The players put on a spirited show for the fans, who loudly cheered each hit and debated which team USC would face in the SEC Championship. Coach Spurrier was less impressed with the practice, and had both praise and strong criticism when discussing the team's performance. When asked if he had any areas of concern, he deadpanned, "Yeah, the whole team."
Spurrier was particularly disappointed in the offense. "Overall, the passing is not good enough right now. We've got to pass better when guys are flying around us," Spurrier said. "We're struggling a little bit there. Pass protection is struggling a lot. Other than that we look pretty good." Trying to find a bright spot, Spurrier noted, "The draw play comes out occasionally."
Spurrier did identify a handful of players who had caught his eye. He credited OJ Murdock with making several nice plays. He also praised Chris Smelley, saying, "Chris Smelley makes a few plays every now and then." In fact, Smelley took all the third team snaps and split time on the second team with Cade Thompson. Moving to the offensive line, Spurrier said that Kevin young is expected to contribute at guard. He praised James Thompson for his work ethic, saying, "I feel James can help us this year. He's trying hard and he's much improved from last year."
The highlight of the practice for many occurred when the team ran the Oklahoma drill. In this drill, two linemen, offensive and defensive line up and do battle, while a running back tries to get around the defender. Spurrier noted several players who stood out during the drill. "Heath Batchelor on offense knocked some guys backwards. Stanley [Doughty] and Marque Hall looked pretty good on defense. Gurminder [Thind], I think did some good things. Everybody did pretty decent in that. That's usually a fun drill for the first day in pads."
While he was disappointed with their execution, Spurrier praised the players for their effort. "I think it was productive. I think they're flying around. We're just practicing football. The young guys are still lost, as expected. But we're just practicing everybody right now. Sometimes some guys look good; sometimes others look good. Obviously it doesn't look very good offensively a lot of times."
Kenrick Ellis practiced for the first time, after sitting out for being overweight. He struggled during the drills, showing signs of rust and inexperience. Line coach Brad Lawing spent considerable time schooling Ellis on proper technique. Marque Hall also spent time working with Ellis, helping him with his technique and offering encouragement.
Before any Gamecock fans start jumping off bridges based on Spurrier's frustration, remember that Spurrier made identical comments last year, and things turned out ok. Spurrier has also said time after time that this year's team will be better than last year.
Notes: Spurrier said there is no change in Brandon Isaac's academic status. Mike Davis' expected return has finally changed from "a couple of days." Unfortunately, it has been changed to "a week or so." Spurrier was nonchalant about the matter, saying, "I'm not worried about Mike." The team will begin two a days on Thursday. The first practice will be at 9:30 AM, and last an hour to an hour and a half. The second practice will be at 7:30 PM.
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