South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has a theory as to why the passing game has looked sharp during preseason camp.
“We’re hitting more balls than we’ve ever hit around here,” he said. “I’d like to say we’re a lot smarter, but it doesn’t have anything to do with us coaches. It’s got everything to do with the quarterbacks and receivers, and the tight ends.”
The Gamecocks enter the 2012 season with junior Connor Shaw returning at quarterback and a deep group of wide receivers and tight ends looking to fill the void left by second-round NFL Draft pick Alshon Jeffery.
USC’s offense will utilize the increased talent at the tight end spot, but Spurrier expects good things from the receivers as well.
“Our receivers are not getting much attention right now, which is justified because last year we only threw to Alshon basically,” Spurrier said. “We’ve got six or seven guys that can go play at any moment and, I think, are really going to play well this year.”
True freshman Shaq Roland made several leaping catches in Tuesday morning’s workout to continue his strong preseason.
“Shaq Roland has a knack of going up and getting it at the last moment,” Spurrier said. “His hands go up before the defenders go up. He’s catching a bunch of balls. QBs like to put it up in the air toward him.”
Redshirt freshman tight end Drew Owens will remain sidelined for longer than expected.
Spurrier on Tuesday said Owens should return around the middle of the season, not at the end of camp as previously believed. Owens injured his left knee after making a touchdown catch in April’s spring game and had surgery the following week.
Running back Brandon Wilds (ankle) and tight end Kelvin Rainey (concussion) did not work out in either of Tuesday’s two practices. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles’ morning was shortened again by dizziness and an upset stomach, Spurrier said.
Senior cornerback Akeem Auguste also missed both sessions with a pulled groin. His return remains unclear. Auguste has missed about a week of practice with the injury. He missed all but one game last year with a foot ailment.
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington slipped under center in the Wildcat formation for a couple of plays Tuesday. That will mirror how much Ellington might be used in actual games, Spurrier said.
“Hopefully we can sneak him in there for a few, one or two a game, make the defenses practice for it,” Spurrier said. “That’s what the Jets are doing. They’re making the defenses practice for [Tim] Tebow. They may do it two plays a game, two or three.”
Ellington, a wide receiver and kick returner, completed three passes for 27 yards out of the Wildcat last season and scored on a 61-yard run against Kentucky.
SUPPORT FOR KIFFIN
Spurrier said he had mixed feelings about the backlash toward coach Lane Kiffin voting his own team, Southern Cal, No. 1 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.
Kiffin last week, answering a reporter’s question about how another coach should vote in the poll, said he “would not” vote for the Trojans. Kiffin did pick Southern Cal No. 1, a fact USA Today decided to make public.
“He didn’t outright say, ‘I did not vote Southern Cal number one,’ ” Spurrier said. “It wasn’t as terrible as some people made it out to be.”
Kiffin coached at Tennessee for the 2009 season and took over at Southern Cal in 2010. The Trojans were picked third in the preseason Coaches Poll.
“I actually think Lane Kiffin is doing the right things now,” Spurrier said. “For the last two years, I think he has really tried to do the right things.”