Gamecocks have heated Monday practice

It was supposed to be a routine practice Monday night as USC works its way into game shape. Instead, the session produced the first fireworks of the fall. After a collision between linebacker Eric Norwood and wide receiver Moe Brown during passing drills that resulted in some heated exchanges between the offense and defense, Steve Spurrier ended practice 30 minutes early and made the players run.


Norwood hit Brown as he went up for a pass, knocking the receiver to the ground. Brown had to leave practice with a bruised hip, and words were exchanged between players. Spurrier had the defense run wind sprints as punishment, but when he heard "giggling" and players cheering the hit on a teammate, he got angry and yelled at the defense to go to the other end of the field and practice. A short time later he ended practice and had the team run wind sprints, with select players being forced to run for almost 20 minutes.

"We did a lot of running," Spurrier said after practice. "We thought that was better tonight, to just run. We had a few issues amongst the team. We had a couple collisions that we don't need, and we've got to learn to practice as a team and practice with teammates. We weren't doing very well so we just shut it down and ran a whole bunch. Hopefully tomorrow night we can come out here and practice like a team: take care of your teammates when you practice, and not have a lot of giggling guys when somebody hits somebody. Hopefully we learned something tonight."

Not wanting to say more, Spurrier tried to end his post-practice comments there, but the questions continued.

"We had a collision that was way too big," he explained. "It's not going to be offense versus defense as long as I'm the coach. We're going to learn to practice the right way and protect your teammates. We got a little out of hand tonight for some reason, I don't know why, so we just [ran]. If some of these guys don't want to practice like a good team does then we'll just run all night, and that's what we did."

Spurrier was primarily upset with what he perceived to be the indifference showed by some of the defensive players. He felt they did not show proper appreciation for the health of a teammate.

"We've had some close ones like that, but that one was uncalled for, and then the giggling," he said. "Sometimes a collision happens and the defensive guys says, ‘Hey man I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you that hard,' and then they help each other up. But then we had a bunch of gigglers over there that irritated the whole thing. It almost was an offense versus defense little scuffle. So we just put a quick end to it, we won't practice against each other tonight, and we'll try again tomorrow night."

Fifth year linebacker Dustin Lindsey said Monday night the biggest reason this year's team is better than the team when he arrived is that "gigglers" have been replaced by hard workers. Just moments later, Spurrier disagreed with Lindsey's claim the gigglers were gone.

"The worst part was we had some giggling guys who think a hit like that is cute," he said. "That was the worst part was the gigglers. We've still got some, unfortunately."


Cook stepping into leadership role

The Gamecocks' defense is expected to lead the team early in the season, and junior safety Emanuel Cook is one of the leaders on that side of the ball. Cook is entering his third year as a starter for the Gamecocks, and was selected by the league coaches to the preseason All-SEC second team. With players still adjusting to the scheme of new coordinator Ellis Johnson, Cook has taken on an increased leadership role. He says there are "no big changes" in his role compared to last year, so his main focus is on the other ten defenders.

"Right now we're just trying to learn what everybody is doing around us so we can know the whole defense," he explains, "so we won't be misplacing anything while we're out there on the field."

The different responsibilities required of the players are one of the causes of confusion early in fall practice. Cook, like the rest of the defense, acknowledges that there is work to be done to learn Johnson's defense, but he also thinks there has been improvement already.

"We're really getting comfortable," says Cook. "The secondary is getting comfortable coming down with our checks and everything. We looked a little bit better, more confident, and felt like we knew what we were doing out there. Basically we've got [the whole playbook] in right now, so we basically know the defense."

There has been noticeably more pre-snap communication than in years past, and Cook is a big part of that. He has to communicate with the rest of the secondary, as well as the linebackers, based on what he sees from the offense.

"You've got to communicate, especially in the secondary," Cook says. "You've got to tell what you're doing, if you're coming down [toward the line of scrimmage] so the linebackers know which way to shift."

Communicating in the secondary is important because there is a lot of inexperience behind the starters. Cook, Darian Stewart, Captain Munnerlyn, and Carlos Thomas have plenty of experience, but after them, only Stoney Woodson has extensive playing experience. Young players like Akeem Auguste, Chris Culliver, and Mark Barnes are still learning how to play at the college level, in addition to learning their responsibilities.

"You've got players looking up to you," Cook says. "You've got to tell them what to do and show them how to do it."

Cook thinks the most important part of teaching younger players is teaching them how to practice. He prefers to lead by example on the practice fields.

"If you have an older player on the team coming out ready, pumped up for practice," he explains, "you're going to have the younger players right there behind, coming out ready to practice, ready to show what he can do. That's a big part of it."


Notes:

- Walk-on quarterback Zac Brindise has decided to transfer to a school where he has a chance for more playing time. "He was a good scout team quarterback, we'll miss him, but wish him the best, and hope he gets the chance to play somewhere," said Spurrier.

- Jarriel King was medically cleared for practice Monday morning, and participated in practice. Spurrier was pleased with what he saw from King on the first night. "I'm looking forward to him getting a lot of snaps. It looks like he is in pretty good shape. All that running we did, I think he was leading the pack over there. So Jarriel, I believe, is really gonna help us."

- The Gamecocks are expected to don full pads for the first time on Tuesday night.

- The team will follow that up with a scrimmage Wednesday night. The scrimmage will start at 7:30 and feature mostly younger players. It will be open to the public.


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