Enthusiastic Gamecocks Open Spring Drills

On an afternoon that felt more like summer than spring, Steve Spurrier, the coaching staff, and some 300 fans got their first look at the 2007 South Carolina Gamecocks. The players practiced for two hours and went through a variety of drills to open the much anticipated third spring of the Steve Spurrier era.

With the players practicing in shorts, the day was more about mastering the playbook than preparing for game action. Spring practice lacks the urgency of practices in the fall, and in many ways, functions to prepare players for August, when the real practice starts. Spurrier described the coaches' goals for the spring as "just teaching. [We are] trying to teach our players what we want to do when the real season gets here."

Not surprisingly, after a winter spent in the weight room, the players seemed eager to put on a helmet and finally grab a football. "Most of the guys were hopping around pretty well," Spurrier observed of the excitement. "We're trying to improve a lot of areas. I think our players want to have a good team, and we're excited about trying to get better this spring. I think we made a little progress."

Most of the attention was on the players participating in their first practice at Carolina. Wide receiver Larry Freeman has already been penciled in as a starter, so he was understandably a hot topic after practice. Spurrier wasn't ready to slap a #4 on Freeman's chest, but he was pleased with the newcomer from Pearl River Community College.

"Larry Freeman can catch the ball; we found that out," he said. "Larry had a pretty good first day. He's got a ways to go just like all our guys do. Larry's got the ability to play. He's met with our coaches, so he's picked [the offense] up fairly well. He's got a chance to really help us."

On the other side of the ball, newcomers Ladi Ajiboye, Clifton Geathers, and Travian Robertson are expected to make a quick impression. The expectations are so high that two of last year's most productive defensive linemen have been moved to other positions. Ryan brown is now a fullback, and Casper Brinkley is now a linebacker. Spurrier is excited to have Brown on his side of the ball, saying, "I think he's got a chance to be a good one."

Because it is hard to critique line play when the players are not wearing pads, the jury remains out on the freshman trio. However, the coaches have seen nothing to diminish their high expectations. "We hope they're going to be able to play," said Spurrier. Then he added cautiously, "We'll see how it works out. Casper can always go back down there."

The newcomer with the highest profile before spring practice also happens to be the newcomer with the lowest profile during practice. Stephen Garcia was suspended for spring practice after being arrested twice earlier in the semester. Garcia is not allowed to participate in team activities, but he is allowed to observe practice. However, Spurrier noted that Garcia might not be totally clear on what it means to be suspended. "He mistakenly wore a jersey," Spurrier noted, "but he's not supposed to wear a jersey. He didn't know the rules of a suspended player who can watch practice, but we'll give them to him as we go."

Following practice, Garcia threw the football on the far field. Spurrier clarified that such activity is allowed. "He's out there throwing on his own a little bit. [It is fine,] as long as he's not involved in any of the team activities."


- The practice marked the debut of the Gamecocks' new Under Armour practice jerseys. Spurrier was pleased with the new supplier. "How about those jerseys?" he exclaimed.

- The team will practice in pads for the first time this spring on Friday.

-There is a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday morning at Williams-Brice Stadium. The scrimmage will begin about 10:30 AM, and will be open to the public.

- Four players, all on defense, were suspended for the first practice due to poor class attendance. The players were Chris Hail, Jordin Lindsey, Aubrey McKay, and Joel Reaves.

- Three players missed all or part of practice to attend class. They were Tommy Beecher, Cory Boyd, and Ryan Brown.

- The Gamecocks are off on Wednesday, and will return to the practice fields Thursday at 4 p.m.

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