Tuesday afternoon, during an 80 degree spring day, the South Carolina Gamecocks completed their fifth practice of the season.
Head coach Steve Spurrier walked over to the media afterwards, making a minimal wave with his last answer of the day. A reporter asked if Spurrier and his staff had any plans to change the way they called the game offensively this coming season. The Head Ball Coach revealed that he often delegated the play-calling duties last season but assured the media today that he would take full control of the duties this season. "I did delegate at times last year, but I usually took over before the game was over," Spurrier said. "I certainly plan on doing it. I'll be ready to do it and we'll go from there." He was further questioned about why he delegated that responsibility. "Same reason I did several years ago - it wasn't going well," Spurrier responded.
He also dove more into the quarterback situation this spring and summer, affirming that Connor Mitch would run with the first team this spring. "We won't determine who's going to start next year until probably preseason practice (in the fall)," Spurrier said. While he's been commending Mitch so far this spring, the Gamecocks head coach mentioned Brendan Nosovitch and the skillset he brings to the table. "Brendan Nosovitch is an excellent play action quarterback who can run the option and all that kind of stuff," Spurrier noted. "Maybe there's a spot for him to play a bit next year also. He's more of a combination guy, whereas the other three quarterbacks are not considered outstanding runners. There's a spot for that running quarterback as we all know."
It was obvious at times last year that South Carolina missed the running ability that Connor Shaw brought to the table. Not only when the play broke down was Shaw usually able to escape, making something out of nothing but having a quarterback with that characteristic also opened up the playbook a bit more. So the team could have a running threat catching the snap, Spurrier and Co. often had wide receiver Pharoh Cooper taking snaps from the Wildcast last season. When asked if Cooper would be used again in that package, Spurrier answered that it would all depend on how incoming freshman Lorenzo Nunez looks and how Nosovitch progresses.
Pieces of new defensive assistant Jon Hoke's style are slowly coming together. Hoke is in the midst of implementing 4-3 changes to USC's 4-2-5 system. After practice today, Lorenzo Ward discussed how Jordan Diggs and T.J. Gurley have responded in their new positions. "I think they've both got some learning to do," said Ward. "They're both really essentially switching positions that they played for three years since they've been here. They're both making some mistakes, but I think it will be a good move."
Diggs and Gurley basically just traded positions with Diggs moving to safety and Gurley now playing the SPUR position. Ward explained that in the style of defense Hoke wants to play, the better coverage guy (Gurley) needs to be closer to the line of scrimmage. In Hoke's system, the strong safety (Diggs) will have less one-on-one coverage responsibility, freeing him up to roam the field.
Another position shift has been the move of Bryson Allen-Williams off the line and into a linebacker position. Right now, BAW is playing weakside linebacker with the second team behind Jonathan Walton. Skai Moore is a shoe-in for one of the three linebacker roles, likely in the middle. Walton came on strong at the end of the last year and seems to be in line for a starting role. Hoke and Ward's first tandem experiments involve the maneuvers of Diggs, Gurley, and Allen-Williams. "We'll figure out the best three and we'll put the best three on the field," said Ward. "Anything can happen. We're still experimenting with some guys."
Ward was also questioned about junior college transfer Marquavius Lewis' goal of double-digit sacks this season. "It's definietly in him," Ward answered. "But it's not that easy." Defensive Line coach Deke Adams too discussed the ability and actions of some of his guys. He revealed that several times he's witnessed his lineman come in on their own for workouts, times when they were not required to be or expected to be at the football facilities. Adams said that Phillip Dukes has done a great job this offseason and if he can lose about 15 pounds, one of the defensive tackle positions is likely his.
New additions are often the most polarizing. We've seen it in the early coverage of Lewis. Another newbie is Dexter Wideman. Adams confirmed that Wideman has started out on the inside, learning the ways of the defensive tackle position. Adams said that Wideman, who's coming from Camden Military Acdemy, is still adjusting to the speed of this level but that the staff is excited about his ability and tools.
South Carolina will workout on Thursday and Friday while holding their first official scrimmage of the spring this Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Unfortunately all sessions are closed and it's hard to believe the next open session, a week from today, marks the halfway point of spring practice. Brace yourselves, football is coming.