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South Carolina Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

Ian BergCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2013

South Carolina Football: Spring Practice Position Battles Tracker

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    Steve Spurrier is entering his ninth season with the South Carolina Gamecocks this spring and this team may be one of the best he has had so far in his decade in Columbia.

    As this staff hunts down another SEC title game appearance, there are a number of key position battles that are going down at South Carolina, and as spring unfolds, this will be your complete guide to the action for the Gamecocks.

    Last season, the Gamecocks finished with 11 wins and in the top 10, but this team is hungry for an SEC title, and the road to Atlanta begins this spring.

    The spring game is set for Saturday, Apr. 13 at 1:30 p.m. ET on WatchESPN, but before it kicks off, this will be your guide to the news and developments from Gamecocks country.

     

    Note: This slideshow will be updated with the latest news, position battles, injuries and more.

Latest News

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    Update: April 10

    South Carolina heads into the spring game this Saturday with a possible star sidelined with injury (h/t CBS Sports).

    Jadeveon Clowney is a bit banged up, and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward told reporters (via GreenvilleOnline.com) "His neck and back is stiff. Whether he goes another snap (this spring), I don't care."

    That may not be a surprise considering Clowney is arguably the best player in the country heading into the fall. Protecting him by not exposing him to a spring game is a wise decision considering the nagging injuries.

    Clowney isn’t discouraged by the injury, telling the media "It's not really about being out here; it’s about learning the playbook. We put in some new stuff, so all I have to do is learn the play calls. The rest of it, I'll catch up on."

    It may not be about being on the field for the All-American Heisman candidate, but the rest of the team better stick to the regular practice schedule.

    As far as the competition that is brewing at the “Star” position coach Ward had this to say (via South Carolina Athletics):

    I think Sharrod is slightly ahead of Jordan Diggs, but it's real close. They both have done a lot of good things, but I think Sharrod has probably made more plays this spring. If we had to start tomorrow, Sharrod would be the starter.

    This will be a fun battle to watch heading into the summer.

    More to come heading into the annual Garnet and Black game. 

     

    Update: March 8

    South Carolina took to the practice field for the second time on Thursday and will now break until March 19 as spring break approaches.

    One of the focus points of the spring has been Jadeveon Clowney and his future, and he had this to say to the media when asked about the hype surrounding his senior year, and the chatter surrounding him sitting out this season to avoid injury (GamecocksOnline.com):

    "I don't pay any attention (to the hype). I've just been working out and going to class.” On sitting out, “Sitting out? I never thought of it. I'm going to go to school and play."

    Clowney also mentioned that he had taken out a $5 million dollar insurance policy through the NCAA for himself in case of injury this fall, and that he was up to 273 pounds, and running a 4.54 40-yard dash.

    This team will be very good with Clowney guiding the defense off of the edge.

    More news will come throughout spring. 

     

    Update: March 7

    South Carolina opened the first day of spring Tuesday in helmets and shorts on a windy day in Columbia.

    The second day of practice is slated for Thursday, and it will be another day of helmets and shorts work, getting the Gamecocks ready to take the field in pads in just a few days.

    The spring is full of position battles to watch, with receivers having some new names entering the press lines after the first day of practice.

    According to GamecocksOnline.com, South Carolina's official athletics website, an ESPN crew and Tom Rinaldi were on campus interviewing Steve Spurrier and star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Tuesday.

    The report also mentioned that receiver Damiere Byrd was out of practice after undergoing LASIK eye surgery.

    Steve Spurrier was in his typical form on Tuesday, telling the media that “Some of the new players today, we got to tell some of those guys, 'You got to catch it when it hits your hands.' We had a lot of drops.”

    He also went on to praise receiver Shamier Jeffery. Spurrier had this to say about the young receiver:

    Shamier is, finally, after a couple of years here just hanging around watching, has decided he wants to be a ballplayer. You can tell his body shape is completely different. He's probably lost 15 pounds or more. He's fit, he can run faster, can catch the ball and I think he's going to be a real player for us.

    Spurrier never holds back when talking about his team.

    Check back for more updates as spring moves forward. 

Key Offensive Battles to Watch

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    Quarterback

    Dylan Thompson (Jr.) vs. Connor Shaw (Sr.)*

    Heading into spring practice, Connor Shaw is sidelined with a foot injury that required surgery after the 2012 season. That puts Dylan Thompson in the driver’s seat for the starting position, but Shaw will return in the summer to begin the duel for playing time.

