South Carolina completed its first week of spring ball after Saturday's practice, which was open to the media and public, ended during a sunny afternoon on the program's new practice fields.
"The first week was pretty good, I think," head coach Steve Spurrier said after practice. "(Offensive lineman) Malik (Young) sprained his knee a little bit. We've only got six offensive lineman right now I think, so we can't scrimmage too much. Perry Orth threw a nice ball to Deebo (Samuel) there at the end. Other than that, both sides are doing some good stuff. Our defensive guys are doing a good job disguising and moving around a bit. But we're just getting started. We're a long way from being a good team, but hopefully we can get there."
In addition to Malik Young's injury, Mason Zandi has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. They joined Mike Matulis and Brandon Shell on the list of offensive lineman currently hurt for the Gamecocks.
In his overall thoughts of the first week, Spurrier touched on what the defense has been able to do to this point. New defensive assistant Jon Hoke expanded on Spurrier's comments Saturday afternoon. "They're doing great," said Hoke of the defense making adjustments to his style. "We can see improvement every day. Obviously the terminology is a little bit different for them, the tempo is a little bit different for them, the way we play is a little different, but they're doing good. The coaches are doing a tremendous job of being detailed in what they're telling them," Hoke said. "We've got a lot of work to do, we all know that, but they're giving us great effort and they're working at it. We've not missed a day of what we want to put in. We thought about holding back, but we keep going forward and they guys are doing a good job."
Hoke and his assistants will rely on several new players to help improve the Gamecock defense. Coaches and fans seem to have the highest expectations for defensive end Marquavius Lewis. He holds himself to a high-standard too. The junior college transfer said his personal goal is at least 10 sacks this season. "There's no pressure," Lewis said of entering Columbia with such high expectations and such a large void to fill. "I'm relying on my teammates to help out. It's a team effort." Lewis knows the junior college ball he's coming from is far different than what he'll be surrounded by this fall but he thinks he'll be able to hang just fine. "I think I play both the run and the pass equally well, so hopefully I can transition."
Spurrier noted that practices had been more physical so far this spring than in year's past. The Gamecocks were in full pads today and because of that, and the rise in physicality this spring, Brandon Wilds wore a "no contact" jersey this morning. "He's fine," running backs coach Everette Sands said after practice. "He banged up his shoulder a little when he was doing no pads, but he'll be fine. I know what he can do. I'm pretty confident in that. We're not going to press the issue. If we had to play on Saturday, he'd be ready to go."
In addition to Wilds injury news, Sands touched on his rotation at the running back position, specifically if there was a starter in place. "Nothing has been given," Sands said of Wilds and sophomore David Williams. "Both of them will play. The question is who will be the guy that runs out on the field first." He says that Williams is, "focused and ready to emerge and put himself in that position where he is going to be a major factor this year." Sands also revealed that Shon Carson has spent most of his reps this spring at the wide receiver position and not at running back. The idea here is that with the reps at WR now, Carson will know the position if he is required to play it this fall. "I believe Shon is a very special player, especially when you get him out in space," Sands said. "We want to get him over there so he can learn that position. We're going to do some different things with him. We're trying to make sure we use him the best we can." Sands said the new experiment with Carson's means one of the Gamecocks incoming backs, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner, will play as a true freshman. Personally, I am a big fan of the player Denson can become.
There was a bit of controversy earlier this week when defensive lineman Dexter Wideman and cornerback Wesley Green missed the Gamecocks first spring practice because they had missed too much class. After practice, Spurrier changed his tune, saying that Wideman had simply been late to class a couple of times and that, "it wasn't his fault." Green's absence was because of missed class but Spurrier said, "He was back out here today, so he's in good standing now."
Spurrier also mentioned that Connor Mitch is looking much better this spring than in years past and that he feels Deebo Samuel has a chance to be a good player in Columbia. Former Florida Atlantic punter, now Gamecock walk-on, Sean Kelly has impressed coaches with his leg early on.
Wilds (shoulder), Young (knee), Matulis (knee), Zandi (hamstring), and Shell (shoulder) all wore yellow jerseys today as did Darin Smalls (knee), Sherrod Pittman (leg), Larenz Bryant (liver), Jerad Washington (hamstring), Taylor Stallworth (pectoral), and Cedrick Cooper (not specified).
The second week of spring practice gets started Tuesday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. and it will be open to the media and to the public.