South Carolina’s quarterbacks continued Saturday to frustrate their head coach.
“I hope we don’t have to run the ball every time next year, but if we can’t throw the ball, that’s what we’ll do because we can’t take sacks,” Steve Spurrier said after the Gamecocks held their second scrimmage of the spring at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The offense managed five touchdowns but didn’t look very efficient doing it. Starter Connor Shaw was 3-for-5 for 40 yards, and backup Dylan Thompson was 2-for-6 for 27 yards.
“Connor must have had four sacks today in 10 passes,” Spurrier said. “He’s got to throw the ball somewhere, get it out of his hands a little quicker. The other quarterbacks were not real accurate at times, but we hit a few here and there.”
Senior walk-on Seth Strickland has drawn the most consistent praise, really the only praise, from Spurrier this spring. Strickland was 3-for-6 for 25 yards Saturday.
The junior from Laurens, who has been the holder on field goals and extra points the last two seasons, is 2-for-2 passing for 14 yards in his career. Both passes came in 2010. Strickland has a chance to be the team’s top backup by fall, Spurrier said.
“He knows where to throw it, and he’s a real smart kid,” Spurrier said. “As we all know, 75-80 percent of playing quarterback is between the ears and Seth has that part. Wish he had a little more zip on the ball here, there and the other, but he knows what to do.”
Junior wide receiver Ace Sanders saw limited action but made the most of it. Sanders had one catch and took the slant route for a 30-yard touchdown. Sanders is the team’s leading returning receiver (29 catches, 383 yards).
“Ace is our best receiver right now, there is no doubt about it,” Spurrier said. “Ace has physically really improved his body. He’s ready to have a big year for us, I am convinced of that. We told him the other day, ‘We ought to throw the jump ball to you.’ He’s only 5-7, but he can come down with it maybe better than anybody we’ve got right now.”
Spurrier praised Matt O’Brien’s 38-yard interception return for a touchdown to open the scrimmage scoring. The only problem is it was actually walk-on Jared Shaw, a 5-foot-10, 179-pound walk-on from Fort Mill. O’Brien, 6-foot, 188-pound walk-on, is not with the team this spring.
“I think he knew the audible, but that’s OK,” Spurrier said.
In fact, Shaw did not know what play was coming, he said.
“No, I don’t know any of the audibles,” he said. “I wish I did. That pick was all coaching. They have been running that flat, curl combination the whole spring. My coach said, ‘Quit bailing when you see the flat route because you have over the top help.’ They threw it right to me like he told me they would.”
Thompson was the victim of the interception. Shaw was recently moved from safety to cornerback.
“Jared is a great utility guy,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “I think he can help us here on special teams. He’s learning. He’s a ballplayer. If Jared can continue to get better, he can help us.”
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Spurrier is not a fan of an idea that was most recently floated by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinner that would have college teams end their spring practices with scrimmages against other area teams rather than intra-squad scrimmages.
“It doesn’t make sense to get guys hurt,” Spurrier said. “That gets all competitive. If you want to have a game that doesn’t count, you do that in baseball and softball and soccer. You don’t do that in football. I just think our sport is one where we have enough live action during this season. This is training guys for our lives games.”
South Carolina will play its annual garnet and black game on April 14 at 1 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium.
There were a few hundred fans in the stands to take in Saturday’s scrimmage, and there was a large crowd of high school recruits on hand for South Carolina’s Junior Day. The Gamecocks welcomed dozens of prospects, who got to watch the scrimmage from the sideline and then visited with Spurrier and other coaches afterward.
“A lot of Georgia kids are here, North Carolina, a few Florida,” Spurrier said. “They want to see what the Gamecocks are all about. We have a good, solid program here I believe that can continue and hopefully get a little better.”
... Senior running back Kenny Miles led the rushing effort with an impressive 52 yards on four carries.
Senior Adam Yates is slightly ahead of Landon Ard in the place-kicking competition. Yates did not have a field goal attempt last year.
The Gamecocks have two spring practices this week, Tuesday at 4:15 and Thursday at 4:15. Both are open to the public.
Marcus Lattimore has not been cleared to begin cutting, but “he’s right on schedule or a little ahead of schedule,” Spurrier said.
Jared Shaw 38-yard interception return (Adam Yates kick)
Ace Sanders 30-yard pass from Andrew Clifford (Landon Ard kick)
Tanner McEvoy 9-yard run (Adam Yates kick)
Brandon Wilds 6-yard run (Adam Yates kick)
Damiere Byrd 5-yard pass from Seth Strickland (Adam Yates kick)
Brandon Wilds 1-yard run (Landon Ard kick)
PASSING: Connor Shaw 3-5-0-40; Dylan Thompson 2-6-1-27; Seth Strickland 3-6-0-25, 1 TD; Andrew Clifford 1-2-1-30, 1 TD; Tanner McEvoy 3-6-0-35. TOTALS: 12-25-2-157, 2 TD.
RUSHING: Kenny Miles 4-52; Blair Lowery 6-35; Brandon Wilds 9-24, 2 TD; Bruce Ellington 1-13; Dylan Thompson 1-4; Seth Strickland 1-3; Connor Shaw 6-1; Tanner McEvoy 4-0, 1 TD; Andrew Clifford 1-(-8). TOTALS: 33-124, 3 TD.
RECEIVING: Blair Lowery 3-26; Ace Sanders 1-30, 1 TD; Drew Owens 1-24; Bruce Ellington 1-23; Brandon Wilds 1-22; K.J. Brent 1-14; Nick Jones 1-6; Damiere Byrd 1-5, 1 TD; Corey Simmons 1-5; Kenny Miles 1-2. TOTALS: 12-157, 2 TD