Gamecocks prep for Saturday scrimmage

The Gamecocks practiced Friday afternoon in shoulder pads and shorts as they prepared for the first scrimmage of the spring.


Although Carolina has run 11-on-11 drills toward the end of most practices this spring, Saturday will be the first chance the players get to simulate game action. Like all of the spring practices, the session will be open to the public. However, the team will practice at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, not the practice fields. Practice will begin at 10 AM, and the scrimmage will start about 10:45.

"We'll have a little practice before and then scrimmage a little bit," said Steve Spurrier. "We'll play a little bit and see what happens."

After a somewhat sluggish practice on Friday, Spurrier will be looking for a lot more intensity during the scrimmage. In particular, he pointed a finger at the usual suspects: the offensive line.

"We're going to go ones-versus-ones and see if the offensive line is going to get pushed around like they did today," he said. "Maybe they'll take a stand and show a little competitiveness tomorrow."

Being that it is the first scrimmage of spring, however, Spurrier is not looking for anything spectacular out of his team. In fact, his goals for Saturday are quite simple.

"Hopefully we'll have a good competitive scrimmage and nobody gets hurt," Spurrier said. "Tomorrow will be the first day we're really playing. We'll see what happens."


Culliver embraces move to safety

One of the early surprises of spring came on the second day of practice, when wide receiver Chris Culliver came out wearing a white defense jersey instead of his familiar garnet number 17. While the switch came as a surprise to many, for Culliver the move was simple, he did it "Just to basically help us out."

"I talked to Coach about it because I wasn't really playing on offense," he said. "There were a couple plays; trick plays and things like that, but I just saw an opportunity as far as we didn't have that many DBs. Coach [Ron] Cooper talked to me, and really I wasn't seeing much action at receiver, so I had to make the move. I have to help my team out some way. I didn't want to sit on the sideline another year. I just want to do something. I'm just trying to get on the field as much as possible. I know I have a lot of talent, and I want to show the coaches they can use that."

Culliver played safety in high school, so he is not entering uncharted territory. Indeed, the real challenge was learning to play wide receiver. Going into the Saturday scrimmage, Culliver already finds himself as the free safety in the second team defense, along with playing in nickel packages.

"The adjustment has been good," Culliver said of the switch. "I've been doing decent. It's coming back to me."

It helps Culliver that he is moving into a very experienced secondary. Emanuel Cook has been a starter in both of his first two seasons, and Darian Stewart started 10 of 12 games last season. Both Cook and Stewart have become coaches on the field for Culliver, who is working primarily as Stewart's backup at free safety.

"E Cook has been teaching me a lot," Culliver said, "telling me what to do before the snap so hopefully I can have a better feel and hopefully get on the field more."

Culliver also has the benefit of working with Assistant Head Coach and Safety Coach Ron Cooper. Cooper has excelled at coaching overlooked prospects into key contributors at Carolina, and had the secondary ranked as the best in the nation for several weeks last season. The chance to work with Cooper made the decision to change positions much easier for Culliver.

"Coach Cooper has always been cool, especially towards me," he said. "We always clown a lot. Coach Cooper is a pretty decent guy."

Switching from offense to defense does not mean Culliver will be relinquishing his duties on special teams. He finished last season as the Gamecocks' kick returner, and he has no intentions of letting that change. For next season, he hopes to add punt return duties and even kick coverage responsibilities.

"It's still my job," he said of returning kicks. "I'm trying to hold down kick return and punt return. [With] punt return, I'm just trying to get more of a feel for it."


Notes:

- Cornerback Carlos Thomas and running back Mike Davis both sat out practice with sore hamstrings.

- Offensive lineman Kevin Young had charges against him dropped. He had been charged with resisting arrest, but contested the charges. However, Young will miss the rest of spring practice with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The injury, which he has experienced twice before, will require surgery.

- For the second straight practice, the defense had to run wind sprints after the session ended. They had to run as punishment for not hustling off the field at the end of the day.


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