Defense rebounds for strong finish to the week
After watching the South Carolina offense go up and down the practice fields on Tuesday, the Gamecock defense rebounded for a strong Thursday practice and successful scrimmage on Saturday, capping off what head coach Shane Beamer called the best overall week of practice this spring.
The defense forced three turnovers, an interception and two fumbles, in the first 24 plays of the Gamecocks' second scrimmage of the spring, which took place Saturday morning, eclipsing their total from all of Thursday's practice.
"The offense had a great day on Tuesday, defense sat around for two days, heard about it, stewed on that and they came out on Thursday and had a great, competitive practice, both sides did on Thursday," Beamer said. "I saw a lot of physicality out there this morning. Obviously, in these things, if there’s some good you see, offensively, it’s bad, defensively, and vice versa."
The big start from the defense of course raises the age-old scrimmage question of whether it was a good day for one side or a bad day for the other.
Beamer was actually disappointed in the start to the scrimmage on both sides of the ball after both were guilty of several pre-snap penalties.
But that didn't damper a strong three-practice week in which he loved the effort, energy and physicality from his overall team.
The Gamecocks defense remains thin at some positions, and nagging injuries have exasperated those issues, but Beamer remains encouraged by the overall progress on that side of the ball.
"It is thin (in the secondary) but I really like the mentality and the physicality that they approach every day with," Beamer said. "They go to work and that starts with coach (Clayton) White and his staff and I like the way that they're bringing it every practice."
The Gamecocks' are led by a defensive line group that's reportedly been really good at rushing the passer this spring and could prove to be the heart of a defense that is trying to find and produce answers at its other two levels.
"I think that we have a deep and talented defensive line that can disrupt things offensively," Beamer said. "At linebacker, we're continuing to try and develop depth there. Having a couple of guys out who didn't scrimmage certainly didn't help. But those guys, guys like a Brad Johnson, I'm excited about. I heard all about what he was doing as a special teams player before I got here, well he's taken a step from a linebacker standpoint from what I've seen during spring practice, and is doing a great job. He got a great opportunity today with a couple of those guys being out to get the bulk of the reps along with Debo (Williams) and some of those other guys."
Johnson and Williams are just two of the standouts who caught Beamer's attention on Saturday.
"It's important to them and they're dependable and consistent," he continued. "Those two guys who I mentioned specifically and that whole defense, I like what they do. R.J. Roderick had a nice scrimmage today, I thought, made some plays, really played physical, took on a block on a screen pass, threw his body in there and showed some physicality and was really disruptive back there in the secondary.
"David Spaulding, he's got a shoulder that's bothering him, but he got out there and competed today. O'Donnell Fortune, he woke up with a little bit of a crick in his neck, but got in here early, got some treatment, and was able to go out there and compete. Marcellas Dial, Landon Grier was a guy, he's been playing safety but we had to move over to corner today because we didn't have the depth at some spots, and those guys have a strong want-to in that group on defense and I like the way they're approaching every day."
South Carolina will have four more practices this week before Saturday's Garnet and Black spring game which kicks off at 2 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.