South Carolina began fall practice late last week and has now put in three sessions. Here are a few things I've gleaned from listening to post-practice interviews and reading practice reviews and the like:
--QB play has been solid. Spurrier has effusively praised the performance and work ethic of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Regarding Thompson, I'm beginning to strongly believe that he will, in fact, be our backup QB this year. Many thought that Tanner McEvoy would eventually take that spot, but with his recent disciplinary issues and his failure to distinguish him from Thompson, we may have to wait a bit longer for McEvoy to move up the depth chart. Thompson, on the other hand, continues to improve. This improvement is definitely a testament to his work ethic. There's obviously a bit of a dropoff between he and Shaw in terms of ability, but Thompson has progressed immensely during his time here. Like Shaw, Thompson seems to be a Spurrier-style QB who is a student of the game and who plays within his abilities. I'm definitely feeling like I won't be too worried if we have to hand him the reins at some point.
--So far, so good for Lattimore. I've heard nor read anything that suggests that he's not 100%. The speed, quickness, agility, etc., are all there. Same for Shon Carson. Obviously, we'll have to wait until the pads go on to really know if these guys are full speed, but so far, so good. Obviously, if Lattimore is legitimately 100%, our chances of having a monster year go up exponentially.
--I'm seeing positive things about the receivers. Ace Sanders, so far, is definitely the best of the bunch and will lead the group. Damiere Byrd is also reportedly making lots of plays. DeAngelo Smith is reportedly bringing down some catches, although the question with him is definitely whether or not he can beat the game-day jitters. He's always shown out in practice. Haven't heard much about Shaq Roland yet and hope he can break through.
--A couple of guys who seem to be standing out on defense are Jadeveon Clowney and Victor Hampton. Clowney has filled out physically, learned the scheme, and is reportedly, quite literally, unblockable. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it wouldn't surprise me at all if he posts 15-20 sacks this season. Hampton has reportedly also filled out and is our best cover man. The talent has always been there with Hampton, but the mental aspect has not. Hopefully he's focused on being his best this year.
--On special teams, I've read some worrisome things about the punting game. (Surprise, surprise.) Mike Williamson appears to be a bit better than Patrick Fish, but neither is very good. Tyler Hull has yet to begin practicing with the team. Hopefully he can help.
In addition to the official reports out of USC's official website, Adam Garrett (Life of a Gamecock) has a nice wrap-up of the second practice here. Check it out.