At the moment, Rod Talley is not overly concerned about the tailback rotation in South Carolina’s spring practices. That will change in the next two weeks, the junior from Laurens said Thursday.
“It’s spring time, and they are trying to get a look at everybody,” Talley said after the Gamecocks’ sixth practice of the spring. “It’s not really a big deal right now, but as we get toward the end, as a player you want to separate yourself. As the end gets closer, it’s going to become a big deal for everybody. Right now, it’s kind of loose, fluid.”
On Thursday, Jamari Smith, a 5-foot-10, 204-pound junior who has bounced between running back, defensive back and wide receiver during his career, took the first turn at tailback with David Williams No. 2 in the rotation. On Tuesday, it was Talley taking the first-team snaps followed by Williams with the second team.
“It’s really competitive right now, me, Dave, Jamari, we are on the front end right now,” Talley said. “A.J. (Turner) is real close, too. It changes every day.”
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Williams, who was listed as the starter entering spring practice, has the most experience. His 86 carries for 299 yards last season make him the leading returning rusher at the position.
“Dave does have experience, but he doesn’t have a huge bulk of experience so he’s not too far ahead that I can’t get him,” Talley said. “It’s an even playing field for all us. I have a shot, Jamari, A.J., Mon (Denson), they all have a shot as well. We are all competing. (The coaches) are really big on competing this year. That’s a real big deal this spring.”
The running backs receive a grade sheet after every practice that includes separate grades for assignment, technique and effort.
Talley came to South Carolina in 2014 as a walk-on transfer from Gardner-Webb. He has two career carries for 11 yards.
“Right now, it’s even for everybody,” he said. “Toward the end is when we want to start opening some eyes.”
Offensive line shuffling. There was a new face with the Gamecocks’ first-team offensive line Thursday as sophomore Donell Stanley took the top spot at right guard. Stanley, a 6-foot-3, 326-pound Latta High graduate who played sparingly last season, was listed as a backup guard behind Cory Helms entering spring practice. Helms worked as the first-team center Thursday in place of Alan Knott, who is nursing a minor wrist injury.
“I’m just trying to get some reactions out of some players that I feel like can, maybe, be giving a little bit better effort, playing a little bit better, trying to get a response out of them,” offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. “We are working a lot of combinations.”
D.J. Park, a 6-foot-4, 323-pound junior from Dillon, also has worked with the first team at times this spring. Park entered spring as the second-team left guard behind Zack Bailey.
“(Park) can absolutely win a starting job,” Elliott said. “If it’s in his mind to do it, he can certainly do it, but it’s all up to him.”
Sophomore Blake Camper, the listed starter at right tackle, said the offensive linemen have come to expect Elliott’s fluid practice rotation.
“He’s really shaking it up to see which one going into the fall is going to be the best line,” Camper said.
Practice Report. Senior quarterback Perry Orth directed the first-team offense, while freshman Brandon McIlwain directed the second-team offense during the portion of practice open to the media. Orth, McIlwain and junior Connor Mitch each took snaps during an early pass skeleton drill, while sophomore Michael Scarnecchia did not.
Herman History. Houston coach Tom Herman appeared on the The Paul Finebaum Show on Thursday and addressed, sort of, his role in South Carolina’s job search last year.
Herman, who led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in 2015, was one of the first coaches linked to the Gamecocks’ opening, and USA Today reported in February he was on his way toward accepting the South Carolina job before being scared away by the Gamecocks’ loss to The Citadel.
“Absolutely not true,” Herman said. “I would have given him the truth. The truth is that that report was false.”
Herman did not answer as directly when asked by Finebaum if he had been offered the South Carolina job at any point in the process.
“Any time your name is mentioned at other jobs, it is a compliment to the people and program you have built at the place you are at,” he said. “We are certainly glad and happy that things worked out to where things worked out to where we got to stay here in Houston.”