The ball spiraled through the air before it nestled in the arms of Shaq Roland, who cheerfully raced over the goal line. It was a friendly game of after-practice catch, but the guy who threw the ball was a surprising sight.
Bruce Ellington, yellow jersey and all, stood grinning after the completion. He jogged over with no hint of trouble in his ailing hamstring, but the news he delivered wasn’t as positive.
“(Sunday) I came out, practiced good, had a little tweak, but I think I’ll be ready to play Thursday,” Ellington said on Monday. “It’s a day-by-day thing. (Tuesday), I’ll find out (if I can play).”
Ellington has missed the majority of preseason camp with a hamstring injury, but was starting to come around. He practiced in full pads on Sunday, but tweaked the hammy and was in a yellow jersey on Monday.
Ellington was throwing and jogging with no trouble, but he said that’s not the indicator of whether or not he’ll be on the field on Thursday when No. 6 South Carolina hosts North Carolina. He is the Gamecocks’ leading returning receiver.
“Not any pain when I’m jogging, but when I hit full-speed, I feel it a little bit,” Ellington said. “But I think it’s a thing I can just fight through.”
Into the Fry-er
While it may not be over and done with yet, all signs point to freshman walk-on Elliott Fry starting at place-kicker on Thursday. Steve Spurrier has endorsed the youngster recently, and Fry confirmed that he was leading the pack on Monday.
“I’ve been repping with the ones in practice, and that’s pretty much it,” Fry said. “They create pressure situations out there, coach (Shawn) Elliott yelling a lot, but it’s our job to handle it.”
Fry turned down a scholarship offer to Louisiana Tech to walk on at USC. As a senior at Prince of Peace (Texas) Christian School, he booted 49-of-50 PATs and was 8-of-9 on field goals with a long of 44 yards. He was named first-team all-state.
Brought in to challenge Landon Ard and walk-ons Max Huggins and Caleb Kelly, plus scholarship kicker Nick St. Germain, Fry rose to the top.
“Personally, I thought I was contending for the job and I just worked all summer and I ended up getting it,” Fry shrugged. “SEC football, I’d rather take this chance and try to get on scholarship.”
North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner recently said that he thinks the Tar Heels’ up-tempo offense will negate any advantages USC might have on defense — such as pass-rushing specialist Jadeveon Clowney. If he’s right, Thursday’s game may turn into a shootout.
The Gamecocks’ Connor Shaw won’t be fazed by it if that’s what happens. USC is familiar with a high-flying pinball-machine offense and can match it if necessary.
“Remember now, our defense has played an up-tempo team,” he chided. “Clemson was up-tempo, and you saw what happened there. Our defense is prepared for it, and I think our offense can match theirs.”
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys: Devin Washington (concussion), Carlton Heard (hamstring), James King (foot), Gerald Turner (ankle), Kyle Morini (dislocated left elbow), Ellington (hamstring), Rory “Busta” Anderson (hamstring), Cooper (dislocated left elbow), Mike Matulis (shoulder) and Cody Gibson (sprained right knee).
Talk to the HBC
Spurrier will have his second call-in radio show of the season at 7 p.m. on Tuesday on 107.5 WNKT-FM.
The Gamecocks will practice at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. It is closed to the public.