August 28, 2015

USC now less than a week away from opener (AUDIO)

Jon Hoke

Jon Hoke

The University of South Carolina football squad worked out Thursday afternoon, just one week from the start of the 2015 season.

Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. confirmed that redshirt freshman Shaq Davidson injured his knee and will be sidelined indefinitely. “Shaq Davidson is wounded,” said Coach Spurrier Jr. “He hurt his knee. What the exact extent is and how long he’ll be out, we’ll know as soon as we know. It was unfortunate.”

Coach Spurrier Jr. said the wide receivers he expects to get the most time in the opener are Pharoh Cooper, Deebo Samuel and Carlton Heard, with Terry Googer, Shamier Jeffery and Matrick Belton rounding out the top six. He also mentioned that freshmen D.J. Neal, Jalen Christian and Jerad Washington could see action. Spurrier Jr. noted that they would like to redshirt Christian Owens, but that the situation is fluid.

“Everybody knows that everybody around them is young except for one guy,” said Coach Spurrier Jr. “There’s one guy that’s qualified to play as many snaps as he wants and everybody else is on a snap-to-snap basis. But it’s a good group and it’s been fun coaching them in the preseason. We’ve just got to get them in there and see what happens.”

“I know they are excited to play,” said co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke of his unit after Thursday’s workout. “They know the game is coming up and I know everybody likes to get ready to play a game, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Coach Hoke and the defensive staff have a lot of new players to work with this fall. “We coach them every day. That’s all we can do. We’re trying to get them there. We’re going to continue to coach assignment, alignment, technique and key. Those are the four things we need to make sure we’re sound in all of those areas, then continue to make sure we understand the importance of getting takeaways in the football game.”

One of the challenges for the Gamecock defense will be going against the fast-paced North Carolina offense. “The pace is tough to duplicate, but we’ve had some drill work at it and we’re continuing to do it,” said Coach Hoke. “I think we’ve done a good job going against our offense when they’ve done it. They do a great job of testing us.”

AUDIO: Steve Spurrier Jr

AUDIO: Jon Hoke

USC goes through “average” practice Wednesday (AUDIO)

Steve Spurrier is almost ready to strap it on next week.

Steve Spurrier is almost ready to strap it on next week.

The South Carolina Gamecocks were back on the practice fields Wednesday afternoon as they continued their preseason camp. Many of the younger players were dressed in black jerseys as the scout team to help the first- and second-team units prepare for North Carolina.

“I thought we had a very average practice today,” said head coach Steve Spurrier following the workout. “Nothing too outstanding. Guys weren’t moving around as well as we had hoped. We’ve got another one tomorrow and then we’re off Friday. Friday will be like a Sunday. Then hopefully we can pick up the pace and get ready for the Tar Heels.”

Now that Coach Spurrier has tabbed Connor Mitch as the starting quarterback, the question becomes who is next in line. “Perry (Orth) was taking a little bit more (of the snaps). (Michael Scarnecchia) got a few and we’ll have a group of plays for (Lorenzo Nunez). He’ll be ready to play some also,” said the Head Ball Coach.

Coach Spurrier said he is not trying to play up the underdog role that has been put on the Gamecocks this season. “We’re just trying to get our guys to play as good as they can play. That’s the only thing I know how to do. Hopefully, we’re not as overconfident as maybe we were last year. We’re not overconfident, I can say that for sure. Hopefully, we’ll be anxious to show the country that we’re a pretty good team. We have to wait to find out if we are a pretty good team,” said Coach Spurrier.

Those who did not participate on Wednesday included defensive back Shannon James (wrist), safety Antoine Wilder (right knee sprain), tight end Connor Redmond (back), kicker Joseph Charlton (back) and quarterback Gage Pucci (knee).

The Gamecocks will return to the practice fields on Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. The season opener is set for Thursday September 3, in Charlotte against the Tar Heels. The 6 p.m. ET contest will be televised nationally on ESPN with Joe Tessitore handling the play-by-play and Jesse Palmer and David Pollack providing the analysis. Kaylee Hartung will be the sideline reporter.

AUDIO: Steve Spurrier


“He could be our starter the entire year”: Steve Spurrier names Connor Mitch his starter (AUDIO)

Connor Mitch won the Gamecocks starting job.

Connor Mitch won the Gamecocks starting job.

