"We're the unknown team," Coach Steve Spurrier told the media following a spirited practice Monday night. When asked if that were a good thing, Spurrier shrugged. "I don't know. It doesn't matter." Spurrier may not be worried now, but he surely would like to have a little more certainty about this team on August 31st. Carolina's first practice in pads, albeit only shoulder pads, should enable the coaches to discover a little more about their team.
After a weak showing Sunday night, Spurrier was pleased with how the offensive line came out. "The linemen got to bump around a little bit more. I think they held their own fairly well." Overall, Spurrier felt that after two practices controlled by the defense, the offense had caught up. "It was pretty even. The offense did a little bit better tonight. They [the quarterbacks] threw a little better tonight. Blake was a little sharper tonight, so that was encouraging. We're just trying to get guys doing their assignments."
Offensively, all eyes were on Taylor Rank and Bobby Wallace. With Mike Davis still out with a foot infection and Cory Boyd sitting out contact drills with a bruised hand, Rank and Wallace saw extensive action. Spurrier said that both players "did okay," but added that "[Rank] had some nice runs in the inside and I saw him bounce out a few times." The Wallace-Rank combination is not likely to rule the backfield for long though. Neither Boyd nor Davis is expected to miss much action. Boyd even participated in non-contact drills, including punt returns, though he continuously picked at the glove he was wearing. "He's got a bruise on his hand," Spurrier said, "and we'll keep him out of contact for a while, but he did everything else." The prognosis for Davis remained unchanged, though he did watch a portion of practice. "He's just trying to get that infection cleared up. You don't take chances with those things."
Safety Brandon Isaac also showed up for practice wearing a yellow jersey. Suffering from a sore hamstring, Isaac participated in several of the position drills, but did not take part in 1-on-1 or 7-on-7 drills. "He's not too bad," said Spurrier, "but we're sort of nursing that a little bit." On a more positive note, Stanley Doughty and James Thompson met their weight requirement and practiced for the first time. Spurrier spoke about Doughty's continuing weight problems, and said that he hopes Doughty would lose more weight. "He gets tired a little easy right now, he told me, but he's coming around. He had to get down to 315 to start practicing, so he did hit that one point. We're trying to get him around 300 or under, really. He's better under 300 pounds. When we first got here he was under, so he's gained a bunch." Matt Raysor and Kenrick Ellis were the only players yet to hit their target, but Raysor, who says he only needs to lose one more pound, is expected to be available to practice tomorrow.
Though the offense looked better, Spurrier remained pleased with the defense. He stressed that in these early stages, the goal is to improve, not beat the other side. "The defense looked good, too. We're just practicing our assignments, not trying to compete against each other. We try to encourage our players to play your assignment the best you can and go from there. We're not trying to see who wins. We're not keeping score when we practice." The Head Ball Coach expects big things from his defense this year. "Defensively we just got new guys that we think are going to play just as well or maybe better than the guys last year. We've got a lot of good players who are ready to play. We've probably got better players ready to play this year than last year."
The team worked briefly on punt returns, and Sidney Rice made a surprise appearance as a return man. Spurrier seemed amused when the gaggle of reporters wondered if it would be wise to have the team's best player returning punts. "Who's the last punt returner who got hurt? He can catch them probably as well as anybody we've got, and he's a pretty good runner after he catches it. We may let him punt too; he's our emergency punter."
Notes: The gamecocks have their first two-a-day practices on Thursday. The team will practice again Friday morning before holding a scrimmage on Saturday. The scrimmage, open to the public, is currently scheduled for 4:15 PM. However, the scrimmage could be moved to the evening to avoid the heat. An announcement on a time change will be made by Friday.
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