The South Carolina football team has finished its Summer I workouts and this article offers a glimpse at some of the standouts at each position on the team. The strength and conditioning staff won’t test the players in each category until after summer II, so there won’t be any testing results included.
Junior left tackle Corey Robinson has been a standout performer for the Gamecocks this summer and will be counted on heavily in 2013.
I’m told, more so than any other position group, the offensive line is leading the way in the weight room both from a leadership and performance standpoint. Corey Robinson, Brandon Shell, and A.J. Cann are three of the 12 player leaders for the team and all three been consistent tone-setters. Ronald Patrick has had the best offseason by far since he’s been at South Carolina. The staff also believes Cody Waldrop will be anything but a weak link despite his inexperience. The term “bad man” was used to describe Waldrop and how he has handled himself this summer.
Shell was singled out more than once as a guy who is growing up before everyone’s eyes and is turning into a man. The feeling is both Shell and Robinson are well on their way to taking major steps forward with fall practice just over a month away.
The difference between the type of athlete the Gamecocks had on the offensive line five years ago to where they are today is a “night and day” difference.
Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis each received a ton of praise from Joe Connolly and his staff following winter workouts and both were standouts again during summer I. Shon Carson has been with the football team all summer and has worked hard to keep up with Davis and Wilds and there could be a “three-headed monster” at this spot this season.
Nick Jones has taken over Ace Sanders’ role as the leader of the receivers and has been joined by Bruce Ellington. Ellington told the media in the spring that he wanted to become one of the leaders of this football team and his actions have backed that up this summer.
Tight end Jerell Adams has a chance to emerge as a big time playmaker in 2013.
Both Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery have continued to take steps in the right direction from a work ethic standpoint. In fact, Jeffery was in the weight room this afternoon, something that wasn’t required from him on a Friday. Kwinton Smith missed the winter workouts when he was trying to make the baseball team, so he has benefited from participating with the football team this summer. Damiere Byrd has also been excellent and I’m told his hamstring has not been an issue once this summer.
Jerell Adams and Busta Anderson have proven to be two of the best overall athletes on the team. Adams is in the 240-pound range and Anderson close to 235 pounds. The plan is to continue adding good weight to their frames this summer and for both to be a big part of the offense this season.
I was told it’s been unbelievable having two leaders at quarterback like Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Shaw is completely healthy and there is a sense of relief from him to finally be pain free. Word is he can’t wait for fall practice to arrive so he can get back to what he loves most. Missing spring practice was one of the most difficult things he’s gone through as a player.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Jadeveon Clowney has had the kind of summer he needed to and has not been missing workouts. He will miss some upcoming workouts to attend the ESPY’s, but that’s a good reason to miss. Chaz Sutton has been a leader in the weight room for a while now and summer I was no exception. Kelcey Quarles has settled nicely into a role of one of the vocal leaders on the team and has also worked hard on his flexibility.
Adding weight to Darius English’s frame continues to be a challenge for all involved. He has to eat an enormous amount of food to make it happen because his metabolism is so high. His athleticism is off the charts, but they have to find a way to increase his weight for him to eventually develop into an every down player. Phillip Dukes was singled out as one of the most improved players in the weight room both from a performance and a work ethic standpoint.
Linebacker Cedrick Cooper has made an amazing recovery from late season ACL surgery and is already full speed.
J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon Jr. are also right on track. In fact the belief is Dixon Jr. has the chance to break multiple team records in the weight room and could eventually become one of the strongest Gamecocks ever. Kelsey Griffin has looked nothing like a newcomer and adjusted to the speed and difficulty of the workouts almost immediately, which is rare for someone his size.
The first player mentioned to me was Cedrick Cooper, who is already back to full speed following late season ACL surgery. It’s like the injury never occurred. He’s all business every day and has looked tremendous in the weight room and running. Jordan Diggs is up to 220 pounds and has gotten stronger in the process of adding some weight. Sharrod Golightly has also had the best offseason of his career.
The newcomer who has really jumped off the page is Skai Moore, who has already shown himself to be one of the most competitive players on the team. He’s the kind of who doesn’t want to lose in anything and is willing to put in extra work every day if that’s what it takes. Jonathan Walton and Larenz Bryant have also adjusted very well. Cooper is in the 230-pound range and Bryant is up to 220. David Johnson has been limited by knee injury that dates back to high school but is getting closer to full speed.
Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton have emerged as the leaders in the secondary, as each of those guys also heads up a team in the weight room. Brison Williams has also been a standout. Ahmad Christian is still a bit limited due to his back issue and has certain modifications in the weight room, but it looks like he’ll be fine by fall practice.
Like Cooper, T.J. Gurley is now working without limitations and is very close to full speed. Rico McWilliams is also on track to be full go by the time fall practice begins.
Overall, the attitude and work ethic of the team has been excellent, as has been participation in voluntary workouts. This time of year is often the difference in a couple of wins a team accumulates during the season and all indications are South Carolina is on the right track once again with the start of the 2013 season about two months away.