Spurrier wants more out of offensive linemen
Thursday’s practice for the South Carolina football team ended with an hourlong scrimmage — the first of the spring.
The offense had only two scoring plays during the live action: a 5-yard touchdown pass by freshman Connor Mitch to redshirt sophomore Shamier Jeffery and a field goal.
The focal point of the scrimmage may have been the play by the offensive and defensive lines. The defensive linemen were getting through the offensive line and recording sacks.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said he was particularly impressed with redshirt sophomore defensive end Mason Harris. Harris will be used in Ward’s “rabbit” package, which is when the Gamecocks play four defensive ends on the line.
“We need to pick and choose the spots to use him,” Ward said. “Mason will definitely be a part of our rabbit package. He’s put on 15 pounds since he’s been here, so he’s growing, and I’m excited about that.”
Ward said if the season started today, the rabbit package would comprise juniors Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton on the interior with Harris and redshirt freshman Darius English rushing from the outside.
“Darius can rush the passer also,” Ward said. “He did some good things today. We just have to make sure to put them all in position to make plays.”
Co-offensive coordinator Shawn Elliott acknowledged the offensive line’s struggles but raved about the talent of his young group.
“They are really good,” Elliott said. “I’m really pleased with their effort; they’re just always willing to go after it. They just have to learn the game of football and learn how to put it all together. I am not down on one of those guys.”
Head coach Steve Spurrier was a little more blunt in his analysis.
“They’re pretty good at everything except blocking,” Spurrier said. “Unfortunately, that’s all we ask them to do. So if we could block a little bit better, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Spurrier also mentioned the linemen’s difficulties last season but said he expects them to put it together.
“Brandon Shell struggled at times last year, but he’s coming around,” Spurrier said. “I think he’ll be a lot better this year, I really do. He was a redshirt freshman last year. So he and Corey Robinson, I mean physically, they can be like those Alabama linemen. Coach Elliott’s got to get them there.”
Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington returned to the football field after finishing his season on the basketball court under head coach Frank Martin.
Ellington described the difference between Spurrier and Martin.
“Coach Spurrier yells every now and then, but Coach Martin gets after you all the time, so I had to get used to him,” Ellington said.
Ellington took off three weeks before participating in his first full day of spring football Thursday. He ended any speculation about whether he was playing football this year.
“There was no doubt I was coming back,” Ellington said.
Spurrier said the coaching staff held Ellington out of the scrimmage today because there was no reason for the receiver to be out there. Ellington said he thinks Spurrier wants him to be more of a leader this year.
“Last year I said some things, but this year I’m going to step up and do the job,” Ellington said. “I’ve been playing here two years, so I’m ready to be a leader.”
Spurrier said the team plans on scrimmaging next Thursday and Saturday.