A grey, cloudy sky sat above the Gamecocks Thursday afternoon as they wrapped up their second spring practice of the week and their sixth of the spring session.
Head coach Steve Spurrier spoke with the media after his team completed a two-hour practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads). Right out of the gates Spurrier commented on newcomer Dexter Wideman who was absent from practice for the second time this spring. "Dexter Wideman missed practice today and is going to miss again tomorrow because he missed class," Spurrier said. "No excuses. If he misses another one, he's not going to suit up for the first game. Dexter needs to get his tail in class and he's got no excuses this time."
Wideman, a first-year Gamecock from Camden Military Academy, was orginally part of the 2014 class but academic issues forced him into a prep year. Wideman is a talented fella and has been working at defensive tackle so far this spring where he has impressed Defensive Line coach Deke Adams.
In brighter news, Spurrier commented on the quickness his team has shown this spring. "They seem to be quicker and faster than we were last year," the Head Ball Coach said after practice. One of the fastest Gamecocks on the field is freshman wide reciever Deebo Samuel. Samuel has already caused a stir amongst coaches, media, and fans with the flashes he's shown in workouts. "He's got talent, lots of ability and talent," Spurrier said Thursday afternoon. He also noted that Samuel still "has a ways to go," saying he still "plays like a freshman," and that he needs to learn how to "play fast," and catch, run in practice as if he's playing in a game.
We also heard from a player who's seemingly mastered all that stuff, All-SEC first team selection Pharoh Cooper. The rising junior wide receiver discussed his motivation to get better this offseason, noting that his name is out there now, meaning opposing teams will be keying on him this season so he must get better. "The whole goal this upcoming year is to do better than what I did last year," Cooper said after practice.. "It's going to be harder as defenses will key on me a lot more." With so many new faces at the wide receiver position, Copper's vast versatility provides the Gamecocks another benefit. Cooper is still in the "Z" wideout position he played last year but in case his teammates struggle to master the "X" and "Y" positions, Cooper can supplement them. "If I had to go out there because somebody couldn't play that position, I could go out there and play if I had to," he said Thursday afternoon.
Running Backs coach Everette Sands said he is going to get creative this year with his stable of talented backs. Sophomore David Williams is one his main horses and he expects to be far better compared to last year. Williams said after practice that he was playing last year with about an 80-85 percent understanding of the South Carolina playbook. He went on to saying that last season he was mainly "freestyling," on the field and playing based on his instincts. Now Williams says he completely understands the playbook, knows where to lineup based on the defense, and can point out the intricacies of the defense he's facing.
Defensive end Gerald Dixon missed practice Thursday with Spurrier informing us that, "Gerald got kicked in the shin and went down the other other day. He should be ok." Others who were out of practice, wearing the yellow "no contact" jersey were: Cedrick Cooper (ankle), Mason Zandi (hamstring), Mike Matulis (knee), Taylor Stallworth (pectoral muscle), Larenz Bryant (liver), Sherrod Pittman (leg), Brandon Shell (shoulder) and Darin Smalls (knee).
Saturday afternoon the Gamecocks will hold their first scrimmage of the season. Spurrier let the media know after practice Thursday that the quarterback reps would not be split equally, but did not specify on how exactly they would be regulated. He did comment on how he sees his quarterbacks though. "(Brendan) Nosovitch is obviously our running guy with a little passing here and there," Spurrier said. "The other three (Connor Mitch, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia) can run a little bit, but they're mostly passers."
South Carolina has one more practice before the scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium, this afternoon on the new practice fields at 4:15 p.m. ET. Both the practice and the scrimmage are closed to the public and media. The Gamecocks will next hit the practice field in an open session Tuesday afternoon.