Garnet and Black Game wraps up ‘solid spring’ for Gamecocks

Special to The StateApril 12, 2014 

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson (17) rushes for yardage for the Black Team in the first half of the Garnet & Black spring game.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com

Steve Spurrier has a pretty good handle on what type of team he will put on the field this fall.

South Carolina has gone 33-6 with three Top-10 finishes in the past three seasons and, even though they lost quality players such asl Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington, Jadeveon Clowney and Victor Hampton, he feels good about what is returning.

The returners did nothing this spring but reinforce their value and give the younger players every opportunity to show they can be contributors before another heralded recruiting class comes to campus this summer.

Dylan Thompson solidified his hold on the starting quarterback spot this spring, which he capped by leading the Black team to a 28-10 victory in the Garnet and Black Game in front of 36,412 fans on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Gamecocks had a chance to showcase their program in front of a national TV audience on ESPNU. The returning starters played sparingly, and everyone was able to get into the mix.

“It’s hard to say how important spring practices are,” Spurrier said. “I always feel like you let players play and practice that haven’t played a lot. The older players practice their trade or position, obviously, but you don’t let them do a lot of scrimmaging. Football is so different from tennis or golf or soccer because we’re a collision sport. You can’t practice like that, too many guys get hurt. We practice the plays and things like that.”

South Carolina incurred two significant injuries this spring but both players are expected to be ready by the fall. Tight end Rory Anderson suffered a torn triceps last weekend, and running back Shon Carson cracked his shoulder blade during Saturday’s contest.

“I thought we had a solid spring,” Thompson, a fifth-year senior said. “I thought we were smart on offense and pretty efficient. The offensive line was really sharp and knew what they were doing. The coaches did a good job pushing us and keeping us focused. That’s what we wanted to do this spring.”

Last season, the Gamecocks had five seniors on the roster, but now they have more than 20 players who have been in the program four or five seasons.

“We had more players in spring practice than I can ever remember,” Spurrier said. “We have, approximately, 22 or 24 fourth- or fifth-year players. We have a lot of players that have been on our team quite awhile. That doesn’t mean we’ll beat a lot of teams. We can go bad or we can go good. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Thompson finished the spring the way he’s performed all along. He hit Brandon Wilds on a 23-yard swing pass on the opening series that was capped by Wilds’ 3-yard touchdown run. Thompson opened his second series with a 34-yard throw to Jerell Adams that ended with a 4-yard scoring run by David Williams. The freshman also added an 11-yard touchdown for the Garnet team as all the offensive players moved back and forth between with the exceptions of the quarterbacks.

After taking a couple of series off, Thompson returned to lead the last series of the half, which resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass to women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley on the annual pass to someone-off-the-sideline play.

“The best play of the spring game had to be the catch by Dawn Staley,” Spurrier said.

The offense had a few other highlights. Connor Mitch, Perry Orth and Brendan Nosovitch continued the battle for the No. 2 spot that might not be decided until the season opener. Mitch had the best day, going 7-for-10 for 108 yards, and Orth threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Matrick Belton for the only scoring of the second half.

“We limited our defense to three coverages and four rushers every play,” Spurrier said. “It was set up for the offense to move the ball. They moved it well early, but after that the offense sort of stunk it up. Overall, it was about what you expect.”

Even though the defense was limited in what coverage or rushing scheme it could use, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said his unit got better. Ward is looking at using a 3-4 defense this season, and being able to get plenty of reps doing that this spring should pay off later.

Chris Moody had a fumble recovery and Jamari Smith intercepted an Orth pass.

“I think we got better this spring,” Ward said. “I think we concentrated on the 4-2-5 and the 3-4. We really liked what we did out of the 3-4. We think that will be a major part of our scheme next season.”

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