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August 17, 2013
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The continued absence of South Carolina's leading returning receiver Bruce Ellington in fall camp is cracking the door slightly open for several young wideouts to prove themselves in preseason practice. Looking to swing open that door even farther is redshirt freshman Jody Fuller, who has picked up some of the reps Ellington's hamstring injury has left vacant this fall.
While Ellington paced the sidelines at South Carolina's second preseason scrimmage in Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday morning, Fuller got to work - getting the best of Gamecock defensive backs for a team-high five catches and 49 yards. Only two other players - fullback Jordan Diaz and receiver Pharoh Cooper (two catches each) - had more than one catch on the day, as coaches like using scrimmages to spread the ball around.
Fuller was happy with his work Saturday, but knows he always has room to improve.
"I feel like I played pretty well," said Fuller after the scrimmage. "There's still just a few plays that always can be better, but for the most part I feel that I caught the ball when it was thrown to me and tried to make a play."
Fuller, who spends most of his time in practice learning the 'Z' position, is behind only Ellington at that spot on the depth chart. After redshirting as a true freshman last season, Fuller is hoping to use his increased reps to get better and earn a spot in the rotation.
"With [Ellington] out, it gives me an opportunity to learn more and get more reps," Fuller said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of my opportunity."
"I'm just trying to get better every day, learning where I need to be at the right times, and catch the football when it's thrown to me," he added.
A former four-star prospect who snagged 175 passes for 2,175 yards and 33 touchdowns in his final three high school seasons at Sun Valley High School in Monroe, N.C., Fuller is confident in his physical abilities, but said he could stand to get more comfortable with the offense.
"I feel I can catch [the ball] anywhere, no matter where it's thrown, and I can make plays after I get it," Fuller said, but added that he is working hard on his play execution - knowing where he is supposed to be at any given time in the offense and doing his exact job on the field.
"I feel pretty comfortable [in the offense] right now, but I've still got a ways to go," Fuller said. "I still feel like I can get better and know what I'm doing a little bit better, but as times goes on, I should be able to do that."
Fuller said that the wide receivers have begun studying North Carolina's secondary in preparation for the season opener Aug. 29. The wideout said the Tar Heels' secondary runs a "weird zone" coverage, and that he and his fellow receivers will need to adjust their routes to counter what North Carolina throws at them.
"We haven't looked at it too much," Fuller said. "But [I'm working on] just knowing coverages and being able to recognize what they're playing, adjusting to that and being in the right spots."
As it stands today, Fuller could have to learn on the fly. If Ellington can't get back to full speed in the 12 days that stand between the Gamecocks and the season opener, Fuller may have put himself in position to take the field for the first series of the season.
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