Defense Dominates Saturday Scrimmage

The Gamecocks scrimmaged at Williams Brice Stadium for the first time this spring on Saturday morning. The scrimmage made up the second hour of a two-hour practice, and gave the coaches their first chance to reassess the depth chart.


When speaking to reporters after practice, Coach Steve Spurrier started out by sounding like Lou Holtz, predicting doom and gloom for the Gamecocks. "We're a long way off in a lot of areas," Spurrier said ruefully. He was especially frustrated with the way his offense had performed, and that was likely the source of his negative outlook.

Before any of the Gamecock Faithful could have a chance to go running for the nearest high ledge, Spurrier changed his tune. "The best part about our scrimmage was no one got hurt," he said. "The players do an excellent job of protecting each other and coming out healthy, which is always the most important thing we do when we scrimmage against each other."

Spurrier was pleased with the way the first team offense was able to score on its first drive. After that, the defenses dominated, which the Ball Coach said he expected. "Other than that [first drive] the defense dominated the scrimmage, which they should," he said. "Our defense should get the best of our offense this spring. We've got a lot of players on defense ready to play. Some of those second defensive guys, well, they were second today, but they will probably be first next week. We're trying to figure out who our best players are and that's why we play a little bit and go from there. We'll make some changes in the depth chart as we go through spring."

Spurrier thinks the biggest difference between this team and his first two is the uncertainty in the depth chart. "We've got what we want with a lot of people competing. I don't know if they've always had much of that around here. It seemed like the same old guys are going to play no matter what. We are open to competition." The competition is supposed to motivate players and make them better, so that by September the players will have sorted themselves out. "Hopefully we'll have about forty guys who can play come ball season next year. We've got a lot of freshmen coming in going for people."

Offensively, Spurrier identified several players who impressed him. Blake Mitchell who led a scoring drive on his only series was "good" and Tommy Beecher did "some decent stuff." Wide receivers Jared Cook, Larry Freeman and Mike West caught Spurrier's eye, though none were standouts.

According to Spurrier the lone standout was Nick Prochack. He spoke of the redshirt freshman in glowing terms, saying, "We may have stumbled into a reliable tight end in Nick Prochack. He's a natural, he can catch the ball, he knows how to get open. Nick Prochack is going to be an excellent tight end for us. I'm going to predict that right now."

Spurrier did have harsher words for one player. He was disappointed that redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley, who actually played in two games a season ago, has not progressed. "Chris Smelley struggled out there," Spurrier said. "He had pressure on him, and he's got to get quicker. His decision making and thought process has got to speed up. He's still back at that little private school, he thinks. The game is faster. He just needs to keep practicing, and speed up."

Though Spurrier seldom has much to say about the defense, he could not help but notice how the defensive line dominated the offensive line. "We had a good pass rush by the defensive guys," he said in an understatement. "Ladi Ajiboye, I don't know if we can block him. I'm hoping the other teams can't block him either. When the second d-line got in there, Travian Robertson and Ladi and those guys, they were more ferocious than the first d-line." He had a very simple way for the offensive line to get better. "Some of them need to get stronger and tougher," he said.

Notes:

- Walk-on cornerback Aubrey McKay has left the team. "We wish Aubrey the best," said Spurrier. He then offered his memories of the Aubrey McKay era: "He played a little bit last year. He was out there at the end of the game against Clemson. Thank goodness they weren't throwing at him."

- The practice schedule has not been settled for next week, but Spurrier expects to practice on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with another scrimmage on Saturday. All practices will be open to the public.

- Cornerback Carlos Thomas has not been known for his physical play or tackling, but he made several nice tackles Saturday. Spurrier was pleased with the junior's improvement, saying, "He was pitiful last year trying to tackle."

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