After South Carolina finished Wednesday’s two-hour practice, senior quarterback Stephen Garcia and Bruce Ellington, the Gamecocks’ new utility player, staged an impromptu throwing contest.
The goal was to throw a football in a trash can 45 yards down the field. After about half dozen throws, Ellington became the first to connect with the target.
“Coach said he’s going to use me to throw the ball some in the wildcat so I’m ready for it,” Ellington said.
Ellington returned to football Saturday for the first time since leaving Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner and played quarterback, wide receiver and kick returner for the No. 12 Gamecocks.
“When (the first kickoff) was coming down I was a little nervous catching it, but once I got it, I was like, ‘Yea, let’s go,’” Ellington said. “There were some big guys out there and they were coming full speed so I have to go out there and play tough.”
Ellington, who started for the Gamecocks basketball team last season, returned two kickoffs for 55 yards (and had another 50-plus yarder called back by a penalty). He also rushed twice for 18 yards as a wildcat formation quarterback.
Ellington looked so comfortable with the ball in his hands that head coach Steve Spurrier said after the game that he wants to get him more involved as a wide receiver this week against Georgia.
‘A BROTHER TO US’
The Gamecocks were happy to see Garcia enter Saturday’s game against East Carolina, senior wide receiver Jason Barnes said.
“We all look up to him,” Barnes said. “He’s a brother to us, and we look to him to lead the team so we were happy when he was in there.”
Garcia replaced starter Connor Shaw, a sophomore who was 3-for-9 passing for 21 yards.
Barnes was held without a catch against East Carolina as junior Alshon Jeffery caught five of the seven passes completed to wide receivers.
“We have been working real hard to get easy-completion plays,” Barnes said. “I have been working hard to catch the ball. I didn’t catch the ball real well last week.”
GET THE QB
Georgia gave up six sacks to Boise State last week, and South Carolina’s defensive linemen have taken notice.
“We talked about it,” senior Melvin Ingram said.
Freshman cornerback Martay Mattox returns from suspension this week just in time to play in his hometown. Mattox, who was suspended from the East Carolina game for academic issues, played quarterback at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga.
“I am very excited,” Mattox said. “I am just ready to go play. It’s just another football game, my first college game. I am going to treat it like a regular game. I definitely want to win, and definitely I want to play.”
Mattox, a backup, may or may not get into the game. He was considered a second-teamer prior to his suspension.
“I feel like I worked just as hard as the other guys, and I have just as much talent to be out there with those guys,” Mattox said. “I feel I can work my way up to the top.”
GAME BALL TO TOY BALL
Senior cornerback C.C. Whitlock received the second game ball of his career after the win against ECU. Like the first game ball, it’s now in the hands of his 3-year-old son Carmelo, Whitlock said.
Whitlock had four tackles and earned Spurrier’s praise.
“I think I can do a lot better,” Whitlock said, “but I think my performance was where it needs to be to start at this level.”
“C.C. tackled better, and that’s something he hadn’t been doing,” Ward said.
Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Cody Gibson, who has missed more than two weeks due to a dislocated kneecap, has returned to practice for limited action this week, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said.
True freshman Brandon Shell remains the top backup for Rokevious Watkins, Elliott said.
“We pretty much stuck with the exact same thing. Nobody panicked. Nobody did anything different. We kind of just crept back in it, let our defense do exactly what they do, stop them and give us the opportunity to get the ball. Nobody panicked. We didn’t change one thing. And that was one of the pleasing things about what we did last week.” - Shawn Elliott, when asked whether or not the offense approached changed after going down 17-0 vs. ECU