Freshmen receivers draw Spurrier's praise

In the first practice following Sunday's scrimmage, the Gamecock football team worked out in shells as they ran through drills at the Proving Grounds on Monday evening. Head Coach Steve Spurrier spent much of his post-practice session with the media talking about a pair of freshman playmakers at the wide receiver position. Read inside for an in-depth report on Monday's workout.


"Nothing much happened tonight," Spurrier said before turning his attention to one of his young wide receivers. "Alshon Jeffery made a couple of leaping catches, so he's sort of proven to be a guy that we can throw the ball to. He had a very good practice out there tonight."

Jeffery carried his solid performance in Sunday's scrimmage over to the practice fields, and the heralded true freshman seems to impress the head coach more and more as the Gamecocks' season opener draws nearer.

Spurrier claims that Jeffery, unlike some of his teammates, has been giving it his all in practice and continues to do what he is told night in and night out.

"(Jeffery) listens to coaching, and that's something that really hasn't happened a whole bunch (on the team)," Spurrier stated. "He acts like he wants to play, and he has been having some good practices."

The Saint Matthews, S.C. native believes that heeding the advice of his position coach, Steve Spurrier Jr., along with his own hard work has played a major role in the early success that he's had in practices and scrimmages.

"I'm just trying to get the plays down and work hard," Jeffery said humbly. "(Spurrier Jr.) is a great coach, and he just tells me to work hard and to go out there and compete on every play. I'm just listening to (the coaches) and trying to go out there and do whatever they tell me to do."

One of the very few concerns surrounding Jeffery when he arrived in Columbia was his speed and whether or not he would be able to adjust to the faster paced game that exists on the college level. However, Spurrier says that he's made great strides in that area in just his first two weeks of college practice.

"He's moving faster than when (the media) saw him about a week ago."

Jeffery claims the transition was something that he knew he would have to deal with but that he's getting more and more acclimated to the change as time goes on.

"I'm still trying to get adjusted to (the speed), but I think I'm adjusting to it well though. It's definitely been an adjustment that I've had to get used to," said Jeffery. "It hasn't been easy but it hasn't been too hard either."

Redshirt freshman Tori Gurley is another wide receiver who has enjoyed a productive preseason with the Gamecocks. A two-sport star coming out of high school, Gurley has showed the uncanny athleticism for a person of his size that had schools like North Carolina and Tennessee pursuing his services before he ultimately decided to play for the home-state Gamecocks. In the past two scrimmages Gurley has caught several long passes, three of which went for touchdowns.

Gurley's standout play in the scrimmages earned him a spot running with the first team offense in Monday night's practice for the first time this preseason.

"Tori (Gurley), we've moved him up (on the depth chart," Spurrier proclaimed after practice. "So he's now playing as our first receiver at the X (receiver) position."

After being told that the Gamecocks' freshman receivers were responsible for over half of the receptions in Sunday's scrimmage, Spurrier remarked that he wasn't surprised at the contribution of the young Carolina wideouts.

"(That could) be the way that it'll be (this season)," he insisted.

After being predicted as one of the big contributors for the 2009 season, sophomore receiver Jason Barnes has dropped off in production as of late, but Spurrier believes that Barnes' success last season and during the spring is a testament to his ability to make an impact.

"Jason Barnes didn't have his best scrimmage, but we know that he can play. He just didn't have a very good day," said Spurrier. "He was a little late on a couple of those routes, but he didn't have very many opportunities."


Norwood speaks on injury, defense's play in Sunday's scrimmage

During Sunday's scrimmage, senior Eric Norwood reinjured his left wrist, but the All-SEC linebacker claims that the injury isn't too serious.

"(The injury) isn't bad, it's just a sprain. It's the same thing that I did last year, so it's nothing to worry about," Norwood said.

Norwood says he's going to keep running and conditioning as much as he can, while he waits on the injury to heal.

"(The running) is just going to help me stay in shape. I feel like I'm out here running cross country," he said with a laugh.

While attempting to make a tackle, Norwood grabbed onto the leg of a ball carrier and another player then fell on top of his wrist causing the injury.

"I was holding onto a guy's leg, and I think somebody's helmet or thigh pad hit (the wrist). I think I held on and made the tackle though," he said before giving the media a wink. "I should be back (playing full speed) by Saturday. There's no need to jump back into it if it's not good to go. I'm just going to keep putting ice on it to keep the swelling down, but it won't (keep me from playing) very long at all."

Norwood claims that the duration of him not practicing is more of a precautionary thing than anything else, saying he wouldn't hesitate to suit up if the season opener was on an earlier date.

"If we (were playing) N.C. State on Saturday, I would definitely be out there (playing). (Getting injured) is just a part of playing football. I dealt with it last year so I'm not worried about it at all."

The veteran leader and team captain commented that the play of the defense in Sunday's scrimmage didn't reflect the progress made by the unit over the course of the preseason.

"It was pretty sluggish. It just wasn't our best (performance), I'll put it like that," he said. "The guys out there weren't making some of the plays that I've seen them make in practice, (the play of the defense) was just sloppy out there at times."

The biggest concern for the defense is perhaps the lack of experienced depth behind the first string, but the starting linebacker remarked that the Gamecocks must do whatever it takes to get the job done with what they have.

"We've got to work with what we've got. If we had a lot of depth then we'd still prepare the same way we are now. We're just going to roll with whatever we've got," Norwood emphasized. "Guys will fill in, try to step up their game, and be forced to grow up quick."

Spurrier joked near the end of his time with the media on Monday that Stephen Garcia isn't the face of the South Carolina football program, proclaiming that a player like Norwood is perhaps a more fitting candidate for that title.

"That's great," said Norwood of Spurrier's remark. "Getting that type of respect from the coaches, my teammates, the fans, and everyone else around here is definitely an honor for me, especially with that coming from Coach Spurrier."

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