Faster Gamecocks get fall camp underway

The Gamecocks took the field on Tuesday evening for the first practice of the fall, with the season opener against N.C. State exactly 30 days away. The coaches and fans got a first glimpse at the new Gamecock players, and several seemed to fit right in. Also of interest was the overall improvement in team speed, and Coach Steve Spurrier was the first to point that out following practice.


In front of an estimated 2,000 fans, which looked to be one of the bigger crowds to ever attend a debut practice for the Gamecocks, Head Coach Steve Spurrier proclaimed his thanks to the Gamecock faithful that were in attendance.

"I appreciate all the fans coming out, we had a big crowd out here tonight," commented Spurrier after the practice.

After seeing his team fly around for two hours, the Head Ball Coach must have seen what many of the onlookers saw, and chose to address it following practice.

"I think we had a nice spirited workout tonight," proclaimed Spurrier. "Our guys look to be a little quicker and a little faster than normal. So I think we've got an excellent summer conditioning program going here now."

The head coach explained what he normally intends to accomplish during the first practice, and the way he goes about trying to start getting a better feel for the players on the team.

"We're just practicing out here, running some plays and getting a look at everybody. We got a lot of players. Some of the freshmen, you know, it's always interesting watching them for the first time. A bunch of them looked pretty good. Just throwing the ball, seeing who can catch and things like that are what I generally look at during the first practice."



Heralded true freshman wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was one of the newcomers Spurrier and fans watched closely in Tuesday's workout.


One of the players Spurrier mentioned was wide receiver Bryce Sherman. Sherman, a 5-6, 155 lb. redshirt freshman out of Winston-Salem, NC, had gone almost completely unnoticed during his time in Columbia until Tuesday when he caught the eye of Spurrier and others with his blazing speed.

"We've got a little guy Bryce Sherman, and he's quick. He's fast, man. It was interesting to watch him running around out there."

On the note of speedy players, Spurrier mentioned that he thought junior tailback Brian Maddox looked much faster in comparison to last season.

"Brian Maddox is a lot quicker this year. I watched him go one on one with the linebackers, and he looks like a completely different athlete this year."


Graham: Young running backs must be consistent, but effort is there

First year Running Backs Coach Jay Graham admitted that he's fortunate to have inherited such a talented group of backs to coach, but he says that he hasn't let that sway his or his understudies' hardworking approach to get better.

"The guys did well, we made a couple of mistakes that we don't want to make, but it was better than the first practice last spring. We've gotten a lot better. During the summertime we've gotten in better shape, and we are more focused mentally. We just need to continue to do the little things, and play at a high level on each down."

Following the practice, Graham shared his impressions on a few members from his arsenal of running backs.

Jarvis Giles: "Jarvis is the most inexperienced of the group, but his talent level has allowed him to pick up the speed of the game rather quickly. He's very elusive with his quick feet and that's great to have, but he needs to learn to break tackles. He just needs to remain focused and not get too frustrated and upset when he makes a mistake. Jarvis is still learning the game, but he's a good guy and he just needs experience. Like the rest of my guys though, we just need to get some consistency out of him."

Eric Baker: "Eric just has to get healthy. We'll have him out here real soon, and he's putting in the effort. He's done everything I've expected out of him, given the situation that he's in. I'm going to give him a shot when he gets out here because he deserves it. I'm just waiting for him to get out here."

Brian Maddox: "Brian is a big guy, and mentally he knows what to do, but he's just got to get to that next level. He's got to be a guy that physically breaks tackles, and I know he can do it, he's just got to do it on a regular basis. I know he's young as far as playing on the field, I do know that. But he knows how to do things, so now he has to do it in the game under pressure. We practice under pressure, and I'm going to try and put him in as many pressure situations out here that I can to get him game ready. We really need him to be a consistent playmaker for us, and he's got the ability and talent to be that consistent playmaker."

Kenny Miles: "Kenny just has to be consistent. That's the one thing about Kenny. He can make plays and make you say, ‘Wow,' but then he shows you plays that make you say things like, ‘Why on earth would you do that?' But Kenny is a guy who's very talented, and one of the toughest if not the toughest runners of the group even though he's not the biggest. He has great feet, he has all those things. He just has to be consistent on every play, doing everything correctly."

Pat DiMarco: "DiMarco is the leader of our position, and he's also one of the captains on offense. His kind of personality is the kind that takes care of the other players. Sometimes he's in there with Jarvis just calming him down, and it takes that kind of guy to help, at the fullback position especially. He has the respect of that group in that meeting room, and also has the respect of the entire offense. He certainly has my respect. He never messes up during reps, and I'm actually surprised when he does. He also takes to coaching and continues to get better at the things he needs to get better at. I'm really excited about the things that are going to happen for DiMarco this season."


Mangus pleased with Garcia's progress, work still to be done

New quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus came to South Carolina in January with the charge from Steve Spurrier to "coach up" redshirt sophomore signal-caller Stephen Garcia and help prepare him for the rigors of being the Gamecocks' unquestioned starter behind center this season. Following a productive spring of working with Garcia and the other USC quarterbacks, Mangus emphasized to his pupils the need for them to have a strong summer working on their own, to stay sharp and continue improving their grasp of the offense.

