With the school’s all-time leading pass catcher watching from the sideline, South Carolina’s wide receivers began auditioning for his job Saturday afternoon.
The Gamecocks held their first scrimmage of the spring at Williams-Brice Stadium, and Alshon Jeffery, who is preparing for the NFL Draft, was one of the hundreds of observers taking in the action.
“It’s a reminder” that playing time is up for grabs, redshirt freshman K.J. Brent said.
Brent made the most of the opportunity, scoring the day’s first touchdown on a 34-yard pass from starting quarterback Connor Shaw. Brent finished with two catches for 52 yards.
“It would boost anybody’s confidence,” he said of his day. “It was a good feeling to get that first touchdown.”
With Damiere Byrd absent while competing in a track meet and Shamier Jeffery sidelined by a minor knee injury, junior Lamar Scruggs also stood out, catching six passes for 52 yards.
The scrimmages are “definitely important,” Scruggs said. “This is the time we wait for just to go out here and play mistake-free. Our job is to just play as perfect as we can and open the coaches’ eyes to see if we can take that spot.”
Twelve players caught passes, including tight end Drew Owens, who had four catches for 44 yards.
Shaw, who saw very limited action, was 4-of-8 for 72 yards.
“Connor was OK,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “He should be a little sharper. He should hit them all when they are open, and I think he missed one or two. But he threw a beautiful throw to K.J. Brent for the first touchdown.”
Sophomore running back Brandon Wilds had two short touchdown runs.
Depth at cornerback is the defense’s biggest concern one-third of the way through spring practice, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
“We have to get some of the young corners to come along,” Ward said. “Ahmad Christian has to get better. Vic (Hampton) is good when he’s in there, but we need a little more depth on the perimeter.”
Senior Akeem Auguste is sitting out spring practice due to the foot injury that cost him almost all of the 2011 season. Auguste will immediately return to the starting role when he returns in the fall, Ward said.
Auguste and starting safety D.J. Swearinger, who is out this spring after foot surgery, are expected to be healthy enough to participate in the team’s summer conditioning program, Ward said.
OUT OF NOWHERE
Walk-on Dwayne Duckett, a graduate of Spring Valley High School, was the leading rusher Saturday with 10 carries for 25 yards. Senior Kenny Miles had one carry for 12 yards.
Miles continues to impress this spring, Spurrier said, although it remains unclear if he will return to the team in the fall or transfer.
“If something happens between now and the beginning of the season, stay flexible,” Spurrier said.
Cornerback Cadarious Sanders (hamstring), center T.J. Johnson (foot) and tight end Rory Anderson (ankle) all missed the scrimmage. Defensive tackle Phillip Dukes left the scrimmage with a leg injury but walked off the field under his own power.
K.J. Brent 34-yard pass from Connor Shaw (Adam Yates kick)
Landon Ard 40-yard field goal
Brandon Wilds 3-yard run (Adam Yates kick)
Brandon Wilds 4-yard run (Landon Ard kick)
PASSING: Seth Strickland 9-10-1-72; Connor Shaw 4-8-0-72, 1 TD; Tanner McEvoy 4-12-0-46; Dylan Thompson 3-6-0-38; Andrew Clifford 3-5-0-26. TOTALS: 23-41-254-1, 1 TD.
RUSHING: Dwayne Duckett 10-25; Tanner McEvoy 3-21; Kenny Miles 1-12; Seth Strickland 2-11; Brandon Wilds 4-9, 2 TDs; Qua Gilchrist 2-8; Connor Shaw 3-3; Andrew Clifford 1-3; Dylan Thompson 1-0; Sidney Rhodes 1-(-10). TOTALS: 28-82, 2 TDs.
RECEIVING: Lamar Scruggs 6-52; Drew Owens 4-44; K.J. Brent 2-52, 1 TD; Corey Simmons 2-25; Dwayne Duckett 2-8; Blair Lowery 1-24; Kelvin Rainey 1-17; Brandon Wilds 1-12; DeAngelo Smith 1-10; Cody Gilbert 1-6; Sidney Rhodes 1-4; Riley Gallaher 1-0. TOTALS: 23-254, 1 TD.