Notebook: Matulis’ absence helps O-line build depth

Ellington says he has Martin’s blessing to play football and basketball

jkendall@thestate.comMarch 29, 2012 

Offensive tackle Mike Matulis’ absence from spring practice is making it tough on offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.

“You don’t get to gauge (Brandon) Shell on what Matulis would do at left tackle or you don’t get to gauge Matulis against a Cody Gibson at right tackle. So you don’t really know about that tackle positions,” Elliott said.

Matulis started five games last year. An advantage of having Matulis out (the sophomore had offseason shoulder surgery) is that Shell, Gibson and Corey Robinson are getting more practice time, but the offensive tackle rotation won’t be finalized until Matulis returns in the fall.

“I think that just builds a deeper offensive position,” Elliott said.

Starting center T.J. Johnson (knee) will miss the remainder of spring practice, but backup Kyle Harris returned from injury during Thursday’s workout.

“I think at the end of 15 (spring practices), I will know who potentially can play,” Elliott said. “I may not know the starting five, but I will know who can play.”

ELLINGTON UPDATE

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington has been given basketball coach Frank Martin’s blessing to play both football and basketball, Ellington said.

Martin told Ellington, “Whatever you do, I’m behind it,” Ellington said.

SPURRIER IMPRESSED

Coach Steve Spurrier was happy to see a large turnout Wednesday at the Gamecocks’ pro day. Every NFL team sent at least one representative to watch former South Carolina players work out. One of the scouts told Spurrier it’s possible three Gamecocks (Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery) could be drafted in the first round next month, Spurrier said.

South Carolina has not had a player drafted in the first round since Johnathan Joseph in 2006 and has never had three players drafted in the first round the same year.

“Hopefully, that’ll happen,” Spurrier said.

DEPLETED BACKFIELD

Already without Marcus Lattimore and Shon Carson due to knee injuries, the running back position took another hit Thursday when walk-on Dwayne Duckett sprained his ankle. Duckett is not expected to contribute in the fall, but his presence was helping the team have enough running backs for practice.

The Gamecocks moved wide receiver Blair Lowery to running back Thursday and may move another wide receiver to that position for Saturday’s scrimmage, Spurrier said.

Sophomore Brandon Wilds is getting the bulk of the spring work at running back.

“Brandon is doing OK,” Spurrier said.

QB IMPROVEMENT

Two days after being disappointed with his quarterback play, Spurrier felt a little better after Thursday’s practice.

“Connor (Shaw) was a little better today and Dylan (Thompson) and Seth (Strickland) threw some good ones,” Spurrier said. “Still not as good as we need to be overall, but we are working at it. Protection needs to be a lot better, too. There are some reasons we are struggling a little bit.”

JEFFERY SIDELINED

Freshman wide receiver Shamier Jeffery sat out Thursday’s practice due to a right knee injury. Jeffery injured his knee last week but practiced on Tuesday.

“He’s just a little gimpy,” wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. “Hopefully, in the next few days, we will figure out where he is.”

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