Saturday’s scrimmage offered the first public look at No. 6 South Carolina since the first week of preseason camp. An analysis of the five biggest question marks among the position groups:
This is the group with the most scrutiny because it’s being helmed by youngsters. With the defensive line blowing up everything in sight Saturday, the LBs didn’t get a chance to make many plays, but they pulled through when the opportunities presented themselves. Marcquis Roberts and Kaiwan Lewis started and were backed by Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman. They were solid, not spectacular, mixing good and bad. Mike Davis deked Roberts for about 10 extra yards on one run, but Larenz Bryant made Shon Carson’s helmet sing with a textbook crack on a run around right end. They’re filling their gaps and transitioning easily between run and pass coverage. Having a stellar pass-rush ahead of them is beneficial.
The return and punting positions are pretty close to being solidified, but kicker and long snapper were going through a constant rotation last week. On Saturday, it was much better. Landon Ard handled the first kickoffs, the first field-goal attempts and made each of the day’s PATs. He was good from 37 and 42 yards on his field goals, and while his kicks weren’t winning any prizes for height, they were going straight down the middle.
Steve Spurrier said the team hopes to name a starting kicker by the middle of next week and have him take most of the reps as Aug. 29 nears. Ard seems to have that role in his sights. Nick St. Germain and Elliott Fry received the other kicks. St. Germain was 2-for-2, Fry missed from 37 but made from 42.
Long-snapping was helmed by Ryland Culbertson, and he did well. All the snaps were on target, and the kickers never had to wait. He’s battling Coleman Harley for the job.
Spurrier wasn’t joking when he twice mentioned Jody Fuller after practice last week. The redshirt freshman from Charlotte seems to be winning the who-takes-over-with-Bruce-Ellington-out Sweepstakes. He caught five balls for 49 yards and rushed once for 8 on Saturday, and he was showcasing the same skills he did in high school. He’s the guy that’s a nightmare to cover in the middle of the field, zipping around like a waterbug avoiding a fishing line. He’s really good at getting open in space, then knowing which way the defender is coming in that split-second before a defender gets there. Fuller spins under, ducks the arms and goes the other way for extra yards. He told me last week that he feels he can’t be caught if he gets in the open field, and he showed that Saturday.
Shawn Elliott has been adamant that Cody Waldrop is the guy, and Waldrop looked fine snapping Saturday. Once he popped up to block, though, he had some forgettable moments. He was going against USC’s starting defensive line some of the day and later going against some of the Gamecocks’ other pass-rushers. There were times he was shoved backward and there were times where he was trading blows with them, popping them in the chest just as they were attempting to bear-swipe his head. He’s only a redshirt freshman and will have a lot of help from guards Ronald Patrick and A.J. Cann. So far, so good.
I’m beginning to see why Lorenzo Ward likes the idea of rotating spurs with Sharrod Golightly and Jordan Diggs. Golightly seems to be the best in running downs, acting as a safety net for the linebackers but able to drop back if need be. Diggs was better in pass coverage. Each has the skills to do both, but each is better at one than the other. The position has been helmed by one guy in the past (Darian Stewart, Antonio Allen, DeVonte Holloman) but each has brought his own skills to the spot and taken them to the NFL. If Ward can figure out a solid rotation — having Diggs in on every third down would be predictable, but also a boon if it’s third-and-long — there should be no dropoff from the past.
David Williams 1-yard run (Landon Ard kick)
Pharoh Cooper 10-yard pass from Brendan Nosovitch (Ard kick)
PASSING: Brendan Nosovitch 5-12-1-82, 1 TD; Dylan Thompson 3-8-0-47; Connor Shaw 2-6-1-25; Perry Orth 4-7-0-23; Connor Mitch 2-4-0-3. TOTALS: 16-37-2-180, 1 TD.
RUSHING: Mike Davis 4-53; Brandon Wilds 3-20; David Williams 5-12, 1 TD; Shon Carson 3-11; Jody Fuller 1-8; Connor Shaw 2-1; Brendan Nosovitch 1-0; Connor Mitch 1-(-5); Dylan Thompson 2-(-8); Perry Orth 2-(-8). 24-84, 1 TD.
RECEIVING: Jody Fuller 5-49; Pharoh Cooper 2-45, 1 TD; Jordan Diaz 2-3; Kwinton Smith 1-22; Shamier Jeffery 1-21; Damiere Byrd 1-21; Jerell Adams 1-12; Connor McLaurin 1-5; Kelvin Rainey 1-3; Shon Carson 1-(-1). 16-180, 1 TD.