Steve Spurrier is handing the keys to his offense over to redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Mitch. Tuesday The Head Ball Coach named Mitch his starting quarterback for the opener against North Carolina. The Raleigh native edged Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and Lorenzo Nunez for the job.

“We named Connor Mitch our starting quarterback and he can be the starter the entire year. We’re going to give him every opportunity to take the reigns and run with it. We will support him and give him every chance to be the quarterback the entire year. The competition was extremely close, but we got to make a decision and we thought we was slightly ahead maybe.”

Mitch said it was a “great feeling” to win the job and he’s looking forward to making his first start in his home state against a North Carolina team full of players he grew up with and knows.

You can listen to Spurrier and Mitch below.

AUDIO: Steve Spurrier

AUDIO: Connor Mitch

Here’s the official USC practice report:

The University of South Carolina held a two-hour workout Tuesday afternoon at the practice fields. Highlighting the afternoon was the news that South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier had named sophomore quarterback Connor Mitch the starter for the season opener on Thursday, Sept. 3 vs. North Carolina.

“Connor will have every opportunity to take the reins and run with it,” said head coach Steve Spurrier. “The competition was extremely close but we had to make a decision. We will give him all the support we can. As long as he takes care of the ball, keeps his head calm, he very easily could be the quarterback the entire year. I felt like he was slightly ahead of the other guys. The other guys were pretty close. What the competition has done is get two other guys ready to play. If (Connor) sprains his ankle or can’t play we will be in good hands with Perry (Orth) or Michael (Scarnecchia), and also Lorenzo (Nunez), he is capable of playing a bit.”

This will be Mitch’s first career start in a Gamecock uniform. Mitch played last season in two games as a redshirt freshman and connected on 2-for-6 passes for 19 yards in limited duty. Mitch shared co-Freshman Most Improved honors for the offense this past spring with tight end Jacob August.

“I have to win (the starting spot) every day,” said Mitch. “Coach Spurrier said if I keep moving the ball, don’t make mistakes, don’t turn it over, obviously I can keep leading the team. I (have to go) and do that.”

Those who did not participate in Tuesday’s practice included safety Antoine Wilder (right knee sprain), tight end Connor Redmond (back), kicker Joseph Charlton (back) and quarterback Gage Pucci (knee). The Gamecocks will return to the practice fields Wednesday afternoon at 4:15 p.m.




SEC Coaches really like Pharoh Cooper

Pharoh Cooper

Pharoh Cooper

University of South Carolina junior standout Pharoh Cooper earned three spots on the All-SEC first-team, as the annual preseason Coaches’ All-SEC football squads were announced today.

Cooper, a 5-11, 207-pounder from Havelock, N.C., was named to the first team unit as a wide receiver, as the all-purpose back and as the return specialist. Cooper is coming off a breakout season in which he earned first-team All-SEC honors as a wide receiver and was a second-team pick as an all-purpose back. He finished third in the SEC in receptions (69), second in receiving yards (1,136) and receiving yards per game (87.4), fourth in receptions per game (5.3) and ninth in all-purpose yards per game (108.5).

Cooper has previously been named to the 2015 watch lists for the Biletnikoff, Maxwell and Hornung awards. Earlier this summer, Cooper was selected as a first-team preseason All-SEC all-purpose back and was a second-team selection as both a wide receiver and return specialist by the media at SEC Media Days.

Senior offensive tackle Brandon Shell and junior placekicker Elliott Fry were named to the All-SEC third team by the league’s 14 coaches.

Shell, a 6-6, 328-pounder from Goose Creek, S.C., is the most experienced offensive lineman on the squad, as he has made 36 starts over the past three seasons, the most on the team. A two-time member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, Shell was also a preseason third-team All-SEC pick by the media.