    In the mix this spring will be Brendan Nosovitch and early enrollee Connor Mitch.

    There will be some solid throws that come from the young signal-callers, but this is a two-horse race for the Gamecocks this year.

    Projected Starter: Connor Shaw

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Running Back

    Mike Davis (So.) vs. Brandon Wilds (So.)

    The running backs are entering the year down a star with Marcus Lattimore NFL bound.

    Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds are expected to battle for the starting position, with both bringing a physical style to the offense.

    Wilds is built like Lattimore, while Davis is lower to the ground and bounces around defenders like a pinball. Both will get time, but Davis looks to be the starter heading into spring.

    Projected Starter: Mike Davis

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Receiver

    Damiere Byrd (Jr.) vs. Shaq Roland (So.) vs. Shamier Jeffery (So.)

    The receiver corps is loaded with talent and is one of the positions that has players locked in a battle for playing time.

    Damiere Byrd is out for the first few days of practice after LASIK eye surgery, and Shaq Roland had to sit the first practice because of an academic issue.

    Jeffery received high praise from Steve Spurrier after day one, but that doesn’t mean he exits spring the starter.

    There is a lot of practice left, and this has all the makings of a battle that will bleed into the offseason.

    Projected Starter: Damiere Byrd

    Actual Starter: TBD

Key Defensive Battles to Watch

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    Defensive Tackle

    J.T. Surratt (Jr.) vs. Gerald Dixon Jr. (So.)

    The defensive line for South Carolina is heading for a battle in the middle, with J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon Jr. squaring off for playing time heading into the spring.

    Both are strong interior players that are looking to lock down the position beside Kelcy Quarles.

    Phillip Dukes could also battle for the spot, but he is sure to be the No. 3 off of the bench.

    Projected Starter: Gerald Dixon Jr.

    Actual Starter: TBD

     

    Middle Linebacker

    Kaiwan Lewis (So.) vs. T.J. Holloman (Fr.)

    The middle linebacker position took a hit this offseason with the departure of Shaq Wilson from the interior.

    Inexperienced players are all that is left, and the battle is coming down to Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman.

    This is a battle that will go down to the end of spring and will be a major concern heading into fall even if a starter stands out. The linebacker position is in trouble, but this spring these two players could make major leaps in helping shore up an otherwise light group.

    Projected Starter: T.J. Holloman

    Actual Starter: TBD

Early Enrollees Report Card

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    Connor Mitch, QB, 6’3”, 220 lbs (3-star)

    Connor Mitch is entering spring with a chance to show his skills more than what was originally expected. Connor Shaw is out after foot surgery, and that leaves the door open for Mitch to get some quality snaps this spring.

    Mitch should pull a redshirt with both Shaw and Dylan Thompson in the mix at quarterback, but this spring will be a huge leap forward for his career with Spurrier in Columbia.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

     

    D.J. Park, OG, 6’5”, 313 lbs (4-star)

    D.J. Park is stepping in as a game-ready body at offensive line. The Gamecocks have Ronald Patrick and Will Sport ahead of him on the depth chart, but Park can make solid strides this spring.

    Expect a redshirt to come in 2013 as he increases his hand and footwork skills.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

     

    Ronnie Martin, CB, 5’10”, 185 lbs (3-star)

    Ronnie Martin is a JUCO transfer and incoming junior for the Gamecocks. He will battle for playing time immediately and could earn the start over rising senior Jimmy Lergree this spring.

    Post Spring Grade: TBD

Sleepers to Watch

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    Jordan Diggs, Spur

    Jordan Diggs earned playing time in 2012 as a true freshman, but an injury sidelined him and he was able to salvage a year of eligibility in the process. He is battling Sharrod Golightly for the Spur position, and his size should help him win the job.

    He is almost 25 pounds heavier than Golightly, and that will help Diggs hold the perimeter against the run.

    Diggs should be the starter heading into summer.

     

    Ronnie Martin, Corner

    Ronnie Martin is an early enrollee at corner that has spent the past few years at JUCO.

    He is game ready and heads into a tight battle with rising senior Jimmy Legree this spring. Legree is a three-year letterman, but Martin will get a solid look and will earn snaps this fall regardless if he is the listed starter.

     

    Shamier Jeffery, Receiver

    Shamier Jeffery has been an under-performer since arriving in Columbia, but recent comments from Steve Spurrier lead to the notion that Jeffery may be finally reaching his potential.

    The Gamecocks are looking for additional playmakers at receiver and Jeffery is one to keep a watch on this spring. 

     

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