COLUMBIA, S.C. - Ali Groves is penciled in as a starter at cornerback on South Carolina's depth chart early into spring practice.
He would be wise not to accept that as a ringing endorsement.
"He’s on the team," South Carolina secondary coach Grady Brown said. "Everybody on the team is penciled in somewhere so if you’re able to suit up and show up to practice, you’re going to have a chance."
Wow. Nothing like a kind word from your position coach to get you pumped up. No wonder Groves ducked interview requests after Tuesday's practice, the second of the spring.
A redshirt freshman who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and who will be held out of contact in the spring, Groves didn't ask to be listed as a starter at corner, and maybe he knows he's unlikely to remain there.
It's a reflection of South Carolina's lack of depth at the position that he's listed as a starter.
The Gamecocks lost their top three players at the position from last year, and sophomore Rico McWilliams, who is listed as the starter at the other corner spot, is the only returning player with experience.
McWilliams said it was a blessing to be listed as a starter.
When asked about Groves, the best McWilliams could offer was: "He's a pretty good player."
Groves played at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., and was listed as a 3-star signee by 247Sports.
He was also recruited by Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, among others, so it wasn't like he was a total unknown.
Brown was asked about the qualities that led Groves to be listed at the top of the depth chart at one of the corner positions.
“He has good burst, good quickness, good change of direction," Brown said."He’s quick with good speed, so pretty much he has all the physical attributes to be good at that position. He just has to learn how to play.”
In truth, it's more a case of everyone has to be somewhere.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward casts even further doubt on Groves' status. He says senior Sidney Rhodes, a former walk on who has played mostly on special teams,would be the likely starter at corner if the Gamecocks were playing today.
"Ali is doing a lot of reps without getting his shoulder hit because he can’t have any contact," Ward said. "It’s just the way coach Brown listed them from the start and what we told them is that’s just the way we list them.”
South Carolina has four talented signees at cornerback set to arrive in the fall, which is when the real competition for both starting cornerback positions is expected to begin.
In the meantime, as Brown says, "You have to coach the guys who are here now. It's that simple"
So for now at least, Groves is one of those guys.
It's hard to believe he finds that very comforting, but then again, he has every opportunity to prove the coaches right or wrong.
Unless otherwise indicated all quotes obtained first hand.