Last season Fry, a Groza Award semifinalist, connected on 18-of-25 field goals, ranked third in the SEC with 105 points, the third-highest single-season mark in school history, and was fifth in in the SEC in points per game at 8.1. The 6-0, 164-pound junior from Frisco, Texas has hit on 33-of-43 career field goal attempts and on 105-of-106 extra points, including his last 99 in a row, a school record. Fry is on the 2015 Groza preseason watch list, was nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and was a second-team preseason All-SEC selection by the media. He was also a member of the 2014 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

The SEC begins its 2015 season on Thursday, September 3, when South Carolina faces North Carolina in Charlotte at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

2015 Preseason Coaches All-SEC Football Teams (* – ties)


First Team Preseason All-SEC


TE – Evan Engram, Ole Miss

OL – Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

Vadal Alexander, LSU

Cam Robinson, Alabama

John Theus, Georgia

C –   Mike Matthews, Texas A&M

WR – Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

QB – Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

RB – Nick Chubb, Georgia

Leonard Fournette, LSU

AP – Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina    


DL – Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Chris Jones, Mississippi State

LB – Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Curt Maggitt, Tennessee

Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

DB – Vernon Hargreaves, Florida

Cyrus Jones, Alabama

Jalen Mills, LSU

Jonathan Jones, Auburn


PK – Marshall Morgan, Georgia

P – JK Scott, Alabama

RS – Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina


Second Team Preseason All-SEC


TE – Hunter Henry, Arkansas

OL – Dan Skipper, Arkansas

Greg Pyke, Georgia

Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M

Denver Kirkland, Arkansas

C – Ryan Kelly, Alabama

WR – D’haquille Williams, Auburn

Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

QB – Maty Mauk, Missouri

RB – Derrick Henry, Alabama

Alex Collins, Arkansas

AP – Leonard Fournette, LSU


DL – Jonathan Bullard, Florida

Derek Barnett, Tennessee

Jonathan Allen, Alabama

Montravius Adams, Auburn

LB – Antonio Morrison, Florida

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

Kendell Beckwith, LSU

DB – Will Redmond, Mississippi State

Tre’Davious White, LSU

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

Tony Conner, Ole Miss


PK – Austin MacGinnis, Kentucky

P – Jamie Keehn, LSU

RS – Leonard Fournette, LSU *

Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia *

Third Team Preseason All-SEC


TE – O.J. Howard, Alabama

OL – Alex Kozan, Auburn

Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas

Devonte Danzey, Auburn

Jordan Swindle, Kentucky *

Brandon Shell, South Carolina *

C – Evan Boehm, Missouri

WR – Demarcus Robinson, Florida *

Travin Dural, LSU *

Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M *

QB – Jeremy Johnson, Auburn *

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee *

RB – Jonathan Williams, Arkansas

Russell Hansbrough, Missouri

Kelvin Taylor, Florida

AP – Speedy Noil, Texas A&M


DL – Carl Lawson, Auburn

Davon Godchaux, LSU

Caleb Azubike, Vanderbilt

Ryan Brown, Mississippi State

LB – Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn

Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

DB – A.J. Stamps, Kentucky

Rohan Gaines, Arkansas

Trae Elston, Ole Miss

Johnathan Ford, Auburn

Eddie Jackson, Alabama


PK – Elliott Fry, South Carolina

P – Drew Kaser, Texas A&M

RS – Darrius Sims, Vanderbilt

Speedy Noil, Texas A&M

Gamecock offense manages to make Spurrier smile after scrimmage (AUDIO)

Wilds had a 70 yard TD run in scrimmage (File Photo)

Wilds had a 70 yard TD run in scrimmage (File Photo)

The USC offense finally pushed back against the defense in Saturday’s scrimmage.  Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier said his offensive guys had a good day inside Williams-Brice Stadium.  He was pleased with his quarterbacks and their passing and he was happy with the running game that included a 70 yards touchdown run by Brandon Wilds.

Spurrier is still not ready to name a starting quarterback from Connor Mitch, Michael Scarnecchia and Perry Orth. That, he said, could come early next week.  None of the quarterbacks had eye popping numbers and Mitch did throw two interceptions, the only quarterback to be picked off, but Spurrier’s overall assessment of their play was positive.

Co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke felt his guys didn’t play with the same passion they’ve had throughout out.  Two defenders, Kelsey Griffin and David Johnson, were injured during the scrimmage.  Griffin was caught up in a pile but walked into the locker room with the trainers on his own.  Johnson suffered a sprained knee.

The Gamecocks will be off on Sunday and will return to the practice field Monday night at 6:15.

AUDIO: Steve Spurrier

AUDIO: Jon Hoke

AUDIO: Brandon Wilds


USC official practice report:

The offense scored six times, including five rushing touchdowns, and moved the ball more effectively overall than they did a week ago, as the South Carolina football team held its second scrimmage of the preseason camp on a muggy Saturday morning in Columbia.

