Lackluster practice follows strong scrimmage

After Tuesday's scrimmage that drew mostly high praise from Head Coach Steve Spurrier, the Gamecocks returned to the Proving Grounds on Wednesday and weren't able to garner the same response from their coach. Under an overcast sky and a light drizzle, some of the players seemed to be dwelling on their success from the previous night, according to Spurrier.


Spurrier opened his post-practice comments to the media on Wednesday night with a sour tone as he expressed his displeasure with several of the Gamecock players. The coach stated his belief that several stars of the previous evening's scrimmage practiced in a manner that made it seem as though they believed they didn't need to get any better.

"It seems like a few of the guys that had success last night in the scrimmage didn't get any better today, so that was disappointing," Spurrier proclaimed. "We've got a few players who can't handle success."

Gamecock fans have been itching for an SEC Championship since joining the league in 1992, and four years ago when Spurrier became the head coach at South Carolina and stated that his goal was to win the school's first SEC title, the buzz became contagious. However, that championship will never come if they have practices like Wednesday evening's, Spurrier said.

"Obviously if we're ever going to be a top caliber championship type team, we've got to push every practice," he emphasized. "So it was disappointing with some of the guys out there tonight."

The Head Ball Coach believes that it's vital for the hustle and effort to improve for the start of two-a-day practices, which begin on Thursday. But Spurrier says it normally isn't a problem getting that passion and fire to show in the players once the two daily practice sessions start.

"We've got to get the intensity back tomorrow, which we should (get back) with two-a-days in the morning and evening starting tomorrow," Spurrier said.

Even though a few players stuck out above the rest as far as the effort level was concerned, Spurrier stated he and the rest of the coaching staff observed that the entire team was having somewhat of an "off night."

"The whole team was a little lackluster, all of us coaches noticed that," he groaned. " So we'll just have to pick it up tomorrow."


Maddox finally the "Old man in the backfield"

After playing behind Cory Boyd and Mike Davis for the past two years, junior Brian Maddox finally has the spotlight on him as the Gamecocks' number one running back on the depth chart entering the 2009 season. The heralded 2007 signee from Anderson, S.C. is the most experienced running back on the Gamecock roster, having seen reserve action each of the past two seasons, but Maddox didn't rely solely on his past game experience to win the starting spot. He credits dropping ten pounds and improving his speed as two reasons why he's now performing at the highest level of his career.

"Well, I'm down to like 216 lbs. now and I feel a lot quicker," he replied when asked if he thought his speed had improved since last season. "Coach Fitz pushed us extremely hard each and every workout, but we had fun doing it. I just started drinking a lot of water, eating less portions, and working out hard."

Maddox was then asked if he believed he lost some of his power with the drop in weight.

"No, not at all," he proclaimed emphatically with a smile on his face.

Working with the first team offense, Maddox is able to get a good look at the young running backs when the second and third string players get reps during practices and scrimmages. As the savvy veteran of the group, he offered his insight on some of USC's younger talent in the backfield, beginning with true freshman Jarvis Giles.

"He's a freshman," Maddox said of running back Jarvis Giles. "He needs some fine tuning, but he's making progress. I see him playing this year, a little bit here and there. He's going to get better and he's going to be a good back."

Recalling his transition from high school to college, Maddox says he sympathizes with some of the adjustments Giles has had to make in the faster, more complex game at this level.

"It's extremely difficult (to come in and have success against SEC defenses as a freshman running back) because of the size (of the players), speed of the game, and with him coming right from high school. It's just a big change."

Freshman walk-on Bryce Sherman has surprised many with his speed and success in practice after seemingly coming out of nowhere. Maddox said that he, along with many Gamecock fans, look forward to seeing Sherman with the ball in his hands this season.

"(Sherman) is really good. I can't wait to see him get out there," Maddox said. "Hopefully they'll give him a chance to make some plays for us out there."

Maddox says that he embraces his title of being the "old man in the backfield."

