Defensive players and their coaching staff were off limits Thursday night after South Carolina's second practice of the spring ended. Practice overall was closed to fans and media but players and coaches on the offensive side of the ball were left available for comment after the session ended.
Quarterbacks and the man specifically suited to teach them highlighted the media scrum after practice. The spring's starting quarterback Connor Mitch, quarterback turned tight end turned quarterback Brendan Nosovitch, and quarterbacks Coach G.A. Mangus briefly spoke with the media Thursday.
Head coach Steve Spurrier also spoke swiftly after the day was done, saying Mitch is "ready to take some giant steps." When faced with Spurrier's comment, Mitch responded, "It's definitely an honor when someone like that gives you compliments. I think I did pretty well on my first day." Spurrier made some waves this offseason amongst program followers when he vaguely called out Mitch about his absences around the football facilities. Spurrier noted that he saw a couple of quarterbacks working out and that Mitch wasn't one of them. "I guess it did kind of light a fire under my butt," Mitch said after practice when the subject was brought up. "If he didn't see me in the weight room, I was somewhere else working."
Mitch has split the snaps evenly with his fellow competitors at the quarterback position so far but Mangus will have the structure he wants together soon. With the snaps Mitch has been given thus far, he has impressed Mangus. "I think his performance Tuesday helped him confidence-wise," he said. "He threw the ball well. He had good confidence and good poise, and I think that is what will get his confidence up. He's been here long enough. This is his third spring now, so it didn't surprise me." Mitch is not the definite starter and as we know, the depth charts in Columbia are always evolving. "It can change any day," Mangus said. "That stuff changes so fast it'll make your head spin." While he and Spurrier have been impressed by Mitch thus far, Mangus notes, "He's got a lot to go. There's still a long, long way to go."
Spurrier's quarterback compliments have come early and often this spring. After having nice things to say about Mitch, Spurrier has paired it with praise on Nosovitch. The Head Ball Coach noted that Nosovitch,"threw the ball a lot better," this week. Nosovitch came to Columbia as a record-setting QB from Pennsylvania. After some time under center, he was moved to tight end last season but has been switched back to the quarterback position for now. "Right now, they have me at quarterback and I am happy with that," Nosovitch said after practice. "They are giving me a chance so that's all I can ask for. I'm just trying to get my confidence back at quarterback."
There will need to be some shuffling done along the line that's asked to protect whoever is taking the snaps for South Carolina. Injuries are keeping Brandon Shell and Mike Matulis out this spring so it has sprung sophomore D.J. Park into the starting right tackle position for the time being. With a larger opportunity to prove himself, Park has earned some kudos from Gamecock offensive line coach Shawn Elliott. "Of course, we're just in helmets but just his demeanor out there going through it business-like, competing," Elliott said of the 6-foot-4, 322 pounder after practice. "You see a little fire in his eyes. He's seeing opportunities to get in there and play. It makes you happy to see a guy who is looking to compete."
There was more applause to hand out Thursday night as wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. discussed the early impression freshman wide receiver Jerad Washington had made on him when relaying news about a hamstring pull Washington suffered Tuesday. "He's got a quickness and an intellect and a presence for the game that I like," Spurrier Jr. said.
Mason Zandi also did not practice because of a bad hammy. He joined Matulis (knee), Shell (shoulder), Taylor Stallworth (pectoral), Sherrod Pittman (leg), and Darin Smalls (knee) on the sidelines.
The widely anticipated debut of Dexter Wideman occurred Thursday after being told he couldn't practice Tuesday because of too many class absences. Darius English missed the spring practice opener because he had to attend class but he was there Thursday afternoon.
South Carolina will have another closed practice today but their practice at 10 a.m. Saturday morning is now open to the public and media. The practice will be held at their new outdoor practice fields by Gamecock Park.