In an effort to limit the long-term effects of concussions, South Carolina’s offensive and defensive linemen donned extra pads outside their helmets during Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s to take some of the bang out of it,” defensive line coach Deke Adams said. “You have skill positions that can come out here all day in a practice and really not hit anybody if you’re not going full speed, but as an offensive and defensive lineman, you are banging every day. That’s just takes some of the sting out of it, so you are not banging heads all day every day.”
The pads are made by Guardian, which claims their “caps” reduce impact to the head by 33 percent. The seven-ounce caps were tested at Penn State, Wayne State and the Oregon Ballistics Lab last year, according to the company’s website.
Adams expects the Gamecocks’ linemen to continue wearing the pads during spring and in-season practices.
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“It was a help today,” he said. “For a couple of them, it was a little bit different, but they’ll be fine, they’ll adjust to it.”
Along with the three secondary spots that seem set for the fall – Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree at cornerback and Brison Williams at strong safety – there is the question of free safety, where Kadetrix Marcus currently holds the No. 1 spot. That may change when T.J. Gurley returns in the fall from a knee injury, but it may not, secondary coach Grady Brown said.
“I expect whoever is playing the best to be in that position when the ball is snapped,” Brown said. “I am not particular about who, I am more particular about getting the job done. If it’s Chaz (Elder), if it’s (Kyle) Fleetwood, if it’s Pharoh Cooper, I really don’t care who it is as long as the person can execute their assignments and make plays for us.
Linebacker coach Kirk Botkin was not pleased with his group’s effort Tuesday, he said.
“First day being in pads, they got a little tired early on, I was kind of shocked by that,” Botkin said. “I could see them fatigued a little more than I had. That was kind of shocking. In helmets, a lot of guys look great. Full pads today, we have to get a lot more physical. We have to go downhill and stop the run first and foremost.”
The Gamecocks worked out for nearly two hours Tuesday afternoon. It was their first practice since March 7 due to the spring break holiday at USC last week. All the defensive players returned on time from their spring break, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
“No casualties from the beach,” he said. “There might have been some other things, but no casualties.”
Brown wasn’t pleased with the team’s carryover from the break.
“You were kind of hoping we didn’t have to start over from square one, but we made some mistakes today we didn’t make two weeks ago,” Brown said. “The effort was there and the guys were trying hard, but we’re giving up too many deep passes in the middle of the field.”
... Bruce Ellington, who spent the winter with Frank Martin’s basketball team, came to football practice Tuesday but did not participate. He is not expected to return to full speed with the football team until next week.
... Damiere Byrd practiced for the first time this spring after sitting out the first two practices after having LASIK surgery.
... Connor Shaw was no longer wearing a walking boot Tuesday but did walk with one crutch. Shaw won’t participate this spring because he is recovering from surgery on his left foot.
... South Carolina returns to the practice field Thursday and will work out again Friday before holding a 10 a.m. scrimmage Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. The scrimmage, like all the team’s spring practices, is open to the public.
Video: Deke Adams interview