Notebook: Running game takes flight
Many fans wondered how long it would take Jarvis Giles to make an impact on the South Carolina running game. The answer – almost immediately. The true freshman from Tampa rushed 12 times for 113 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns in the Garnet team's 30-14 win in the Garnet and Black Spring Game on Saturday.
Along with redshirt freshman Kenny Miles, the South Carolina running backs amassed 251 net yards rushing between the two teams as the Garnet team posted 163 of them to go along with 13 first downs via the rush. For USC coach Steve Spurrier, the running back situation has quickly turned into a better one than he thought as long as the offensive line continues to open some holes.
"We've got a lot better chance in the running game right now than maybe we did at this time last year. Our line needs to get better. They need to block a little bit more aggressively, block the right guy, all that kind of stuff," Spurrier said. "But anyway, we have a plan in place now for them to work this summer. They should improve."
After a lackluster first half from both squad, the running game came to life early in the second half as Black team players Miles and Eric Baker reeled off back-to-back runs of 35 (Baker) and 22 (Miles) yards, moving the ball to the one-yard line. Miles capped the drive with the one-yard touchdown run to tie the game up at 7-7.
After taking a redshirt season last fall, Miles made his presence known with three runs of 14 yards or more in the second half as he garnered 75 yards rushing on 10 carries in the second half. He finished the game with 81 yards rushing on 12 carries.
"I think that I ran hard today. I ran hard and made some pretty good decisions, but I think a lot had to do with the blocking and the offensive line. They were blocking really good and they had a lot to do with it," Miles said.
His counterpart on the Garnet team also put together a big second half as Giles compiled 82 of his 114 yards rushing up in the second half, which included two fourth quarter scores to seal the win.
Despite the solid numbers, Spurrier quickly points out that the strong numbers came against a non-first team defense that featured numerous walk-ons and rookie players.
"They had good runs because the defense took all their linemen out. We know we were playing against actually some walk-on players that are snappers and also (Ryan) Broadhead who has been playing center all year. He moved over there and played a little defense," Spurrier said. "It wasn't anything to brag about too much. I thought Kenny Miles did make some very nice runs and then Jarvis broke a few there towards the end."
The added dimension of a strong running game has been a positive for quarterback Stephen Garcia, who believes that will help take some of the weight off the passing game.
"Last year or earlier this year we couldn't run the ball for anything. It was pretty tough," Garcia said. "But now we've got a running game going and we've got a lot of running backs that can make things happen so it definitely takes a lot of pressure off the quarterbacks and receivers."
Lecorn injured on final play
South Carolina wide receiver Dion Lecorn sustained an injury to his leg on what turned out to be the final play of Saturday's scrimmage. The injury occurred as he was throwing a block for Jarvis Giles' final touchdown run with less than a minute left in the game. Giles appears to have rolled on to Lecorn's leg as he was going for the end zone, resulting in a possible bone break in his leg.
"Dion Lecorn just has a little, maybe a little crack in one of the bones in his leg that can heal up completely. It's not a knee. Possibly a broken bone in the lower leg so hopefully it won't be a terrible injury," Spurrier said.
The junior finished the day with three grabs for 29 yards on the Garnet team.
The only other injury came to linebacker Josh Dickerson who appears to have sprained his shoulder on a hard hit while trying to tackle Kenny Miles.
Saunders catching on
After losing tight end Jared Cook early to the NFL Draft, the Gamecocks were left thin at tight end. The most veteran player was junior Weslye Saunders who had been sharing time with Cook last season.
While it was unclear how he would handle the top spot on the depth chart, the Durham, NC native responded with a solid showing in the spring game, grabbing four passes for 52 yards and a 16-yard touchdown from Reid McCollum in the second half.
While his ability to catch is unquestioned, Spurrier is hopeful that Saunders can continue to improve as a blocker to make himself the complete package as an offensive player.
"Weslye's an excellent receiving tight end. He's got great hands and I think his blocking was fairly decent today too. A lot better. So, if we get Weslye blocking at a high level we know he can catch," Spurrier said.
Getting Gilmore involved
With an injury to Lecorn and a desire to play in an offensive system that features a changeup at quarterback from time-to-time, Spurrier could possibly be turning to highly touted true freshman Stephon Gilmore to play both sides of the ball.
The possible starter at cornerback spent a handful of snaps under center, rushing for seven yards and completing one pass for eight yards. The former South Pointe quarterback is a player Spurrier hopes will bring a change of pace to the team.
"I tell you, Stephon Gilmore we've got to find a way to get the ball to him," Spurrier said. "I think he made that cut over in front of our sideline that whew, all of a sudden he made five yards when three guys looked like they had him hemmed up. He's a talent, no question about it."
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