Wednesday practice report

The Gamecocks returned to practice Wednesday night following their second scrimmage of the spring. Although there were many positives from the scrimmage, the practice session was much less encouraging.


The coaches were so discouraged with the way the team practiced, that both the offense and defense were forced to do extra work. The defense did up-downs while the offense ran gassers.

"We're running wind sprints after practice in spring practice, which I don't think I've ever done that before," said Steve Spurrier. "It wasn't very pretty on either side, but that's why we practice. Hopefully we can get better. We're trying to make guys more accountable [for] blown assignments [and] loafs. Maybe that will help us. Something's got to help us to play with more discipline and more effort. We're trying everything we can."

In particular, Spurrier was upset with the play of his quarterbacks. He specifically called out Chris Smelley after practice, saying Smelley was too hesitant in the 7-on-7 drills.

"Our quarterbacks weren't real sharp tonight," he said. "I was frustrated with Chris Smelley. He acted like he didn't know where the guys were and we didn't even have a pass rush."

One reporter asked Spurrier if he is frustrated with the continued struggles on offense. Spurrier admitted that sometimes the offensive struggles try his patience, but quickly added that he understands he does not have the 1996 Florida Gators at his disposal. That offense was loaded with NFL draft picks, while the Gamecocks have sent just one offensive player to the NFL since Spurrier took over.

"I've been here three years and on offense we've had Sidney Rice and now Cory Boyd drafted, that's it," Spurrier said. "So I understand [why the offense struggles]. We're going to have Kenny McKinley drafted next year by the NFL, and hopefully we'll have some linemen drafted and some running backs and more defensive linemen in the future. We have good enough players to win. We haven't won the close games. We've got to start doing a little better, and got to coach better. That's been a little frustrating. Sometimes you have to understand the other team is pretty good also."

Searching for positives, Spurrier noted that the offensive line managed to open some running lanes, something that has rarely happened this spring.

"In the run game we actually cracked a few runs over there," he joked. "We broke a few runs and hit a long pass, how about that?"

Before practice, and before Spurrier got frustrated with them, the players were treated to a little fun. Spurrier asked magician Kevin Dawson to come to practice and perform for the team. As reporters tried in vain to determine what sort of motivational play Spurrier was using, he smirked and said he did it for "entertainment" only.

"[He] is one of the best I've ever seen," said Spurrier. "I've been around him a couple of times. I invited him to come on out and do some tricks for the guys. He's amazing; we don't know how they do it. Most of our players have never seen a magician do those kinds of things."


Auguste not playing like a freshman

On the defensive side of the ball, the unquestioned star of spring practice has been Akeem Auguste. The freshman from Fork Union has quickly established himself as a playmaker from the cornerback position. At 5'9" and 179 pounds, Auguste has a similar build to Captain Munnerlyn, who became an immediate contributor as a freshman. While Munnerlyn ended his freshman campaign as a starter, Auguste is content to play a reserve role next season.

"I just feel like I've got to wait my turn," Auguste said. "They said I'm going to get in a lot. I look forward to playing a lot and staying healthy, and doing what I've got to do to do my part. I doubt I'll start, but I'll get a lot of PT. I know I'll play a lot on special teams this year, so it will be all right for my freshman year."

Showing his eagerness to do what it takes to get on the field, Auguste added that he expects to play on every special teams unit except field goals. A talented return man, he is still a candidate to return punts. Auguste does not see anything special in his willingness to do the dirty work, as long as it means he is on the field.

"All I do is play football," he said. "If it comes to me, it comes to me. If it doesn't then I've got to wait my turn. I'm just out here doing what I've got to do."

One of the reasons Auguste has been able excel so quickly is that he has a good understanding of the playbook. Cornerbacks have more limited responsibilities than linebackers or linemen, so it has been easy for Auguste to learn what he needs to do.

"I'm learning it pretty fast," he said. "[There are] a lot of coverages with different names, but it's the same coverages [I've always run]. Basically you've just got to know your stuff and know what's going on, and after that you'll be all right."

In Monday night's scrimmage, Auguste brought the crowd to its feet with a highlight real interception. Wide receiver Dion Lecorn got behind Auguste on a fade route to the corner of the end zone. As the ball came down, Auguste leapt in the air and got his hand on the pass. It initially looked like he would be lucky to get enough of a hand on the ball to knock it away, but somehow Auguste managed to cup the ball with his hand and come down with the interception.

"I just put my hand up, and the ball just fell in my hands," said Auguste. "I closed my eyes and it just fell. They said I got up there pretty high. I didn't think I was that high. I just put my hand up, and God just blessed me and put the ball in my hand, I guess."

Overall, Auguste was pleased with the way he and the rest of the defense played in the scrimmage. He recognizes that there is still a great deal of room for improvement, though.

"The scrimmage went pretty good," he said. "I had a couple tackles, everybody on defense was clicking, and everything was going pretty good. The offense was excellent. They had a great scrimmage and came out to play. On defense, we did our thing. Sometimes we got beat, sometimes we didn't. Overall we did pretty good. Coach said we need to hit a little more."


Notes:

- Safety Emanuel Cook missed practice with an injured thumb, and will likely sit out the remainder of the spring. "He's got some academic issues he's taking care of also," Spurrier noted. "He doesn't need much more [work anyway]."

- Spurrier said that he has talked with suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia, and Garcia told him he intends to return to Carolina in the fall.

- The Gamecocks practice again Friday at 4:15.


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