"Could you kind of put to bed the speculation about Clowney signing autographs?" an off-camera reporter asks Steve Spurrier with the confidence of a dog greeting his owner at the door after having peed on the kitchen floor while he was at work.
Spurrier cocks his head back with a paternal disappointment, as if he is summoning the will power to avoid rolling up the Arts & Entertainment section and going Full Ron Morris on his ass. After the three most awkward seconds in recorded history have passed, a noticeable calm comes over the Ball Coach, and he starts wielding the folksy charm to which we have all become so accustomed:
All these guys sign autographs. I sign ‘em. I don't like signing ‘em either. But mine's not as valuable as JD Clowney's and Marcus Lattimore. I've tried to tell Marcus and JD not to sign for the autograph guys. I can get paid for mine. And occasionally I have got paid. I don't mind telling you that. Not much, but a little bit.
The most baffling aspect of the continued speculation that Clowney is going to screw up and make himself ineligible is the assumption that he either doesn't know the rules or is likely to willfully disregard them. For what it's worth, Steve Spurrier doesn't believe either of those to be the case:
College players know that you can't take money to do that. We've tried to get Jadeveon to not sign for everybody, because those guys are selling it. But anyway, I'm confident that Jadeveon has followed the rules.
Heck, even the relatively anonymous Chaz Sutton appears to be well-versed in what he is and is not allowed to do:
You've always got people coming up to you asking for autographs. You don't always know what their intentions are. Everybody's under the microscope when you're a major college football player. You've just got to personalize it (by adding ‘To: [name]) and don't accept anything. If they offer you something, just tell ‘em "I'll just autograph it and go about your business". Or just don't autograph it at all and say, "You're jeopardizing my eligibility."
Actual Football Things: Linebacker Edition
It's easy to get overexuberant about strong performances in practice but the positive reviews for the true freshman linebackers keep rolling in from a coaching staff not known for doling out unearned praise.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward on the newcomers:
I'm really excited about the young linebackers. I think that Skai Moore, Larenz Bryant, and Jonathan Walton are doing an excellent job. I'm excited about where they are right now.
Ward on the battle to replace DeVonte Holloman at Spur:
It's close. I think Sharrod [Golightly] has done a good job and Jordan [Diggs] has done a lot of good things. We feel good about it. We've got to good spurs. Coach Botkin will make a decision about who's going to start when we get closer to gametime. Kyle [Fleetwood] just has to learn what to do at the Spur spot. He's been playing the perimeter.
Defensive backs coach Grady Brown
On what starting boundary corner Jimmy Legree has going for him:
He's long. He's over 6 foot. He has long arms. He's a very fluid athlete, has good speed, good hands. He has all of the natural tools that you can't coach to be a good player at the next level. When he's focused and locked in and ready to go stop somebody on that weekend, he'll ask questions. Jimmy's a guy that shows up in my office during game week to watch film just he and I. So he's a guy that knows how to prepare, and most times he does a good job of preparing.
On Ahmad Christian:
Ahmad is a player that has obviously put in some work in the offseason to become a better player, and it's showing up in his drill work. It's showing up in 1 on 1s, and just throughout practice. He's a pleasant surprise for me at corner.
On redshirt freshman cornerback Rico McWilliams' recovery from a torn knee ligament:
Rico is a guy that we need to play this year. He's obviously coming back from that knee injury, so that's a process that he'll have to go through. But he's doing the best he can right now, and as a coach that's about all you can demand of your players. Really, he's only had about a week of practice under his belt. So I have to remind myself of that, and treat him as a true freshman, really.
On whether it's safe to say that Brison Williams and J.J. Marcus will open the season as the starting safeties:
That's safe to say. J.J.'s doing a good job. That's safe to say. I'm glad we don't play this Saturday.
Brown named Chaz Elder and TJ Gurley when asked which other players might push for the position.
Players Mostly Say Boring Things, But Hey Chaz Sutton Said Something Kind of Interesting
Someone asked for a second straight day about the differences between Brad Lawing's and Deke Adams' approaches to coaching the defensive line, so expect to see a story about that in your local news paper soon. Here's Chaz:
It's more of an upfield attack scheme than a gap control and read-and-react type thing. It's more of just getting upfield and making a play. You can benefit from each one. Coach Lawing's scheme mainly kept the linebackers running free.
What Sutton is saying makes sense to me. If defensive linemen are more focused on plugging gaps than getting into the backfield, there would be fewer offensive linemen freed up to disrupt the linebackers' pursuit to the ball. Will this change make things harder or easier on the young linebacker corps?
Spurrier on a pair of his two most prized pass catchers:
Buster Anderson [Spurrier will never, ever say ‘Busta', I promise] slightly pulled his leg muscle - hamstring or below the hamstring - sumpin' likaat. So he was out. He'll be out two or three days. Bruce Ellington didn't practice tonight either.
Ellington's injury was discussed in yesterday's practice notes. Lorenzo Ward had some news on Kyle Morini and also apparently lengthened Cedrick Cooper's expected absence from the "three days to a week" that we were told on Monday to "about 10":
Kyle Morini will be out probably about 10 days. He dislocated his elbow. It's not going to require surgery or anything, so it'll just take time to heal. Kyle did the same thing Cedrick did, so he'll be out a day longer than Cedrick. He actually did it the day after Cecrick.
The Gamecocks hit the Proving Grounds again on Thursday at 7 PM EDT, and it will be closed to the public.