About a thousand fans packed the Bluff Road practice facility Friday night for USC’s first football practice. They saw Stephen Garcia make a few passes, Jarriel King in uniform but not practicing, and Steve Spurrier start his fourth preseason at USC.
School president Harris Pastides stopped by, wrapping up his first day on the job. New men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn also showed up, as did some trustees, track coach Curtis Frye, and high school recruits and coaches.
It was supposed to be the only scheduled practice open to the public. But Spurrier changed his mind, saying Saturday’s practice will definitely be open, and Sunday and beyond will probably be too.”
“We’ll keep it open till we start doing something halfway sneaky that we need to close up. So fans can keep coming out if they like for the next couple nights.”
A few more tidbits:
- Sophomore Melvin Ingram has moved back to defense, this time on the defensive line. Ingram played last year at linebacker, then was briefly shifted to fullback after spring practice.
“We just felt like Melvin’s grown into a D-lineman. It’s hard for him to get much under 280 (pounds), so we thought that might be a good spot.”
Sophomore Clark Gaston, caught in a numbers game at tight end, has also moved to the defensive line.
- King said he will get his physical Monday morning. Until then, he can’t practice, though he did suit up.
He will start out as a left tackle, with the possibility of eventually moving to the defensive line.
“We’re gonna give him every opportunity to see if he can help us out,” Spurrier said. “I felt like we needed a big strong guy on the offensive line who could maybe push somebody around and not get pushed around so much. He’s one guy who could play defense. There aren’t that many on the offensive line who could play defense. ... Jarriel’s a big strong guy over there. I think he’s got a chance to be a heck of an offensive left tackle.”
- Among the quarterbacks, first-string Tommy Beecher did the most to impress his coach. Spurrier didn’t mention Garcia by name, and wasn’t asked about the redshirt freshman.
“Tommy’s obviously done a lot of work this summer. Tommy threw the ball well,” Spurrier said. “Some of the other guys threw it well here and there. But anyway, the receiver’s dropped a few.”
- Offensive lineman Heath Batchelor and defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye both missed practice with what Spurrier called “some academic woes.” Both are expected back Saturday.
- The Gamecocks went through a walk-through on Friday morning. Spurrier wasn’t sure if it counted towards the overall practice limit. “I just know you can come out here without a football and jump around and get in formations, and motions and all that kind of stuff, which is pretty good stuff. Nobody gets hurt, and nobody gets hit.”
- He didn’t vote for Duke in the coaches poll for the first time since leaving the Blue Devils. Spurrier had always given his former school, which hasn’t done well since he left, a token vote to show his appreciation. But Spurrier said Grant Teaff, the head of the American Football Coaches Association, had personally requested that Spurrier stop, after USA To-day complained last season.
“He just said I’d appreciate if you didn’t vote for Duke, and keep the integrity of the poll alive,” Spurrier said. “Somebody else asked me that, they’d always thought it was a nice gesture. But Grant asked me not to do it, so I complied with his wishes.”
- Freshman receiver CC Whitlock was “encouraging” in practice, better than he was in spring practice. Spurrier is still edging on the secondary receivers, saying Matt Clements and Joe Hills “need to come around.”
- Spurrier liked Ryan Doerr’s punting. Doerr is being given a chance to compete with Spencer Lanning and incum-bent Ryan Succop for the punting job. Succop will remain the place-kicker.