With day one of fall camp now in the books, Mangus is encouraged by what he's seen from his quarterbacks and can tell they put in the time and effort to improve over the summer.

"It was a usual first day, but it was better than the spring. I think it showed that they did some things over the summertime that we asked them to do," said Mangus proudly. "Mechanically, they were pretty sound for the first day. It shows they didn't practice bad habits all summer, and that's the first and foremost thing I always try to check in the fall, mechanics. If you practice wrong, it's going to show that first day."

Mangus, who has seen his share of opening day practices as a former college quarterback himself, understands the jitters that can come with the first workout of a new season, but he left Tuesday's practice relatively pleased with what he saw from his quarterbacks, especially Garcia.

"They did everything and looked pretty sharp, but (also) made some bad throws. I think you've got some anxiety, you're anxious. I always was, and I think anybody that plays the game is on that first day. If you're passionate about football, then you've got to shake some of that anxiety off," he said. "I think Stephen had a little bit of that early. He was trying too hard and overthrowing a little bit, but he settled down and threw the ball pretty well."

The former Middle Tennessee State offensive coordinator expounded on his impressions of Garcia from the first workout of fall camp, noting that his starting signal-caller should look fairly polished with as much work as he put in over the summer.

"He wasn't bad, but he oughta be (pretty good). If he threw as many balls as we expect him to throw over the summer, he should be pretty sharp," Mangus stated. "That's where this thing's gotten with 365 days a year training. You should never take enough time off to where you'd get rusty, if you're committed to being a good player.

"He's still a young guy with a lot to learn, but he's an eager guy to learn. I like what I see in terms of his curiosity and him wanting to get better and be a good player."



Quarterback Stephen Garcia had a solid first day of practice for the Gamecocks on Tuesday, drawing praise from his position coach G.A. Mangus.


On one play during practice, Garcia threw a catchable ball to freshman running back Jarvis Giles on a wheel route, but the young speedster had the ball slip through his hands. Instead of expressing his disappointment on the missed play, Garcia immediately ran over to Giles and picked him up, encouraging him to keep his head up for the next opportunity. When asked about that sequence of events following practice, Mangus said he's seen some signs of Garcia emerging into more of a leadership role on the team, but he noted that there is still plenty of room for improvement in that aspect.

"We've talked about it over and over and over. As he continues to do some things on the field and produce, (he'll earn more respect as a leader)," said Mangus. "I think the summer was a big step, I think he worked hard. I think he's slowly but surely earning some respect. He's got to earn the respect of all his teammates, but little things like that go big, especially with a young player like that. Jarvis has got a chance to be a great player, too."

Garcia, who has shown marked improvement in the limited time he's had to learn under Mangus, spoke with the media following practice and praised his new position coach for the job that he has done mentoring him both on and off the field.

"I've learned so much from him, not just on the field but also off the field," Garcia said. "He's been a real good friend to me and I'm really fortunate to have him. I think all the quarterbacks here are pretty fortunate to have him here. He's taught me a whole lot."

Although true freshman quarterback Andrew Clifford is most likely headed for a redshirt this season, Mangus was asked about his newest pupil following practice, and he spoke very highly of the potential that he sees in the newcomer from Tampa, FL.

"I'm anxious to see what Andrew is going to do. We're going to give him a shot to get in there and make some throws. I'll tell you what, he's thrown the ball well. The feedback (we've gotten) from some of the guys on the team over the summer was how well he threw the ball. Some of the veteran players said, ‘Hey coach, he's going to be a good player. He can really throw it,'" noted Mangus. "We're going to let him throw it a little bit and see where he's at. He's a smart kid. He was an eager beaver, so to speak, over the summer. He wanted to watch tape and get into the playbook and all that. He's always asking questions, which is a good thing. We'll see where Andrew goes, but he's got the most to learn."

Even though Mangus was not on USC's staff the past two years when the Gamecocks suffered forgettable late-season collapses, he is already emphasizing to his players the need to finish strong this year, and he wants fans to keep the faith when cheering on this year's Gamecock squad.

"Hopefully we're going to give (fans) a year that they're going to be excited about and one where we'll finish it, finish strong," he stated.


Notes:

- Spurrier said following practice that freshman Matt Coffee will redshirt. Coffee is still not 100% from the torn ACL he suffered last fall in his senior season.

- C.C. Whitlock, Ladi Ajiboye, and Kyle Nunn - who will face game suspensions for varying reasons this season - all practiced on Tuesday.

- Wide receiver Dion LeCorn worked out in punt return drills early on, but he was purposely limited for the remainder of practice, as he is still rehabbing from the broken bone in his leg he suffered in the spring game.

- Cornerback Akeem Auguste did not practice, as he's battling a minor groin injury. The talented sophomore is expected to be ok in a few days. Running back Eric Baker and cornerback Jay Spearman also sat out the first practice with mild injuries.

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