South Carolina's spring football game is Saturday, the traditional end of spring practice.
It won’t be the end for the Gamecocks this year, though, because a pair of scheduling changes has left them with two practice dates following the Garnet and Black game. Still, USC is deep enough into its 15 spring practices that a few patterns have emerged. Here’s what we’ve learned through 11 spring workouts:
Stephen Garcia looks like the answer at quarterback
Coach Steve Spurrier has been talking about backup quarterback Connor Shaw since the sophomore arrived on campus last year, and the window opened wider for Shaw when Garcia was suspended from the first week of spring practice. However, Shaw appears to have made little progress in catching, much less surpassing, the incumbent. Shaw’s footwork frustrates Spurrier, and his scrimmage numbers have been less than stellar. Garcia hasn’t been perfect, either, but the first two drives he led during last week’s scrimmage showed he remains the best answer for USC at this point. The summer, Spurrier said, will go a long way toward determining who starts in the fall, but the spring has gone to Garcia thus far.
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Marcus Lattimore won’t have a sophomore slump
Lattimore gained 1,197 rushing yards last season on the way to being named the national freshman of the year. He could be in danger of a sophomore swoon, but that’s not happening, says anyone who has seen Lattimore work during the offseason. He was the team’s best worker during winter workouts, strength coach Craig Fitzgerald said, and emerged stronger and faster. His on-field coaches clearly didn’t need to see much this spring. Lattimore has been an infrequent participant in contact work. On his one carry in last week’s scrimmage, he gained 45 yards.
A.J. Cann is going to start at guard
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said nothing has been decided, but Elliott’s actions are speaking loud. Cann has taken almost every first-team snap at left guard this spring, and veteran Terrence Campbell said Cann, a redshirt freshman, is picking up things quickly. There doesn’t appear to be anyone on the team right now who can unseat Cann. That could change in the fall when the addition of freshman tackles, including Brandon Shell, might allow Rokevious Watkins to move back to guard. Until then, it’s Cann’s job.
The defensive line needs depth
Senior Travian Robertson hasn’t seen much of the field. Robertson, a senior who has battled knee trouble, is being held out mostly in deference to his experience, although a strain in his side also figures into the equation. Last week, line coach Brad Lawing pulled starting ends Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor out of the rotation one day as well in order to get a better look at the backups. There are plenty of candidates — Byron Jerideau, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, to name a few — but the coaches want more-physical play from at least some members of that group to feel good about their two-deep rotation across the defensive front. Jadeveon Clowney should help in the fall.
The secondary still is searching
Another year of experience has not helped the consistency problems that plagued USC’s defensive backs last season, assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said after the second spring scrimmage. Working a youngster into the mix at strong safety — as the Gamecocks are trying to do to fill the spot of DeVonte Holloman (who has been moved to spur) — hasn’t helped, but the symptoms are being seen across the board, Johnson said. The constant mixing and matching of personnel hasn’t helped, but Johnson clearly has concerns moving into the fall.
Kendall's spring practice recap