Gamecocks work through Thursday practice

The Gamecocks returned to "The Proving Grounds" on Thursday afternoon for day two of spring practice.



Though the Gamecocks once again practiced in shorts, rather than pads, Coach Steve Spurrier was pleased with the amount of work they got in, saying afterward, "We're going to have some tired Gamecocks tonight." He hinted, though, that it may have been the most extensive practice some veteran players could see until the fall.

"We ask [proven players] to play when they are in there, but they won't be in as much live action as the young guys," Spurrier explained. "It's not a time for proven guys like Cory Boyd and Kenny McKinley. We don't try to ask players who have already proven they can play to come out here and do it again. Spring practice is more the young guys." Older players are expected to focus more on their knowledge of the playbook. Spurrier said he wants to see the established players "playing their assignments… when we're doing non-contact football."

The Ball Coach also wants to see the older players taking an active leadership role. He mentioned two veterans by name: Blake Mitchell and Justin Sorensen. Sorensen, who is currently out while he recovers from injuries sustained during an altercation, has really taken to his role as a mentor. "He likes that coaching," said Spurrier, who called Sorensen the "ultimate position coach" for freshman Ryan Broadhead. "Sorensen is trying to help some of the younger guys that need help right now. Hopefully he can be of some benefit the next week or two."

On the other hand, Spurrier wants to see more from his starting quarterback. Spurrier praised the way Mitchell threw the ball in practice, saying Mitchell "did some good work today." However, Mitchell is not known as a strong leader, and Spurrier wants to see his starting quarterback do more to rally the team in the huddle, saying bluntly, "Blake needs to improve [his leadership]."

Though the first two practices were mostly about the veterans fine-tuning their game, several unproven players have made an impression. On offense, Jared Cook looks poised for a breakout season after shuttling back and forth between wide receiver and tight end during his redshirt and freshman seasons. Cook will still see time at both positions depending on matchups. "Jared's got a lot of potential," Spurrier said, "but we need to use him. He's got a chance to be a big time player." Spurrier is particularly excited about Cook's speed, which was timed at 4.37 in the offseason.

Spurrier has also been impressed by what he calls, "All those defensive guys." Newcomers Ladi Ajiboye, Clifton Geathers, Travian Robertson, and Jonathan Williams have turned heads in the first two practices. "We think they're all going to really contribute," said Spurrier. "Clifton is coming along nicely. [Travarian] is strong enough, fast enough, and in shape enough that he can compete."

Spurrier expects the quartet to have an impact; since he has been disappointed in how productive the defense has been over his first two seasons. When asked if he believed the team is capable of competing for the SEC title, Spurrier said, "We've got enough players to really compete. We're going to have three new offensive linemen, so that's a real key area." Then he became more focused, and said, "Defensively we've got to play so much better it's not even funny. That's what we are really trying to emphasize: playing our assignments. We've been a very undisciplined team the last couple years. If we can play assignment ball pretty well I think we have more talent this year, especially on defense, than any year I've been here."

Notes:

- Backup quarterback Tommy Beecher again missed practice to attend class. Spurrier wants to see what the sophomore can do, saying, "I guess we're going to have to change our practice routine." Beecher has classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

- Most Gamecocks fans are thrilled with the season ending wins over Clemson and Houston, but Spurrier is not among them. "You can't say we really competed our hearts out in the Clemson game or the bowl game," he said. "We won them somehow or another, but we didn't play all out the way you need to play if you're going to win a championship."

- Linebacker Curtis Rice missed practice with a pulled groin muscle. Spurrier was unsure when Rice would return, but the injury does not seem serious.

- Spurrier offered more detailed plan for the scrimmage on Saturday. The team will practice for 30-40 minutes starting at 10 a.m., and then will scrimmage for another 30-40 minutes. This scrimmage is open to the public. Players will don pads for the first time on Friday.

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