Practice report: Injuries give backups getting a chance

Connor Shaw: Back doing fine

dcloninger@thestate.comAugust 15, 2013 

Drew Owens is receiving more reps with Busta Anderson out.

MELISSA HARMON — Special to GoGamecocks

Nobody wants to see players injured, especially when they are No. 7 South Carolina’s leading returning receiver (Bruce Ellington) and goal-line magnet tight end (Rory “Busta” Anderson). Each has been out more than a week with a hamstring injury.

But it’s hard for those behind the injured players not to see it as an opportunity. They’ve been schooled since kindergarten on the Wally Pipp Doctrine.

“It definitely is an opportunity, not to say that I’m happy or anything,” tight end Drew Owens said after the Gamecocks’ morning practice on Thursday. “Because Busta’s injury is a tragedy. We definitely need him for the upcoming season. We definitely need him to rest up and get his hamstring ready to go. But it definitely gave me an opportunity to showcase my talents.”

Anderson and No. 2 tight end Jerell Adams can be considered co-starters, since the Gamecocks may run a lot of two-tight end sets this season, but that doesn’t leave much opportunity for Owens, a redshirt sophomore who has yet to play in a game. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Owens is built to play the spot, but a knee injury and being behind the touchdown-producing Anderson has kept him back.

If Anderson’s hamstring lingers – and at least one player, quarterback Connor Shaw, doesn’t think it will last until Aug. 29 – Owens could get his shot. He’s been preparing as if he’ll get that chance.

“You just kind of know that you have to lace up every day, knowing, ‘OK, I got to go out there and get better, I got to go out there and grind, I got to go out there and work,’ ” he said. “We know that going in. We know what we signed up for.”

Redshirt freshman Jody Fuller is sailing the same ship. Singled out as having a great camp by coach Steve Spurrier, Fuller has an excellent chance of being in the top-six receiver rotation that position coach Steve Spurrier Jr. loves to employ. With Ellington out, his chances only increase.

“I heard a little bit about (the praise),” Fuller said. “It’s just good to be mentioned. When I catch the ball, I feel like I can go all the way every time, not get tackled, just be a hard guy to tackle and make people miss.”

A-OK

Shaw confirmed that he had a bit of a back spasm during the last scrimmage, something that Spurrier said hurt his ability. He’s fine now, though, and the only reason for the yards of tape connecting his cleats to his ankles is as a precaution.

After a foot injury that required surgery to correct, it’s doubtful the USC trainers mind using the extra tape to prevent it happening again.

Making his move

Redshirt freshman Mason Zandi, the big-’un from Chapin High School, continues to impress offensive line coach Shawn Elliott. Listed as the backup to left tackle Corey Robinson, Zandi is the tallest player on the roster (6-foot-9).

“Mason is doing a great job,” Elliott said. “He’s big, he’s athletic, he can move, he understands the defenses. I really like him. I love his work ethic.”

Sing your (USC) song

Camden native Patrick Davis, a longtime USC fan, has announced that he will team up with the USC athletic department for the release of his new record. “The Gamecock Album,” featuring five USC-centered songs and seven of Davis’ other songs, will be released on Aug. 23 and sold at GamecocksOnline.com, PatrickDavisMusic.com, iTunes, Jewelry Warehouse and Williams-Brice Stadium.

Davis recruited fellow South Carolina natives Darius Rucker and Edwin McCain to sing on one of his new tracks, “We Ain’t Far,” and recorded “My Carolina” and “Game Day Carolina Girls” to put on the album. They join his previous two USC songs, “Just a Big Ole Cock” and “Wingo & His Yard Cocks,” the last written during the final game of USC’s 2011 College World Series run.

Davis will perform a free show from 3-5 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the Gamecock Amphitheater in the old Farmers’ Market grounds.

Injury report

Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys were: Chaz Sutton (sprained foot), James King (foot), Gerald Turner (ankle), Kyle Morini (dislocated elbow), Ellington (hamstring), Cedrick Cooper (dislocated left elbow), Anderson (hamstring), Mike Matulis (shoulder) and Cody Gibson (sprained right knee).

Next up

The Gamecocks will practice again at 10 a.m. on Friday. It is closed to the public.

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Connor Shaw

Dylan Thompson

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