Will they? Won’t they?
Starting tight end Rory “Busta” Anderson and starting receiver Bruce Ellington head into Game Week still on the mend and with hit-or-miss outlooks. While Anderson was listed as the starter on the depth chart released on Sunday, and Ellington was listed as a backup to starter Damiere Byrd, coach Steve Spurrier said nearly the opposite.
“Bruce Ellington was able to run around a bit (on Saturday),” Spurrier said at his press conference to preview North Carolina. “Busta Anderson is still hobbled, I doubt that he’ll be back by next Thursday, but we’ll sort of wait and see and play it as it comes around.”
Ellington fully practiced on Sunday afternoon while Anderson was in a yellow jersey. Backup tight end Jerell Adams, who has also missed time with a sprained ankle but should be OK to play, according to Spurrier, fully practiced.
Linebacker Cedrick Cooper is very doubtful to play and may not be able to return for a couple of weeks, Spurrier said, but outside of he and Anderson, No. 6 South Carolina appears to be healthy.
Nobody’s had a season-ending knock (tackle Mike Matulis had shoulder surgery and will probably elect to redshirt, but he could play this season if he chooses). The most serious injuries have been to Cooper and backup linebacker Kyle Morini, who each dislocated their elbows.
“So overall, we’re very healthy going into the first game,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier continued to say that freshman walk-on Elliott Fry is looking like the Gamecocks’ starting place-kicker, although he was listed as an “or” at starter with Landon Ard and Nick St. Germain on Sunday.
Fry has had the most consistent days of practice, and if he does win the job, Spurrier won’t hesitate to summon him on Thursday, no matter if it’s a 52-yard field goal or a 23-yarder.
“Whatever the situation calls for,” Spurrier said. “We have to let them go play, go kick and see what happens.”
JD in the lead
Any concerns about how seriously Jadeveon Clowney is taking his likely final season at USC have been alleviated.
While Spurrier did have to dress him down to the media for not being on the sidelines while injured two weeks ago, Clowney has taken the leadership reigns and run with them.
“We were running wind sprints (Saturday) and he led the pack,” Spurrier said. “So I said, that’s a good sign when he’s leading the pack of linemen over and back.”
Clowney has done a good job with all the offseason attention, defensive line coach Deke Adams said after Sunday's practice.
“All the attention he's getting, he's kind of shying away from it,” Adams said. “He's ready to play a game. He's different from some other guys. He tries to stay out of the limelight as much as possible.”
USC’s depth chart at linebacker lists three true freshmen among the six spots. The starters are sophomore Kaiwan Lewis and redshirt sophomore Marcquis Roberts.
“We’ll evaluate them throughout the week,” linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said. “We have good depth.”
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys were: Devin Washington (concussion), Carlton Heard (hamstring), James King (foot), Gerald Turner (ankle), Kyle Morini (dislocated left elbow), Cooper (dislocated left elbow), Anderson (hamstring), Matulis (shoulder) and Cody Gibson (sprained right knee).
The Gamecocks will next practice at 6:15 p.m. on Monday. It is closed to the public.
-- Deke Adams said that Kelsey Griffin will play this year.
-- Adams singled out starting defensive tackle J.T. Surratt as having a good camp. "I'm excited to see what he's going to do. He's playing at a different speed and a good tempo, so that's good for us."
-- Botkin also confirmed Chris Moody’s move to spur, about 10 days ago. Moody is third string on the depth chart.
-- Victor Hampton is ready to return kicks and hopes to be as explosive as Ace Sanders was, Spurrier said.
-- Pass protection has been much better in the recent practices, Spurrier said. “It’s been very good when Clowney’s not in there.”
-- Connor Shaw will start Thursday's game. Dylan Thompson may or may not play, Spurrier said. They’ll just have to see how the game goes.