Spurrier says linebackers have made biggest improvements
Ace Sanders’ departure for the NFL has left coach Steve Spurrier Jr. with the task of replacing his top wide receiver for the second straight year.
But the co-offensive coordinator joked that it’s a good problem to have because it means he has been with South Carolina for a few years.
“It means you had a guy who played really well and felt his opportunities to play in the NFL were there and he took them,” Spurrier Jr. said. We’ve lost several good ones and we’ve replaced most of them, so hopefully we can find a guy who will step up.”
The top three receivers in USC’s depth chart are juniors Nick Jones, Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington. Jones said he knows the playbook much better this year and is ready to take the next step as a player.
Last season, Jones’ best games were the final two. In USC’s win over Clemson, he had four catches for 45 yards, and he made three catches for 78 yards in the Outback Bowl. Spurrier Jr. joked that Jones said he was tired after the bowl game because it was the most he had ever played.
“The last two games gave me a lot of confidence,” Jones said. “I already knew what I could do, but it’s just getting out there and showing that I can do it.”
The wide receivers coach wanted Byrd to gain weight after last season, and after Thursday’s practice, he said the junior still needs to add four or five pounds this summer. Byrd is listed at 168 pounds.
“He plays big,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He doesn’t play small. He plays well. He needs to gain a few more pounds to take the punishment of this league.”
Spring game lineups: Coach Steve Spurrier said after Thursday’s practice that he has not decided how snaps will be divided among the quarterbacks in the Garnet & Black Spring Game Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch and true freshman Connor Mitch will be on one team, while junior Dylan Thompson and redshirt freshman Perry Orth will be on the other.
Tailbacks Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis will have four or five carries apiece, while redshirt freshman Kendric Salley will have carries in the double digits.
“This will be a great opportunity for [Salley] to show, ‘I have a grasp of the offense. I can run the ball. Let me show you what I can do,’” said running backs coach Everette Sands.
But Sands added that the gap between Salley and the top two running backs is significant.
Wilds was redshirted last season due to an ankle injury, but he practiced with the team in the later part of the fall. He is now USC’s oldest running back, and his experience as a starter two years ago has made him a leader for the younger players.
“I’m the one teaching them the routines, the blocking schemes, the running gaps, what to look for and not look for,” Wilds said.
Spurrier satisfied with spring:* As spring practice winds down, Spurrier said the Gamecocks will be in good hands when summer practice begins, because of the leadership of upperclassmen. Asked where the team made the biggest strides in the spring, the coach replied that it may have been when redshirt senior defensive end Devin Taylor did the broad jump.
He said the biggest improvement came from linebackers, including sophomore Kaiwan Lewis, redshirt sophomore Marcquis Roberts, redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs and redshirt freshman Kelvin Rainey.
“What’s most important is what we do through the summer,” Spurrier said.