The South Carolina football team held its annual spring game on a pleasant day at Williams-Brice Stadium. When reviewing a spring game, it's always worth remembering that you can only take so much away from these contests. Many players are sitting out after off-season surgery, or with very minor injuries that the coaches don't want to aggravate. The top players who do see the field only play a few series, both to avoid injury and to give the coaches a chance to see some of the younger players perform. Play-calling tends to be pass-heavy to help the backs avoid injury and to hit a few crowd-pleasers downfield. In short, you only see so much that will be reflected when the team takes the field in the fall.
Still, we're in the business of Gamecocks analysis here at GABA, so here goes--my spring game thoughts:
--QB play was good all around. Dylan Thompson had one bad interception on a deep ball to Shaq Roland in double coverage. Chaz Elder came down with the errant, ill-advised throw and made a nice return. Of course, one wonders whether Thompson tries that throw in a real game, and other than that, there was some good stuff in there from the QBs. Thompson looked excellent otherwise. I was particularly impressed by how well he ran through his progressions; he gets the ball out quickly when someone breaks open, but he also shows patience at times and can find an open man while stepping up in the pocket, as he did on a TD pass to Roland in a goalline situation. Brendan Nosovitch made a couple of shaky throws early on, but he recovered very nicely as the game progressed. He delivered a very nice pass over the middle for the game's first TD to Jerrell Adams where he had to put the ball in a tight window. Connor Mitch didn't look at good as Thompson or Nosovitch, particularly when the pocket was shaky, but he did hit a very nice deep ball to Adams, and he has plenty of time to develop, at any rate. Walkon Perry Orth made a nice effort.
--The play of TEs Adams and Busta Anderson was, quite literally, eye-opening. Of course we knew these guys could be a big part of the offense, but they were the stars catching the football today, particularly Adams. His reception from Mitch really stuck out as an example of what he can do. He runs routes like a receiver, but he's big enough to break tackles with ease against DBs, as he showed on that play by making the catch and then bouncing off a couple of tacklers as he waltzed into the endzone. Of course, with both players, it remains to be seen whether they can block as well as Justice Cunningham.
--I was intrigued by a couple of things in the play-calling department. We ran a lot of pistol, sometimes in a power formation with two TEs. We got some big carries from the tailbacks out of this formation, as well as some nice passes on play action to the TEs. I like this formation from running the ball up the gut. The backs are able to get more of a head of steam prior to getting the ball in their hands than they can in the shotgun sets.
--As for the backs, both Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis looked good, but Davis was exceptional. He seems to have just a tad more quickness and downhill speed than his counterpart, and that may be enough to earn him the starting spot, not to mention make a bid at an All-SEC-type season. Davis also made a very nice catch on a swing pass, assuaging one concern from last year. In any event, we're going to have a good one-two punch with these two.
--OL play was a mixed bag. The first-team unit played very well, protecting Thompson and opening up some nice holes for the backs. Granted, they Clowney and Surrat were out, but I thought the group did a good job. A.J. Cann stood out as a particularly strong performer. However, the second-team group had a lot of trouble in both pass and run blocking, and you have to hope they shape up in case any of them have to play any serious snaps next year, which is always a strong possibility at this position.
--Receiver play was a mixed bag. Shaq Roland had a handful of catches, including the TD grab. However, he seems to give up on subpar throws. It not just that he lacks that ability Alshon Jeffery had to go up and bring down anything that was close enough to put a hand on; it's also that he doesn't fight DBs to prevent the interception. He's still a work in progress, obviously. I was a bit more impressed by Shamier Jeffery. He didn't get any opportunities to make any acrobatic downfield catches, and he did have one drop, but he was sure-handed otherwise, and he seems to run very nice mid-range routes and work hard to get open.
--Linebacker still seems like a question mark. They got beasted by Davis and Wilds on a couple of running plays, and the TEs also had a field day. Granted, Anderson and Adams are going to be a handful for everyone we play next year, but that doesn't change the fact that we need our LBs to grow up quick.
I'd be curious to know what the rest of you thought about the game.