eric Stroman are working hard with their rehab - both were doing gassers Tuesday from sideline to sideline. Big men doing gassers ... because they are able to run straight, but not laterally cut at the moment. But I spoke with both in length about their injuries and both told me they would be 100% ready to go by summer practice. They both actually feel ready now - the trainers are being extra careful. Both Eric and Preston will be down tackles ... that finally answers the question so many of you have asked me over time about Stroman being a defensive end. The answer is no, he will stay down at defensive tackle.

I've been telling you this for a year now - but now it is official. Regis Edgerson is no longer with the team. He is still in school and intends to get his degree at USC, but he is officially no longer with the team.
Andy Boyd ... I know I told you in one of my recent Rooster Reports that he would be back in time to go full speed this spring. And then, my gosh, how many of you wrote to me and quoted Lou saying 'Boyd would not be able to go this spring.' Well, I apologize for upsetting some of you ... but I was right. I checked again on Tuesday. I spoke with trainers, coaches, the SID and then Andy himself. Andy himself even told me he is planning on hitting next week. Unlike Stroman and Thorne, Boyd is in a black jersey and going through all the drills. He told me with a big old smile on his face, "They are going to let me start hitting again next week." That's good because you should see the kid. He may be the biggest baddest tight end ever at South Carolina before all is said and done.

Speaking of tight ends, Fran Person has been moved there and he tells me that is where he believes he will stay. He sure is big enough. 6'7" and going what looks to me to be about 260. He can run too and he has good hands from what I hear. I have not seen him catching the ball yet this year but the coaches seem to be high on him there.

David Laggis and Pavlovic are both working at tight end as well although Pavlovic ... did I mention him earlier? I spoke with him while he was on the bike. He will not be back in time to workout in full pads this spring. But he does expect his foot/ankle to be healthy in time to go full speed this summer.

Troy Williamson tells me he is very happy and excited about this coming season. That may not sound like news to some but believe me, after seeing Troy all grumpy and huffy last year, it is good to see him light-hearted and having a good time already this season. He is a good kid, big ego and all. That's what you usually get in world class athletes and no doubt, Troy has world class speed. This season he appears ready to try to put it all together and have a big year. He is very impressed with the way Rick Stockstill is coaching. As a matter of fact all of the wide receivers seem genuinely impressed by what they are being taught by Stockstill. "New technique ... a better way of doing things than before," for what that's worth. Anyway, Troy is smiling a lot and he has an infectious smile. Which, upon seeing it made me realize that last year he also had an infectious scowl. You get that? :) For those that have been keeping up since last year ... you understand.

Speaking of new coaches, Steve Shankweiler must be teaching something worth gold out there. I'll tell you what Jonathan Alston told me. He said and I paraphrase here but if you check with Jonathan this would be close. He said, as an offensive line they already had the fundementals down pat for the most part. He said they had really worked hard in the off season not knowing what to expect from a new offensive line coach. But they have been very surprised with Shank. Evidently Coach Shankweiler is teaching the offensive linemen something revolutionary compared to what they are used to. Alston told me they are learning things they never imagined before. Techniques that he feels will give them an advantage, "take them to the next level," as an offensive line. When I pressed him for specifics he said, "We're learning some things that we didn't even know existed. I mean Coach Shank is good. He knows his stuff. The best thing is that he recognizes that we already have sound fundementals so he is not wasting our time trying to change the basics. He came in giving us instruction that we all know will help us this season. We are learning in leaps and bounds."

He said it, I repeated it to you. Take it for what it is worth but all of that sounds promising from my perspective. I thought all last year that the offensive line was mechanically sound but lacked that fluidity and effortless motion as a group that the really good units seems to have. They were close last year, but maybe Shank is the ticket to take them to the next level as Alston suggests?

Spoke with another NFL scout Monday and as I stated in a past Rooster Report, Dunta Robinson if possible has moved up ... everyone thinks he has a really good shot at being a first rounder. Conversey, Travelle Wharton's stock may have dropped just a bit. I'm still hearing NLT a late third rounder but was told Monday he could drop as far as an early fifth rounder ... but no one could be specific as to why that may be happening.

A long conversation with Brandon Schweitzer revealed his pleasure at being moved back to fullback. "It's my natural position," he told me. "And it is the one they recruited me for. I'm down to 265 right now and they are okay with that but I would like to get down to about 250. That's my best weight and I'll be most effective at that weight."

He told me he should have no problem getting to 250 by summer practice. And with Brandon's athleticsm, he sure appears to be the prototypical big time SEC fullback - physically speaking. He is a load.

Jaime Peters is a good looking fullback prospect too. He is a walkon but he is almost a spitting image size wize of Schweitzer.

Noah Whiteside has not gained a lot of weight, but he does look more cut with more muscle. He is going to handle punt return duties in addition to his wide receiver duties this season. Cody Wells will get his shot at kickoff returns - but do not be surprised to see Summers and Boyd back there as well.

Gonzie Gray looks good in practice. He might be the surprise in the backfield this year as a fifth year senior - the coaches are saying he has come a long way and has really developed into a quality back.

Matt Thomas is a physically impressive specimen. He is ultra smooth and incredibly gifted. Watching him go through the motions is something to behold. He looks the part of a big time wide receiver. That's where I will stop - because I do not want to jinx him. He has yet to live up to his potential - maybe this will be his year.

Demetris Summers was supposed to wear a special helmet to prevent him from having another concusion. He nixed that idea Tuesday. He made them take the new helmet back and give him his old one which he feels more comfortable with. When I asked him about it he said the problem was two-fold, vision and comfort.

Finally, Lou is back - in a way. He appears to be having fun again. He was joking around on the practice field a little bit. Everyone seemed looser because of it. Also, something I had not seen before. After practice, here comes Lou heading for the locker room to joke around with the players. In five years I had never seen Lou go into the locker room after practice and intermingle with his players on a fun, non-pretentious level. The players seemed to really appreciate it ... and there is a bond developing that I did not realize had been missing between the head coach and his players - but obviously it had. Now Lou is opening-up ... that's a good thing right? Talk about it on the message boards when you have the time because it is an important note worthy of our discussion.

- Rooster

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