"It is weird (being the old man in the backfield)," he laughed. "But I think I can be a teacher now for those younger guys, Kenny (Miles) and Jarvis (Giles) both. It's just very exciting."


Mangus gives a run-down on Garcia, Hillary, and Clifford

Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said based on the fact that it was the Gamecocks' first scrimmage since the Garnet and Black Game back in April, he was fairly content with the quarterbacks' performance in Tuesday night's scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"Overall, with the quarterbacks last night, being that it was the first scrimmage - the first, full live go at it - I was pretty pleased," Mangus stated before noting that the quarterbacks must learn how to move on from both success and failure. "Today wasn't so good, but part of the maturation and growing process is learning how to handle both good and bad. You've got to learn how to come back after you've had success and still work hard to get better."

Mangus detailed his impressions of starting quarterback Stephen Garcia in the scrimmage, stating the redshirt sophomore performed well but still could've done better.

"He made a couple of bad reads and probably could've hit a couple more (receivers) deep, but on those plays he happened to hit (shorter) completions and make good throws. So it's just seeing the big opportunity and not letting that pass you during the game," he explained. "You only get so many chances to hit that big one. I would've liked to have seen him chunk a couple more deep, but all in all he threw completions and made pretty good decisions.

"(Garcia) has got a ways to go, but we don't play tomorrow. I expect him to get a lot better over the next 21 days," Mangus continued. "He knows that. We discuss it every day, and hopefully by September 3rd he's a guy that we'll be very comfortable with."

Mangus stated he is pleased with the progress he has seen from Aramis Hillary, the Gamecocks' number two signal-caller, and that translated to a solid performance in the scrimmage.

"Aramis started doing some good things. I think his knowledge is getting better, his confidence is getting better. That was a big part of what Aramis and I talked about in the spring time. We've just got to get his confidence up," Mangus said. "He's done some nice things in the run game. In the short passing game he's starting to make good decisions, and that shows me that his confidence is getting where it needs to be."

While true freshman Andrew Clifford still projects to redshirt, Mangus said he is encouraged by the attitude the young QB has shown in his first couple weeks of college practice.

"He's got a long way to go, but what I like about Andrew is that he's smart and he's inquisitive. He's a curious guy, he wants to be good. He likes to be in the playbook and he's always asking questions. I think he'll gain that knowledge quickly," Mangus said of the true freshman. "He's got a good arm, and mechanically we're doing some things with him to make a few changes to make him quicker and catch him up to speed. It's typical freshman stuff, though. There's a good chance that he'll redshirt, it's just an awful lot to learn."


Notes:

- Offensive Linemen Jarriel King was held out of practice because of an irregular heartbeat. This is nothing new for King, and the coach said that he should be back Thursday.

- Defensive Lineman Nathan Pepper was kept out of practice to give his knee some time to rest. Pepper underwent minor knee surgery over the summer, so the coaches and trainers are being cautious about his reps this preseason.

- Defensive lineman Ronald Byrd will likely need to have surgery on his knee, according to Spurrier, who believes that a redshirt year could do some good for the true freshman. The extra year would allow Byrd time to add the 30-40 pounds that Spurrier thinks will get him to his ideal playing weight.

- Several aspects of Wednesday's practice were described as "so-so" by Spurrier. Those included the scrimmaging, offensive line, and the way the quarterbacks threw the ball during the midweek session.

- Coach G.A. Mangus claims that he's going to use Stephon Gilmore in the Wild-Gamecock formation "a lot," but that the starting cornerback's obligation to the defense comes first. Mangus said that he's excited to put the ball in Gilmore's hands, and that he plans to have "more passing plays than you think" for him in the special formation.

- Wide receiver Tori Gurley said he's confident that he can continue the success he had during Tuesday's scrimmage. Gurley claims he told Spurrier that he would have a big day during the scrimmage "if he was just given an opportunity to prove himself." He stated, "Whenever the opportunity is there, I just want to go out and make plays."

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