Spurrier turning to youth, offensive variety
After South Carolina's Tuesday practice, one thing was clear – things are probably going to be a little different this season in Columbia.
USC coach Steve Spurrier is experimenting with new formations, trying out freshmen at different positions and trying to get things going after a major loss of talent. Just another day of spring practice at South Carolina.
"We're just practicing away. We're just running plays and making mistakes and trying to correct and seeing who can do what," Spurrier said.
Much like every other football team across the country, the Gamecocks continue to work on installing an offensive system similar to that of the Wild Hog at Arkansas and Wild Dolphin at Miami.
The system puts a running back or wide receiver under center in place of a quarterback. That duty has fallen on the shoulders of former defensive back Dion Lecorn who is back on offense after switching to defense last fall.
Spurrier believes that his presence gives the USC offense some variety.
"We let Dion get back there and run around. He can throw the ball too," Spurrier said. "He's a passing threat back there. We're messing around with that a little bit."
Though Lecorn's offensive assignment provides the Gamecocks with a new threat, Spurrier's other focus has been on getting the wide receivers as a whole to play better with the traditional passing game.
Senior Moe Brown is the most veteran player at the position while younger names like Jason Barnes and Joe Hills have shown signs of improvement during the spring and offseason. During Tuesday's practice, Barnes and Hills were both on the receiving end of two well thrown fade route passes from quarterback Stephen Garcia, including a touchdown grab by Hills.
"(Barnes) needs to come around. He can play better. We can all play better. We can all coach better," Spurrier said. "Joe's trying to do a little bit better. Moe Brown's running good routes. Moe hopefully will have his biggest year ever as a Gamecock."
Along with the players that have been in the system, Spurrier is turning to freshman players to fill gaps on the team depth chart. After practice, Spurrier said redshirt freshman offensive lineman T.J. Johnson is competing for a starting spot at one of the two guard positions this fall. While he complimented all the running backs, Spurrier specifically pointed out 2009 signee and January enrollee Jarvis Giles as "a quick back."
But the most likely freshman to get a chance to start comes on the defensive side where South Pointe's Stephon Gilmore played with the first team defense on Tuesday night and could be a starter in the defensive secondary this fall.
"He should be. Stephon's a football player. He can play about any position, and right now he's tough out there," Spurrier said. "He's tough to beat. He covers, makes interceptions, tackles, hits. He's a real football player."
With just under half of the spring practice sessions complete, Spurrier still believes his team isn't close to being ready for their first game of the season and that's what makes the practice time so important.
"We're a long way off from playing. We're just practicing right now, trying to get guys to compete in practice," said Spurrier.
Melvin Ingram and CC Whitlock both missed practice for tutoring sessions while Matt Clements was sidelined with the yellow injury jersey after pulling a hamstring in the scrimmage on Saturday. Spurrier also said offensive lineman Heath Batchelor is expected to rejoin the team in August.
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