Spurrier working to coach up young talent

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier met with the media following Wednesday's practice, and a hint of preseason optimism was detected in the Head Ball Coach's tone, as he once again referenced the improved team speed and young talent that the Gamecocks will have to work with this season. Read inside for an in-depth report on USC's second practice of the fall.


Now entering his fifth season at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier has seen his share of the good, the bad, and the ugly during his tenure in Columbia. However, with arguably the most young talent he and his staff have had to work with at USC, Spurrier said following Wednesday's workout that the Gamecock coaches are working hard this preseason to get that young crop of talent ready for the battles that lie ahead.

"We're just trying to teach a whole bunch of guys how to play. Our guys are learning. They have done a good job of actually learning on their own a little bit this summer. We're on schedule to do whatever we're going to do this year," Spurrier told the media after the second practice of fall camp. "We're running plays, practicing what we try to do in the game... We're working a little bit on conditioning. Of course, we always do that."

One player who will be instrumental to USC's success this season is senior captain and All-SEC linebacker Eric Norwood. Spurrier praised the heralded upperclassman on Wednesday, noting that Norwood does everything right as a student-athlete both on and off the field.

"Eric is a good player and a good leader. He loves to practice and loves to play. He does everything we ask," Spurrier said. "He goes to class, and he's going to graduate this December. He's a good leader for us and an outstanding player."

Redshirt freshman and previously unknown walk-on Bryce Sherman stole the show in Tuesday's debut workout. The Winston-Salem, NC native, at only 5-6 and 155 pounds, flashed cat like quickness and breakaway speed in the offensive drills, and he continued to display those coveted attributes Wednesday evening at the Proving Grounds. When asked about the speedster, a big grin came over Spurrier's face as he began to talk about the youngster's accolades as well as how he ended up on the team.

"He's on the track team here, and came out for football so we found him this summer. He played in high school, and when I asked him, he told me that he gained over 1600 yards his senior year," Spurrier said of Sherman. "So he can play, he's a natural running with the ball. There may be a spot for him out here as far as punt return, kick return, and things like that."

Sherman, who is officially listed by USC as a wide receiver, worked with the running backs during Wednesday's practice. He's gotten a fair share of reps with the second and third team, due partly to the fact that sophomore tailback Eric Baker is still out with injury.

Spurrier's praise didn't end with Sherman, however, as he mentioned that the rest of the Gamecock running backs showed their own displays of elusiveness with the ball in their hands.

"Jarvis (Giles) looks good. Kenny Miles and Brian Maddox looked very good as well. Eric Baker is still hurt a little bit," Spurrier noted. "We've got some elusiveness, more speed and quickness than we've had here in the past couple of years."

Giles made some impressive runs during Wednesday's workout, even though he fumbled the ball on one occasion during the 11-on-11 portion of the practice. His ability to make defenders miss as well as being able to cut on a dime stood out among the rest of his competition at running back.

The coaches will be able to see indeed how truly elusive these running backs are when, starting on Thursday, the Gamecocks practice in shells for the first time in fall camp. The first day in full pads will be Saturday.

Offensive line coach Eric Wolford perhaps said it best by stating, "A lot of guys look good in shorts. But when you get those pads on, you find out who's for real."


Offensive line ready physically, making progress mentally

Eric Wolford proclaimed that he's very proud of the condition that his linemen are in physically, thanks to their work under strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald in the offseason.

"Overall, I think that we've improved a bunch as far as being able to move around. Fitz has done a great job with those guys in the summer," Wolford commented. "They're playing a lot faster, and when you can play fast and think fast, then you've got the potential to play pretty well."

USC's senior center Garrett Anderson agreed with his position coach and gave "Coach Fitz" credit for getting him and his fellow linemen into shape for success this season. He cites the mental aspect as the top area that the Gamecock offensive trenchmen need to improve upon heading into the season.

"I think this offseason we definitely worked a lot harder. As an o-line group, (we) went out there this summer with the mentality knowing that we had get better. We knew that (working out that hard) wasn't in vain and wasn't meant to beat you down, it was meant to make us better football players," Anderson said. "Now we've just got to keep it up and continue to try and get ready mentally."

Wolford commented on the importance of having a senior leader like Anderson anchoring the offensive line, as well as spoke on the approach he's taking to get the line mentally ready to play.

"(Anderson) is a guy that's been here a while, and we have high expectations for him. Right now with him and the rest of the linemen we're just taking the approach trying to fix the little things fundamentally like pad level and other things like that," Wolford noted. "That's just part of getting back into the practice routine, and it just takes linemen a little bit longer than other players because of the nature of the position."


A. Jeffery ready to help the Gamecocks win big

Alshon Jeffery's transition from Calhoun County High School to the University of South Carolina certainly wasn't the easiest, but he says the speed difference between high school and SEC-level college football is the one thing that's surprised him the most thus far.

"The speed's way different than high school, but I'm trying to adapt to it and pick up my speed at the same time," Jeffery said. "It's faster than I expected, everyone out here can run."

Many Gamecock fans were biting their nails over the summer as they awaited to hear whether or not Jeffery would perform well enough in an online course to qualify for enrollment at USC. When asked if he was sweating while awaiting the results of his course, Jeffery claimed he knew he had made the grade.

"Nah, I was sure that I would be here," he said with a smile. "I knew it was all going to work out."

Jeffery initially committed to play for Southern Cal, but announced on National Signing Day that he would stay home and play for the in-state Gamecocks. Being one of the most highly coveted wide receivers in the nation has surrounded the Calhoun County star with much hype and publicity. But Jeffrey says that he doesn't pay any attention to it, and he's just focused on working hard and doing whatever he can to help the Gamecocks win big.

"It's nice to be out here," he said about taking part in his first couple of college practices. "I just wanted to stay home and represent for my home state. I don't listen to the hype. I'm just going to go out and play hard and work hard in practice and in the games. I'm just going to do what I can do for the team, and hopefully we can win an SEC Championship."


Notes:

- Spurrier said JUCO offensive line signees Steven Singleton and Kevious Watkins should be arriving in Columbia on Wednesday evening and will be with the team on Thursday, providing they pass their physicals. The paperwork on signees Leon Mackey and Ben Axon is still coming in, according to Spurrier.

- Spurrier said following practice that center Garrett Anderson suffered a minor ankle sprain in the 11-on-11 work, but it's not considered series. Freshman wide receiver Lamar Scruggs is battling a mild hamstring injury.

- Akeem Auguste, Dion LeCorn, Eric Baker, Jay Spearman, and Ryan Broadhead all donned yellow (injured) jerseys at Wednesday's practice.

- Freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Smith has changed his jersey number from #84 to #6.

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