With the first game nine days away, Shane Beamer is starting to see his special teams come together.
The USC assistant coach can rest easy knowing his placekicker and punter is senior Spencer Lanning, one of the SEC’s most consistent at both spots. The return game rests in veteran hands as well.
Stephon Gilmore is back as the primary punter returner, while Chris Culliver, the school’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage, is back for his final season. Providing depth at kickoff returns are Akeem Auguste, Bryce Sherman and D.J. Swearinger.
“Those are the guys that would be there if the season started tomorrow,” said Beamer, who added that freshman Ace Sanders would not be doing as much in the return game because of his inexperience.
Sanders will serve as the backup holder to sophomore quarterback Seth Strickland, who has claimed that job after receiver Stephen Flint left the program.
“Seth’s done a really good job. He’s worked at it,” Beamer said. Coach (Steve) Spurrier, Jr., has worked with him. The kickers have gotten with him before and after practice.”
Jay Wooten and Joey Scribner-Howard remain in a battle for the kickoff job.
“We’re going to work with them through this week and make a decision on that the first part of next week,” Beamer said.
Stock rising. All the tight ends not named Weslye Saunders – Patrick DiMarco, Justice Cunningham, and Mike Triglia – are going to receive more opportunity until Saunders’ situations, both the temporary team suspension and the ongoing NCAA investigation, are resolved.
Stock falling. See Saunders, above.
Injury report. Running back Jarvis Giles remains on the sidelines with a bruised left shoulder. “Jarvis has got a bum shoulder,” Spurrier said. “He's banged up, but we have a lot of running backs ready to go. When he gets well, he'll get back in the mix.” DiMarco, who was still wearing a yellow non-contact jersey, said the fracture in his left forearm is steadily healing and feeling better, however.
“I’m just staying away from contact right now,” DiMarco said. “They don’t want it to get any worse when we’re not playing the other team yet. Once the soreness goes away, they’ll have me back out there.”
Extra points. Count senior offense tackle Hutch Eckerson as one guy who’s thrilled preseason camp is coming to a close.
“We can start focusing a little bit more on Southern Miss. It’s a big game for us,” Eckerson said. “We’re going to start winding down here and getting more into their scheme and not just going against our guys.”
He believes the Gamecocks have shown steady improvement in the last three weeks.
“Camp’s always tough. It’s just a time to work on things and improve,” he added. “It’s long hot days, but it’s necessary to win. So we’ve been out here pushing it every day.”
Spurrier wasn’t as critical of his quarterbacks as he was after Saturday’s scrimmage. And he liked what he saw out of his defense as well.
“We didn’t do a lot that super-duper. But guys were hustling. They’re trying,” Spurrier said. “There were some good plays here and there, good plays by the defense. Defense was quick and fast tonight, also.”
Quote of the day. “Everybody is tired of hitting each other every day. We’re ready to hit somebody new.” – Cunningham on the players’ feelings as they prepare for the opener
Up next: The Gamecocks will practice Tuesday at 4:15 p.m.