Youth will be served Saturday for Gamecocks’ spring game

dcloninger@thestate.comApril 8, 2014 

USC head football coach Steve Spurrier talks with players during practice at The Proving Grounds.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

  • GARNET & BLACK GAME

    WHEN: Saturday, Noon

    WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium

    ADMISSION: Free

    TV: ESPNU

    ALSO: FanFest will be held before and after the game; morning activities start at 9 a.m.

Steve Spurrier pulled another from his treasure trove of stories on Tuesday.

“I remember the year before I got to Florida, they had a Steak and Beans Game, and invited the whole athletic department,” Spurrier said after South Carolina concluded its 13th practice of the spring. “I believe Emmitt Smith, on the Astroturf, carried the ball 31 times for his team to try to win the game, in the spring game. We don’t do that.”

Spurrier’s point was as clear as glass. Saturday’s Garnet and Black Spring Game mostly will be for younger players to get reps in as much of a game-type situation. The Gamecocks aren’t going to bloody themselves trying to win a meaningless scrimmage.

It will be fun for the fans, with activities before and after and a special surprise that Spurrier has planned. But calling timeouts on the game-winning drive, trying for a single-game rushing record from Mike Davis or calling for a 68-yard field goal won’t happen.

“Chance for most of the young guys to show the coaches they can play,” Spurrier said. “Defense will only rush four guys so, hopefully, we can get off some passes. Guys get a chance to cover, make some interceptions, and, hopefully, throw and catch some. Looking forward to a good game. Hopefully, nobody will get hurt.”

Spurrier said starting quarterback Dylan Thompson will play at least a half before taking a seat, and most of the other proven veterans won’t play much. The quarterbacks will wear the garnet and black uniforms during the game and with the kickers, be responsible for the scoring; everybody else will rotate in and out on offense and defense.

As for the surprise, it will be with the infamous off-the-bench play, which has become a USC spring game staple. Last year, it was Jadeveon Clowney running off the sideline in street clothes to catch a touchdown pass, and then falling down to send the stadium into a brief panic attack. This year, it will be a little different.

“You know we got the off-the-bench plays,” Spurrier said. “We have a surprise celebrity catcher on the off-the-bench play. Can’t tell you who it is yet, but we got a surprise one coming.”

Spring practice is instrumental for getting in reps before the real work begins, getting an idea about who might be able to contribute for the next season. At USC this season, most of the starting positions are known.

“It’s very important when you don’t know who your quarterback or running back or receiver, some of those guys, are,” Spurrier said. “Right now, it’s not that important for known starters.”

The Gamecocks are trying to fill holes at defensive line, cornerback and receiver, but have veterans ready to plug most of the gaps. The cornerback position is the most glaring – USC might not have a firm answer until the freshmen arrive in the summer, and perhaps not until midseason.

The other spots are set. After one bad injury this spring – Rory Anderson’s torn tricep – USC doesn’t wish to put any more of its established players in harm’s way. They’ll play on Saturday and play hard, but there won’t be any Smith-like performances to try and win.

“We’ll let some of the older guys play a bit; Dylan will probably play at least a half, then let the younger guys do most of the playing,” Spurrier said.

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