Spring Improvement: Great Expectations

Both South Carolina's offensive and defensive lines must continue to make strides at improving.  There is never a time to sleep inside the SEC, only to improve.
Both South Carolina’s offensive and defensive lines must continue to make strides at improving. There is never a time to sleep inside the SEC, only to improve.

Spring Practice: Day One – Notes

Spring Practice Report: March 17, 2015 (Practice #1)

First official practice at the new digs tonight. I can’t really say the team started off with a very impressive workout, but there were some things to be very optimistic about after what happened with the program last year. Outside of Pharoh Cooper’s work tonight, no single player really stood out as being “outstanding” or greatly improved over last season, but I did like the way the coaches structured the practices today and were working on a lot of basic skills. I really liked the way John Hoke ran the drills for the defensive backs. Lots of work there on getting good spacing and taking the right angles to the ball in the air, as well as some long drills done of footwork and lateral movement.

Going around the team drills today, this was my impression of what the first workout looked like. I wish I cold say that we have upgraded our punting position. It doesn’t appear that we have. In actuality, the best punter on the field tonight was Elliot Fry. The one player who is listed as our Punter had a poor start to the spring drills, although he did have two or three kicks that were the best of the day. The problem with that is that there was no consistency in Sean Kelly’s work. There were more line dives and shanked punts than there were booming kicks with good hang time. Elliot Fry will be our FG guy again. (don’t think there was ever a doubt about that though). Elliot looks like he hasn’t gained a single ounce of weight or muscle mass at all, but still has the very accurate leg from inside the 45 yard range. The overall idea however is getting our team to a position where Elliot will be the least used starting player on the roster, and hopefully when he is in, he’s not having to try and kick one from outside of that comfort zone of his.

Guess everyone wants to know what our Quarterback situation looked like today ? Like the overall practice, no one QB stood out during the first practice today. Especially during the Team drills. During the position drills it was clear that Connor Mitch had the best arm and best velocity on this throws but in the game situation drills there was no clear cut distance between his play and that of Perry Orth. Orth had arguably the best pass of the night during the Skels with a nice throw to Matrick Belton who was tightly guarded. The pass was a sideline route and covered a distance of about 20-25 yards on a rope. Other than that pass however, there wasn’t a lot of those type throws by him tonight. It’s not that either of the top two QBs were having terrible workouts, it was that neither of them had the workouts that would make you think that one was better than the other or a clear cut front runner for the starting job right now. Of the other two guys for that position, my opinion is that I hope we don’t have to get to our third unit QB out of necessity. Nosovitch took up where he left off when he was moved from QB to TE over a year ago, and Michael Scarneeccia was off target way too often tonight to be considered a guy you’d think would make a run at being one of the two QBs to see the majority of the snaps this fall. Lots of time between now and the start of the 2015 season though, so who knows what will take place with either of these guys between now and then.

As mentioned earlier, Pharoh Cooper had a good workout. He was the guy the QBs seemed to look for and when he was clear enough to be thrown to, he didn’t disappoint. There was another guy on the WR unit that seemed to get a lot of attention during the passing game and that was Matrick Belton. Belton was getting open and making himself visible a lot during the game situation drills and because of that, he was probably the second most thrown to guy tonight. He doesn’t seem to be a threat to get a lot of yards after the catch, but is a kid who looks like he’s put in some extra work this winter and has some nice hands in traffic. It’s all about getting open and making yourself a good target for the QB and Matrick did that really well tonight. After those two it kind of fell off as to who you think the best of the group was. Several guys caught shorter range passes during the workout, but there were a couple of drops that made you cringe a little bit too. Jerell Adams has slimmed down some and seems to be a step or two faster and was able to catch a couple of passes from Mitch during the 11 on 11 drills. He also dropped one or two after getting open over the middle. Deebo Samuel dropped one early on in the Skels, but ended up making two or three catches the remainder of his workout. Terry Googer only had one catch (that I recall) during the one on ones, and it was a very impressive fake and go move where he froze the DB and then ran by him about five yards to get behind his man. Nosovitch completed the pass to him, but it was hung up too much, and Terry had to stop and wait for it to get to him, and it gave Darin Smalls time to recover and make the stop on the play. I liked the way a couple of the new guys looked during position drills and from there, it looked like we might have built up a good roster of WRs with some quality depth. Jared Washington and Christian Owens have got some skills and athleticism for tallish WRs, but they were having trouble getting open in press coverage during all the team drills and never got a lot of balls thrown to them in the Skels or 11 on 11. Even during the one on ones, the D/backs were winning the battles with these guys today. The tools are there, but they need some work on the basics.

Don’t really know what to tell you about the RBs. Most of the hard work and reps to them was done on the far field when the crowd was used to shield the players from the spectators. David Williams carried the ball only a couple of times during the 11 on 11 (same with Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson). Carson was used more in the short passing game today than any of the other backs and made some good catch and runs out of the backfield.

Not wanting to say definite what the defense is going to go into the season with as a base, but I can tell you that they were running position drills as well as team drills out of a basic 4-3 front. The guys used most in the middle were Earnest Hawkins (#12) and Jalen Henry (#13). Skai Moore and Brison Allen Williams took some snaps at the MIKE position during Skels, but the majority of their reps were from the outside LB spots.

The secondary had a good day of practice and won most of the matchups during the skels and ll on ll today, forcing the QBs to throw shorter routes and checkdowns. There were two picks tonight during the team drills. One made by Chris Lammons on a deflected pass thrown by Brendon Nosovitch. There was another interception a couple of plays later, but I wasn’t able to see who threw the pass, or who ended up with the pick. The team flipped ends of the field right before the end of practice and I couldn’t see that particular play as I was shielded by the line of players standing behind the line of scrimmage. They flipped fields to continue practice when Lorenz Bryant went down with some kind of injury and stayed on the ground being treated by the trainers. He was on the ground for a good 15 minutes and tried to sit up a couple of times, but had to lay back down. Not sure if it was dizziness or lower body injury, but he was being loaded onto a cart as the practice ended tonight. Hope it was nothing serious.

Won’t have anymore to tell you guys until next Tuesday, but if nothing comes up personally between now and then, I’ll be there.

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