Clements, Hills transition to defense

Following a dominant offensive performance in Wednesday's scrimmage, Steve Spurrier said USC's defense rebounded well in Thursday's practice, thanks in large part to the return of veterans Eric Norwood, Cliff Matthews, and Nathan Pepper. A pair of new faces also donned white defensive jerseys on Thursday, as former receivers Joe Hills and Matt Clements made the transition to defense.


"We had just a routine practice out here today," Spurrier said as he began his post-practice comments to the media on Thursday. "The defense looked good today. (Eric) Norwood was back, (Nathan) Pepper was back out there playing for us today as well. In offense versus defense, the offense didn't go too far today. Last night the offense didn't play against our first team defense, that's for sure."

In Wednesday's scrimmage the defense surrendered 5 touchdowns and 630 total yards of offense.

A day after stating the Gamecocks needed to pare down their wide receiver rotation, Spurrier discussed the move of Joe Hills and Matt Clements to defense and how they fared in their first day on the opposite side of the ball.

"I think (Hills and Clements) looked pretty good out there at safety and corner today. Hills worked at safety and Clements was at corner," Spurrier noted. "We've got too many receivers trying to get in and play, so we decided to see what those guys can do over (on the defensive) side of the ball."


Fordham impressing coaches, Robertson now leader of defensive tackles

With Nathan Pepper's knee limiting him in practice and Ladi Ajiboye's three game suspension keeping him down the depth chart, junior Travian Robertson is now the most experienced full-time defensive tackle on the South Carolina roster.

"It's going pretty good," Robertson said of his new role as the group's leader. "I'm just trying to push myself and my teammates hard on every play. I wish I had (Pepper) and (Ajiboye) next to me on each play because those guys were the ones that helped me out when I was learning the position. Now it feels kind of strange with me being the guy that the younger players look to for advice and help."

One of the newest members of the defensive tackle unit is converted defensive end Aldrick Fordham. The true freshman has been one of the early surprises on defense after making the position switch, according to Coach Lorenzo Ward.

"Aldrick is getting better each practice. He's been one of those pleasant surprises for us as a freshman, and we'll see if he can continue to improve as we get closer to the season," Ward said.

At one time Fordham was almost certainly looking at a redshirt year, but Ward claims that may not be the case now.

"If (Fordham) can continue to show the hard work and desire that he has shown us in the few practices and scrimmages that he has played defensive tackle, then he most certainly has a chance to help us on the field this year."

"Aldrick is looking real good," said Robertson of the Saint Stephen, South Carolina native. "I love the way he plays, to me he doesn't even look like a freshman anymore. He hustles, plays hard, and has got some real fight in him. Those things are great to have in a defensive tackle."


Garcia avoids next day letdown after success in scrimmage

Perhaps the best words to describe the play of starting quarterback Stephen Garcia this preseason are "erratic" and "unpredictable." The scrimmages and practices early in fall camp that followed a strong showing by the sophomore signal-caller often resulted in steps of backwards progression. However, after an impressive showing in Wednesday night's scrimmage, Garcia avoided any next day letdowns and was able to toss the football around well.

"I said to Stephen last night after the scrimmage, ‘Let's make sure tomorrow that we springboard this success and improve where you could've improved,'" said first year quarterback coach G.A. Mangus. "He continued to do well today in practice, and hopefully we can keep building on each practice from here on out."

According to Mangus, Garcia's performance in the scrimmage wasn't perfect, but it was far better than some of his previous outings in the scrimmages.

"He graded out at close to 90% yesterday, which is pretty good but it's not 100%. You've always got to strive for perfection if you want to get better. Being satisfied with 90% doesn't do you any good."

One of the problems that Garcia was having, Mangus says, was a tendency to overreact and force unwarranted throws.

"I think he was pressing a little bit, and I told him just to quit pressing, just go out there and play. (In Wednesday's scrimmage), I think that's what he finally did," Mangus noted. "He looked relaxed, he looked composed, and so passes didn't sail on him like they did in the first couple of scrimmages."


Notes:

- Running back Eric Baker returned to full pads and removed his yellow jersey for the first time this preseason in Thursday night's practice.

- Wide receiver Stephen Flint has moved up to the second team. Flint just recently received a scholarship for football but claims that won't have any effect on his work ethic and striving to get better every practice.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories