September 1, 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

#STRecruiting: With Clemson out, Johnson looking at others, including USC

Jalen Johnson

Jalen Johnson

Clemson is no longer an option for 6-6 Jalen Johnson of Durham, NC after the Tigers took a commitment from his AAU teammate Scott Spencer.  So, Johnson has moved on and has scheduled his first official visit to Florida September 5th.  He also has in home visits set up with Tennessee, Providence and East Carolina.

And USC also is keeping in touch.

“I talked to Coach Evans today,” Johnson said.  “I hear from them every once in a while.  They are interested in having me in for a visit and I have some interest.  I don’t have a favorite but Florida has really jumped up with their interest.”

Johnson said he’s also hearing from Alabama, Providence, Tennessee, East Carolina and Miami but that is not a final list for him.  He is planning to sign in November.

Other basketball notes…

6-2 Seventh Woods of Hammond has set his official visit to Georgetown for September 13th according to He also plans to visit USC, North Carolina and Florida.

6-10 Dewan Huell of Miami has set official visits to Miami October 2nd, Florida State October 9th and USC October 16th.




#STRecruiting: Florida commitment LB Vosean Joseph still serious about USC

Vosean Joseph

Vosean Joseph

LB Vosean Joseph of Miami remains a Florida commitment but USC continues to recruit him hard and he continues to listen.  “I talk to them about every coach, Coach Ward and Coach Botkin,” Joseph said.  “They are a great school.  I want to come up there for an official.”

In fact, Joseph is looking at that official visit with the Gamecocks the weekend of October 10th when they play host to LSU.  He also plans to take an official visit to Florida and right now those are the only two trips he’s planning though he’s also talking with Notre Dame, Louisville and South Florida.

Joseph camped at USC this summer and got the chance then to talk with Botkin about the linebacking situation with the Gamecocks moving forward, and he continues to get a strong message from Botkin.

“Coach Botkin is telling me he wants to come me and Coach Ward said they want me to come and replace Skai Moore because he might be leaving,” Joseph said.  “My commitment to Florida is good but it’s not like it was before.  The recruiting process is getting more open and I’m trying to make a decision for the rest of my life.”

But the process is not much open for Jospeh between USC and Florida at this point.  He’s focused on those two and said he’ll probably go to Signing Day before making a decision.

Other football notes…

LB TJ Brunson of Richland Northeast will visit Notre Dame unofficially September 5th.

Former Clemson commitment Rahshaun Smith of Bradenton, FL has changed up his official visits. He told he has Auburn November 14th, Maryland December 4th and Clemson December 11th.   He previously had said LSU and Miami would get visits.

DL Dexter Lawrence of Wake Forest, NC and his brother 2018 RB Devon plan to visit Clemson this weekend.  Dexter Lawrence is one of the top recruits in the country with 21 offers including Ohio State and Alabama and many other SEC and ACC programs.  Devon Lawrence is getting the strongest push early on from North Carolina and NC State. He rushed for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s opener.

DE Jordan Woods of Orlando has scheduled official visits to Tennessee October 10th, Miami October 17th, USC January 15th and West Virginia January 22nd.  He’s also looking hard at Florida.

USC target TE Naseir Upshur of Philadelphia will announce his college choice September 1st.  Florida State, Michigan, Alabama, Maryland, Temple, Southern Cal and Arizona State also are on his short list.

Clemson target DE Tony Clayton of Vienna, GA was offered by Virginia Tech Wednesday, his 40th offer.



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


Commentary: Clemson’s handling of Battle leads to questions about Reader

Dabo Swinney  is very protective of his players and the Clemson brand.

Dabo Swinney is very protective of his players and the Clemson brand.

There is a fine line between protecting your players and deliberately misleading people and Clemson and Coach Dabo Swinney appear to be sliding right up to that line, if not crossing it. When a school issues a press release about a player’s departure from the program you expect it to be vague, to use terms like “violation of team rules” or “conduct detrimental to the team,” but you do not expect to get an explanation that isn’t legitimate.

Clemson issued a press release on June 25th indicating Isaiah Battle planned to enter the NFL supplemental draft, citing family reasons. Here is the second paragraph of the school issued press release quoting Battle:

“I have some family matters to address, with a child due this summer, and I feel it is in my best interest to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft,” Battle said. “I want to thank everyone at Clemson, especially Coach Swinney and the assistant coaches, for what they have done for me the last three years. I also want to thank my teammates. They have all had a big impact on my career.”

It didn’t take long for TheClemsonInsider to report the real issue, a marijuana citation that was the final strike for Battle. Battle didn’t just wake up one day and realize that he had a baby on the way and decide that needed to leave Clemson, he had not choice because he had been kicked off the team. According to the TCI report, Battle had “no money in the bank” with Swinney.

Again, it isn’t uncommon for coaches to be vague and elusive about player departures, it is, however, almost unheard of for a school issued press release to mislead people by citing an inaccurate reason for a player’s departure.

A few weeks after the release we asked Swinney directly if Battle’s departure was related to a discipline issue. Swinney said in part, I am very proud of the progress that Isiah made and that we made with Isiah, I am very proud of that. I wish we could have finished it off, but listen there’s always dynamics that come into play and decisions are made and I respect those things. Listen, I am happy for him.”

You can listen to his full answer here:

AUDIO: Dabo Swinney On Battle

It is understandable that a coach wants to protect a player. That is nothing new. But issuing a release citing family reasons when it is discipline related is not protecting a player, it is misleading a best, lying at worst. And you don’t think the Rams and every other NFL team knew the real truth of why Battle suddenly entered the supplemental draft? Of course they did. NFL teams know everything about a player before they decide whether or not they want to draft him. Misleading the media and public didn’t help Battle’s NFL chances, it just hurt Clemson’s credibility.

Which brings us to D.J. Reader. Like Battle,  it is a complete headscratcher as to why a senior starter, who was one of Clemson’s representatives at the ACC Football Kickoff last month, suddenly decided to leave the football team. According to Swinney Reader decided to “step away from football for a while” because of “some personal issues he has to deal with.” The release is eerily similar to the Battle release in June. Having two of key starters leave a team for personal reasons shortly before the start of the season is extraordinarily unheard of. And while the explanation given in Reader’s case very well may be legitimate, it is being called into question because of the lack of accuracy from the school issued release involving Battle.

When Dabo Swinney was asked directly if Reader was facing a discipline issue he said “No” and got annoyed.

“This is, again, a decision he made for some personal things he’s dealing with,” Swinney said. “There’s nothing else to say, guys. I’m not going to answer any other questions about D.J. Reader. I put a statement out. Don’t ask me another question about him. I want to talk about the guys that are here on this team, period to end. …I’ve answered your questions, I’ve made a statement, there’s nothing else to say.”

I want to believe Dabo, just like I want to believe a Clemson press release when I get it.  Hopefully, in the case of Reader, we are getting a true and accurate reason for his departure from the team. (And hopefully Reader will be able to successfully work through whatever issue he is going through and return to the team.) Unfortunately, if the Battle scenario is any indication, there might be another more plausible explanation why a senior starter left the team less than two weeks before the season. It is a shame that Clemson has created an environment where the media can’t trust a school issued press release and the head coach’s explanation.