Practice report: Current corners get chance to impress in spring

jkendall@thestate.comMarch 6, 2014 

Rico McWilliams is the only returning cornerback with any real game experience.

DWAYNE MCLEMORE — dmclemore@thestate.com

The three healthy cornerbacks on South Carolina’s roster have 14 more practices to impress defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward before the depth chart is thrown wide open again in the fall.

“Hopefully, we can get Rico (McWilliams) ready to play and Sidney Rhodes and Jamari (Smith), and see how well they can do in the spring and whether they can help us in the fall, but those freshmen are definitely going to be on the depth chart somewhere, Ward said Thursday after the Gamecocks held their first spring practice. “We have some bodies we can put out there. Whether they are good enough to win ball games in the SEC remains to be seen.”

South Carolina’s coaches knew last fall they would be thin at cornerback this season. The departures of Ahmad Christian and, more recently, Ronnie Martin, have made the transition critical. Smith finished the 2013 season at running back but was moved to cornerback, which he played early last season, during the team’s winter workouts.

“We signed four corners (in February), and hopefully we can get all four of them in here and ready to play,” Ward said.

Freshman Ali Groves is listed as a cornerback starter on the spring depth chart, but he can’t participate in any contact this spring after having shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“It’ll be a big spring for him mentally,” Ward said. “He’s going through all the drills.”

Spring game staying

Pittsburgh recently announced it won’t play a spring game to cap its spring workouts, several coaches around the country have been asked if that might be the way of the future. It won’t be for Steve Spurrier, the South Carolina coach said.

“We will always have a little spring game while I am here,” Spurrier said.

Spurrier once held a spring game at Florida with three offensive linemen on each team.

“We played eight-on-eight,” he said. “It went pretty well, too.”

Too few offensive linemen won’t be a problem for the Gamecocks this year.

“We’ve got plenty of players,” he said. “I looked at our board the other day, we have three offensive lines ready for spring practice. Have you ever heard of that? And we’ve got a bunch of defensive linemen. We don’t have many corners, but we’ve got a lot of bodies out there ready to go.”

Revisionist history

Alabama coach Nick Saban has tried to distance himself from the 10-second proposal, but Spurrier – the man who dubbed it the “Saban Rule” – isn’t buying it.

“He’s the guy that went out there and got them to put it on the table to discuss it so I don’t know what else you would call it,” Spurrier said Thursday on the Dan Patrick Show.

Backfield depth

Running backs coach Everette Sands says that he’s not going to necessarily limit tailback Mike Davis in the spring, but he won’t take as many reps as he would if he was fighting for the job. Sands will take a heavy look at Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams as the backups behind Davis. Sands also said that Williams and Carson could be candidates at kickoff and punt return. The spring depth chart only listed Pharoh Cooper for each position.

Injury update

Groves (shoulder), Damiere Byrd (knee), Connor McLaurin (leg) and Jordan Diaz (knee) sat out due to injury. Byrd is “recovering well but not doing much,” wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said.

Golf season

Patrick also asked Spurrier about his golf game, including how often he plays at Augusta National. Spurrier only visits the course once a year for a round, an overnight stay and another round the next day, he said.

“I do that once a year and enjoy it and then I’m ready to go play some other courses,” he said.

As for the most famous person Spurrier has ever played a round of golf with: “Arnold Palmer. I guess Arnie might be the No. 1 guy.”

Up next

The Gamecocks will return from spring break and practice at 4:15 p.m. on March 18. It is open to the public.

-- Staff writer David Cloninger contributed to this report

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