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[Blog] Spring football news and notes

Football has sprung earlyAre you ready for some football? If you’re a USC player or assistant coach, you’d better be, after Steve Spurrier surprised everyone today by deciding to move up the start of spring practice.

Rather than wait until after next week’s spring break, Spurrier wants to take advantage of the good weather forecast later in the week and open spring drills Thursday.

The Gamecocks are scheduled to resume practice March 16, with the spring game still set for 4 p.m. on April 10.

I’ll have a longer spring preview later in the week, but here are a couple of nuggets:

–Fullback Pat DiMarco is going to get work at tight end this spring. The thinking is two-fold: Get a guy who has proven he can make plays more involved in the offense, and make it harder for defensive coordinators to scheme against the Gamecocks based on their personnel sets.

DiMarco will not supplant Weslye Saunders, whom ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper ranks as his top returning tight end prospect. But it gives the offense another dimension.

–The most popular reader question from ’09 – Will Spurrier put receivers Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery on the field at the same time? – apparently has been answered.

Media relations director Steve Fink said one of the two (he wasn’t sure which) has switched spots, giving Stephen Garcia two tall targets to choose from.

–A couple more defensive players (both reserves) will miss spring with injuries. Defensive lineman Ronald Byrd continues to recover from knee surgery, while linebacker Reggie Bowens is out after shoulder surgery.

That means more snaps for a few other young, unproven players, and likely some interesting lineups when Ellis Johnson has to field a third-team unit (think last spring game when long snapper Matt Grooms and backup O-lineman Ryan Broadhead) were thrown in on the D-line.