Baker healthy, Clements moves back to WR

Only nine days away from kickoff, the Gamecocks returned to the practice fields on Tuesday afternoon, braving hot and humid conditions while getting in a two hour workout in full pads. The Gamecocks are relatively healthy heading into the fall, and head coach Steve Spurrier announced some more good news on Tuesday when he stated that running back Eric Baker has returned to full speed.


"It was just another practice day, (we've got) nine days until we play," said Coach Steve Spurrier following the practice. "We're closing down our preseason type practices and will be beginning our game-type practices here in the next few days. We had another so-so practice out here today, nothing too much to brag about today."

The Gamecocks have been without sophomore running back Eric Baker for most of the preseason while he recovered from hernia surgery, but Baker was able to suit up and get back to full speed for the second consecutive practice on Tuesday.

"All of the running backs were healthy (and able to practice) today, except for Brian Maddox. (Maddox) wasn't able to practice too much today, but all of the other running backs are getting back healthy so now we've got five running backs ready to go," Spurrier noted.

Budding star Cliff Matthews was held out of practice because he had a fever and complained of feeling ill. Defensive end Byron McKnight replaced Matthews as the first team defensive end opposite Devin Taylor.

Along with Matthews, true freshman wide receiver DeMario Bennett was held out of practice because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Saturday's scrimmage. Bennett's absence was one of the factors that led the coaching staff to move Matt Clements back to receiver after a brief stint at cornerback.

"Matt Clements is back on offense, and Matt had a good day out there today," Spurrier announced. "(Clements) knows the offense a lot better than he knows the defense right now, so he can help us out on offense."


Allen ready to contribute at Spur linebacker

After spending most of the preseason working at the free safety position, Ellis Johnson and the defensive staff recently moved Antonio Allen to spur linebacker. According to the sophomore defender, he is still learning his new role.

"I haven't quite learned everything that I need to in order to play the spur position, but I'm doing my best to soak up everything that I can about the position," said Allen. "I'm just trying to work hard and get on the field."

Last season, Allen saw only limited playing time in the secondary, but he believes this year he's shown that he's ready to step in and perform well for the defense.

"Last year I thought I should've played a little bit more, but I think I've really shown the coaches that I can play. Hopefully I've earned the right to get some more playing time this year."

Allen believes that he is better suited to play the spur linebacker position than strong safety because of the physicality he brings to the football field.

"I feel like (spur linebacker) is the best position for me, because I love to hit. I think I do play the ball well in the air, and I'll still cover some guys (when playing at the spur linebacker position) like the tight ends. But I love being close to the line of scrimmage getting to hit some guys."

One of the biggest differences between strong safety and the spur linebacker position, Allen says, is having to shed the blocks of offensive linemen who attempt to clear lanes for the running back to scamper through.

"I'm still getting used to those big guys running at me and having to try and get around them to put a big hit on the (running backs). I'll be one of the linebackers in our dime (defense), so on those plays I'll have to stay extra focused on playing my assignments and getting to where I need to be to make the play."

Allen noted that he needs to gain a few more pounds in order to be able to get to a comfortable weight since he'll be playing closer to the line of scrimmage, where the bigger players are.


Notes:

- Spurrier said Cliff Matthews should be back practicing with the team within the next couple of days.

- DeMario Bennett's shoulder is a day-to-day injury. The coaching staff believes the true freshman wideout won't be held out for much longer.

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