South Carolina's spring practice got off to an uneven start this week because of cold and rainy conditions.
The Gamecocks had to cancel Tuesday's practice and went indoors for Thursday's practice.
Now they're scheduled to take next week off for spring break. Even so, the coaches were glad to get things started.
"It was good to get a good day in," said co-offensive coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. "Just to line up, run plays and snap the ball and go through the cadence. We had a good day. You have two days in just helmets, so you kind of want to get them out of the way. You can’t do a whole lot. You can’t run into each other. You can’t hit anybody. Quarterbacks and receivers can get a lot done."
No Cutting Corners for the Gamecocks
The real battle for the starting cornerback positions at South Carolina won’t begin until the fall when the freshman class arrives with four talented signees, but defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward isn't the type to sit back and wait for August to get here.
"We’ll be fine," Ward said. "We can put a lot of bodies out there. Whether they will be good enough to win in the SEC remains to be seen."
After losing their top three cornerbacks, the Gamecocks begin the spring with sophomore Rico McWilliams, a lightly used backup, as a starter at one corner and Ali Groves, a redshirt freshman coming off shoulder surgery, as the other starting corner.
Groves will participate in spring practice, but won’t be allowed to have contact.
Jamari Smith, a sophomore who was switched from cornerback to tailback, now finds himself back at corner and No. 2 on the depth chart behind Groves.
Senior Sidney Rhodes, a former walk-on best known for his special teams play, is listed as the backup to McWilliams.
"Hopefully, we can get Rico ready to play and Sidney Rhodes and Jamari and see how well they can do in the spring and whether they can help us in the fall," Ward said. "But those freshmen are going to be on the depth chart somewhere."
The freshman corners arriving in the fall are Al Harris, Chris Lammons, D.J. Smith and Wesley Green.
"I can wait until August, because I’m excited about getting those guys better," Ward said. "If we can get them better, we know we’ve signed some talented guys, so that will just add more to the mix."
More Bodies on Defensive Line
While South Carolina also has to replace both starting defensive ends, including All-American Jadeveon Clowney, and starting tackle Kelcy Quarles, another All-American, the Gamecocks' numbers are considerably better up front than in the secondary.
"We’ve got to get those ready who are here and we'll try to develop as much depth as we can on the defensive line," Ward said. "We also want to get those young linebackers better. They played pretty good last season, but they can get better. That’s what this spring is going to be dedicated to is to try to get those corners ready, try to develop some depth on the line and get those linebackers better."
Because of the depth at linebacker and the lack of depth on the defensive line, Ward says the Gamecocks will experiment with running some 3-4 in addition to their base 4-3 defense.
"We’ll definitely be doing some new things where we can hopefully beef up our depth," he said. "Especially from a defensive front standpoint by playing with three down linemen and putting four linebackers on the field."
Cooper Sitting on Big Season
After shifting from cornerback to wide receiver last season, freshman Pharoh Cooper went on to have a big season for the Gamecocks, not only as a receiver, but as a kick returner and a quarterback out of the Wildcat formation.
Cooper enters his sophomore season with huge expectations.
"He’s been pretty good when he's been on the field," said Spurrier Jr. "For him to develop from wanting to be a lock down corner when he got here to playing receiver, returning kicks and playing quarterback at a high level, he has certain;y proved that he can play. We’re going to try to get him on the field and get the ball in his hands as much as we can."
All Quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated.