Connor McLaurin didn’t come to South Carolina to carry the football.
That’s good, running backs coach Everette Sands says, because McLaurin probably won’t — even though he is expected to be the Gamecocks’ starting fullback when the season begins.
“You’re not going to get any carries; you’ll get a few passes,” Sands said. “As far as the glory, it’s not really going to be there.”
That’s OK with McLaurin, a 6-foot, 237-pound walk-on junior who transferred to USC after one year at Wake Tech (N.C.) Community College. A high school teammate of former Gamecocks Chris Culliver and Reginald Bowens at Garner High in Raleigh, McLaurin became a Gamecock mostly because of how much fun he had when he visited Culliver and Bowens in Columbia, he said.
Never miss a local story.
“I loved it here,” he said.
He joined the team as a linebacker but moved to fullback after a chance meeting with coach Steve Spurrier in the team’s weight room.
“One day I was lifting and he said, ‘Hey you’ve got some size, you can hit. Why don’t you give is a shot at fullback? You’ve got a better chance of starting at fullback. We’ve got a lot of linebackers,’ ” McLaurin said. “So, I gave it a shot and have loved it ever since.”
McLaurin was an offensive lineman most of his high school career before one season as a standout linebacker earned him a scholarship offer from Fayetteville State, which he turned down. That resume fits with McLaurin’s new job description.
“We ask our fullbacks to go in and be a smash-mouth guy,” Sands said. “He has definitely gotten a lot better in the first seven practices than he was throughout last season. It’s important to him, which is good. Right now, he’s the starter.”
McLaurin’s only competition for the job is fellow walk-on Jordan Diaz, and Sands does not expect any of his freshmen running backs next year to play any fullback.
Qua Gilchrist had two catches in the role last year. Dalton Wilson had one carry in 2010 but none in 2011. Patrick DiMarco had 10 carries as the fullback in 2009.
While McLaurin shouldn’t expect many yards, he can expect some playing time in 2013.
Spurrier expects the Gamecocks to use more of the tradition two-back set than they did a year ago, particularly when Dylan Thompson is at quarterback.
“We haven’t done as much of it as maybe we will,” Spurrier said. “It gives us a couple different offenses.”
McLaurin’s goal this spring is “to become more of a dominant run blocker,” he said.
“I do like blocking. I do like contact,” he said. “That’s why I love the sport. Right now, I’m with the ones, but that could change. I’ve just got to keep getting better every day.”
Video: Steve Spurrier from Tuesday