South Carolina made a move Thursday that helped its depth at two positions – one where the Gamecocks were thin and another where they had too many players.
Third-year receivers Joe Hills and Matt Clements have switched to the secondary, which has been depleted by graduation and the early exits of Captain Munnerlyn and Emanuel Cook to the NFL.
The 6-foot-4, 199-pound Hills, who dropped two passes in Wednesday’s scrimmage, is at safety, a position he played in high school in Florida. The junior had been getting reps with the first-team offense.
Clements, a redshirt sophomore with two career receptions, is playing cornerback.
“(Secondary) coach (Lorenzo) Ward said, ‘I’ll take a look at Joe Hills and Matt Clements,’” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’ve got too many receivers right now, trying to get in there and play. So I think both of them looked pretty good over there at safety and corner.”
Spurrier wants to give a longer look to sure-handed receiver Stephen Flint. The former walk-on and brother of ex-USC receiver Michael Flint worked with the second team Thursday.
“There’s a lot of competition out there,” said Flint, the holder for field goals and extra points. “I’m just going to come out and keep working hard.”
Hills has all the physical tools to be a successful receiver and was expected to be a big contributor this season. But after an inconsistent camp, he’ll try to make inroads at safety. Hills had four interceptions as a senior at Palmetto High.
Linebacker Eric Norwood (sprained wrist) returned after missing three days. The two-time All-SEC selection hopes to get the soft cast and brace off his right wrist Monday. Tailback Eric Baker (hernia) practiced at full speed for the first time this preseason, while starting tailback Brian Maddox (shoulder) remained out.
Quote of the day
“I told DeMario that when I was visiting him. He didn’t know. He wasn’t a big country fan,” Spurrier on the fact that freshman receiver DeMario Bennett and Jennifer Nettles, lead singer of the country group Sugarland, are both from Douglas, Ga.
With Norwood and defensive tackle Nathan Pepper back in the lineup, Spurrier said the defense Thursday was a little saltier than the “makeshift” unit the Gamecocks used in Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“So obviously in our little, offense versus defense (drill), offense didn’t go very far,” he said. …
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said Stephen Garcia graded out at 90 percent, his highest grade from three preseason scrimmages. Garcia completed 14 of 16 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. …
Spurrier said the receiver rotation remains “unsettled” following the move of Hills and Clements to defense.
The Gamecocks will practice at 4:15 p.m. Friday and will scrimmage at 11 a.m. Saturday. Both sessions are closed to the public.
-- Joseph Person