Fork Union vets jump into action

Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden will be part of weekend coaches clinic

jperson@thestate.com April 3, 2008 

A couple of USC’s military school transfers have a chance to march into immediate action.

Because of injuries, cornerback Akeem Auguste and tailback Eric Baker have received plenty of work this spring, which could translate into playing time this fall for the Fork Union (Va.) Military transfers.

“(Baker) and Akeem Auguste, it appears they’re going to help us next year,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday following the eighth of 15 scheduled spring practices.

Auguste and Baker, along with defensive back Antonio Allen, signed with the Gamecocks in 2007 but enrolled at Fork Union after failing to qualify. Tired of the daily marching, Auguste said he was thrilled to experience a more traditional college setting after arriving at USC in January.

With Captain Munnerlyn (foot) sidelined for the spring, Auguste has made the most of his opportunities. First-year defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said he spent the first week of spring drills asking whom No. 3 (Auguste) was.

Baker’s development appeared to be on a slower track, as the former Florida high school rushing leader learned Spurrier’s offense. But Baker’s reps have increased with Mike Davis (hamstring) injured and Bobby Wallace missing weekday practices to concentrate on academics.

“Even if they were practicing, I would still play hard and compete,” Baker said.

Spurrier recently praised Baker’s cutback ability. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11, 187-pounder is trying to learn on the fly.

“It’s a learning stage for me. It’s a lot,” he said. “Not only do you have to learn the running plays, you’ve got to learn the pass protection. You’ve got to learn everything.”

Fight club. Tempers flared a few times Wednesday when the Gamecocks turned up the intensity during team drills. Tailback Brian Maddox and safety Chris Culliver got into a scuffle that teammates broke up.

Much trash-talking ensued, which continued through the final play — a touchdown reception by tight end Jared Cook that earned the offense a reprieve from conditioning.

“We put a little game on the last play and the offense hit a fade to Jared Cook,” Spurrier said. “So the offense actually won the one-play contest. They get excited about that.”

Distinguished guests. A pair of NFL coaches will be part of the Gamecocks’ annual coaches clinic this weekend. Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden and New York Giants assistant offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, a former USC assistant, are scheduled to speak to the coaches Friday night.

Extra points. Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who got up to 275 pounds while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, weighs 268 and would like to play at 258 this fall. ... The quarterback competition between Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher remains “pretty close,” according to Spurrier. ...

Spurrier said backup tackles Quintin Richardson and Kyle Nunn are coming along well “for a couple of redshirt freshman guys.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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