Bruce Ellington last played tailback in youth football.
That’s unlikely to change this season despite South Carolina’s sudden dearth at the position.
“He’s not going to be a running back per se,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday. “He could play some tailback, but I think we’re going to leave him mainly at wide receiver and use him in the shotgun there a little bit also.”
That doesn’t mean Ellington won’t carry the football. The sophomore wide receiver is the team’s second-leading healthy rusher after the season-ending injury to Marcus Lattimore. Ellington has 11 carries for 91 yards, almost exclusively while lined up as a wildcat formation quarterback. He also has 12 catches for 129 yards and has completed two passes for 24 yards.
“He’s a natural runner with the ball,” Spurrier said, but if Ellington were lined up as a tailback in a traditional formation he would have to know the position’s blocking responsibilities on blitzes, which he does not.
“He’ll be in there in the wildcat and as we know he can throw it so we’ll have some passes for him, a little bit more than we had last week,” Spurrier said.
Ellington doesn’t see much difference in lining up at tailback or running the ball from the wildcat, he said.
“You still have to read the offensive line and the blocks they make,” he said. “Wherever coach puts me at, I am going to go out there and play.”
OPEN, NOT EASY
Often, college teams use their bye week to work with young players and give their starters a break. South Carolina can’t afford that, Spurrier said.
“We have to coach the guys who are playing the game, see if we can’t line up, snap it, hand it off, look like we know what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ve got some coaching to do this week as well as the rest of the year so we’ll be a little bit more involved the next three days.”
Several times during a Tuesday press conference, Spurrier mentioned the need for improved coaching.
“Our guys make too many assignment errors, offense, defense, special teams,” he said. “We are just not as fundamentally sound as I think we should be. We should be playing better.”
When players blow their assignments, that’s a coaching issue, Spurrier said.
“We miss blocking assignments. We thought he knew to block that guy, but I don’t guess he did know. I just call it bad coaching,” he said. “If our guys don’t know who to block, then we’re not coaching that well.”
Senior wide receiver Jason Barnes, who has four catches for 48 yards, was practicing with the scout team last week for disciplinary reasons, Spurrier said.
Barnes, who has not played since the Sept. 17 Navy game and also had a hamstring injury during that time, is practicing again with the varsity, Spurrier said.
“He’ll be back competing with those other guys,” Spurrier said.