“The offense did a lot better today,” noted head coach Steve Spurrier. “We had the ball moving a bit. We had a lot of careless plays, some fumbles and the wide receivers dropped a couple, so we’re still pretty careless out here, but it was encouraging. The offense did a lot of good things. Overall, it was very encouraging that the offense was able to move the ball. I think it was a combination of (the line getting better) and the skill guys did better. When you throw on first down, you need to throw a completion. We did that a lot.”

Nothing was decided in the on-going quarterback battle, as statistically, little separated the trio of sophomore Connor Mitch, junior Perry Orth and redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia. Mitch, who was the first quarterback to take a snap, completed 5-of-10 passes for 71 yards, but was picked off twice, first by senior safety Isaiah Johnson, then by junior linebacker T.J. Holloman. Orth also went 5-for-10 for 56 yards, while Scarnecchia completed six of his 10 attempts for 58 yards. True freshman Lorenzo Nunez connected on all three of his pass attempts for 44 yards.

“The quarterbacks did a lot of good things,” said the Head Ball Coach. “I wish one of them outplayed all the rest, but when you look at the stats, they’re probably pretty similar. Hopefully we’ll find out something early this week.” When pressed about naming a starter, Coach Spurrier responded, “Nothing keeps happening. When you look at the stats, they’re all about the same right now. It would be easy for all of us to say ‘this is the guy,’ let’s go. But then you’ve got to be fair and keep competing. We’ll know something maybe by the middle of this coming week.”

The Gamecocks were much more productive on the ground this week, with the tandem of Brandon Wilds and David Williams getting the bulk of the carries. Wilds paced the team with 86 yards on four carries, including a 70-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown. Williams toted the pigskin nine times for 48 yards, including a 1-yard TD run. Mitch, Shon Carson, and A.J. Turner also had short scoring runs during the scrimmage.

“Brandon popped a 70-yarder and nobody could catch him, so that was a good looking play,” said Coach Spurrier. “When we get Brandon out there, he doesn’t get caught from behind very often.”

Seniors wide receivers Carlton Heard (4-for-33) and Shamier Jeffery (3-for-39) and freshman tight end Hayden Hurst (2-for-53) were the top pass catchers on the day.

“We didn’t play with as much passion as we had the other scrimmage. That was disappointing,” said co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke of his unit. “There were some good things that we did do, but I think the overshadowing part is we just didn’t have the passion that we’ve had through camp.

The defensive line did not get the same consistent pressure on the quarterbacks that they did a week ago. “It’s always going to be about rush and cover,” continued Hoke. “We do it together, and I don’t think both parts played as hard as they had been playing or played with as much passion as they had been.”

Kelsey Griffin (arm) and David Johnson (knee) suffered injuries during the scrimmage. “Hopefully both of those guys will be ok,” said Coach Spurrier. Those who did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage included safety Antoine Wilder (right knee sprain), tight end Connor Redmond (back), kicker Joseph Charlton (back) and quarterback Gage Pucci (knee).

The Gamecocks will take Sunday off before returning to the practice fields on Monday night at 6:30 p.m.

Brandon Wilds 70-yard run
Elliott Fry 52-yard field goal
David Williams 1-yard run
Connor Mitch 4-yard run
Shon Carson 2-yard run (Landon Ard PAT)
A.J. Turner 1-yard run (Fry PAT)

Connor Mitch 5-10-2-71; Michael Scarnecchia 6-10-0-58; Perry Orth 5-10-0-56; Lorenzo Nunez 3-3-0-44. TOTALS: 19-33-2-229.

Brandon Wilds 4-86, 1 TD; David Williams 9-48, 1 TD; Darius Paulk 2-9; Shon Carson 3-7, 1 TD; Mon Denson 2-4; Devin Potter 1-2; Connor Mitch 3-1, 1 TD; A.J. Turner 1-1, 1 TD, Lorenzo Nunez 3-(-1). TOTALS: 28-157, 5 TD.

Carlton Heard 4-33; Shamier Jeffery 3-39; Hayden Hurst 2-53; Jacob August 2-18; David Williams 2-6; Jalen Christian 1-25; Christian Owens 1-17; Jerad Washington 1-16; Deebo Samuel 1-15; Matrick Belton 1-13; Cody Waldrop 1-(-6). TOTALS: 19-229.