Practice report: Spurrier hopeful about O-line

jperson@thestate.com ... nwhite@thestate.comAugust 16, 2010 

Patrick DiMarco

MELISSA HARMON/SPECIAL TO THE STATE

South Carolina will boast one of its more experienced offensive lines under Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks’ five projected starters up front have combined for 52 career starts, and four of them are upperclassmen.

And despite the line’s rough day in Saturday’s scrimmage, when Stephen Garcia was sacked five times, Spurrier thinks the oft-maligned unit will be OK.

“We had some older guys in the past, we wish they could have played a little better. Just because you’re a fourth- or fifth-year guy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a really, really good player,” Spurrier said Monday. “But they’re bigger and stronger, and I really think our line’s going to play better this year.

“But we’ve got to wait and see. I’ve been saying that every year, it seems like.”

The porous protection in the scrimmage – backups Connor Shaw and Andrew Clifford also were sacked – was a troubling sign for a line that has given up an average of 38 sacks the past two seasons.

The performance did not sit well with first-year offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, the former Appalachian State assistant who replaced Eric Wolford in the offseason.

“It’s not going to be tolerated. I agree with him 100 percent,” center T.J. Johnson said. “We had a lot of lack of ‘efforts’ and people just going through the motions. That can’t happen.”

Stock rising

Tight end Weslye Saunders finally got a little good news. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior was named to the 32-member John Mackey Award watch list, an annual award given to the nation’s best tight end.

Saunders has practiced under the shadow of an NCAA investigation for the past month.

On the field, however, Saunders, has looked good. Heading into his final season, he has caught 60 passes for 718 yards and six touchdowns.

Stock falling

The offensive line depth continues to take a hit. With backups Ryan Broadhead and Cody Gibson already out with knee injuries, two more reserves joined the injured list – freshman Tramell Williams (shoulder) and senior Steven Singleton (concussion).

A pair of freshmen are currently working with the second unit – A.J. Cann and Ronald Patrick.

Injury update

Freshman defensive lineman J.T. Surratt is sidelined with a right shoulder sprain, while reserve safety Corey Addison continues to recover from a concussion. Starting tight end/fullback Patrick DiMarco, who has a cracked bone in his left forearm, sported a larger wrap on the arm Monday. DiMarco is expected to be out another week.

Quote of the day

“The weather’s much better than it has been. This is fat man weather here. I believe we just stepped it up and had a lot better day,” – the 6-foot-4, 302-pound Johnson on Monday’s cooler temperatures.

Extra points

... Kenny Miles, the returning starter at tailback, is back running full-speed after nursing a hamstring injury the first two weeks of camp. “It feels good. I finally got to have a full practice,” Miles said. “It was good to be out there and be with my linemen again.”

… Spurrier said a trio of redshirt freshman wideouts played well in Saturday’s scrimmage – Lamar Scruggs, DeMario Bennett and DeAngelo Smith.

… After Monday’s practice, players went to the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center for its annual pool party.

Up next

The Gamecocks will practice Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

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