South Carolina has two seniors along the offensive line in 2014 - left tackle Corey Robinson and left guard A.J. Cann - but could ultimately lose three starters (as well as senior backup Cody Gibson) if redshirt junior Brandon Shell elects to declare for the NFL Draft following the upcoming season.
As a result, signing a meaningful number of offensive linemen to national letters of intent is a high priority for USC in the 2015 signing class.
“We have,” South Carolina recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said Thursday when asked if the Gamecocks had targeted offensive linemen in the current recruiting cycle. “We expect to potentially lose a few. In recruiting, projecting what your needs are year-to-year is a tricky business. Offensive line is a pretty important need for us, we feel.”
Mammoth JUCO offensive lineman Paris Palmer (6-foot-9, 305 pounds) committed to USC last week, while Shane Lemieux from Yakima, WA, visited Columbia with his biological father and appears to have chosen the Gamecocks over Oregon.
Lemieux told Duck Sports Authority in a story published today that he was “pretty much committed to South Carolina,” but he won’t make an official announcement until his mother, stepdad and sister visit Columbia to “see what it’s all about.”
Although Palmer is unrated at the moment, four-star defensive back Mark Fields from Charlotte and three-star Michael Bowman from Havelock, N.C., committed to the Gamecocks last week, granting USC a solid start to 2015 recruiting in the state of North Carolina.
USC has rarely - if ever - had seven (eight if you count Lemieux) commitments prior to the conclusion of spring practice, so the Gamecocks are breaking new ground.
“We had a good week last week in recruiting,” Spurrier Jr. said. “It’s a good thing. It will be a bigger class than last year’s too, so we’ve changed a little bit. We’ve gotten a few more guys on campus, it seems like. And they’ve committed.”
Spring has increasingly become a more important time in recruiting over the past five or six years, Spurrier Jr.
“It’s become one of the most important times of the year in recruiting,” he said. “That has clearly changed. We have to hustle when we get these guys on campus.”
The focus will be on the future - 2016 and beyond - when USC conducts Junior Day on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Shon Carson’s 58-yard burst vs. Florida was one of the highlights of the 2013 season.
“They’re nice because you get every coach here,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Still, it’s an effort to get everybody on campus. But whether they come to this or any other day, if it’s a guy you’re recruiting and he gets on your campus, they’re very similar. We spend as much time with those guys and their families as we can.”
USC held two junior days last year, but is scheduled for just one this year.
“That’s just how it turned out,” Spurrier said. “We’ll make sure our next one is a big one.”
CARSON’S FIRST SPRING: Even though running back Shon Carson is listed as a redshirt junior, this year marks his first spring practice with the Gamecocks. He suffered torn knee ligaments as a true freshman in 2011 and sat out the following spring. A year ago, he played baseball, serving as a utility outfielder and pinch-runner. But this year he decided to put his baseball career on hold and practice football in March and April in a quest to earn playing time in a loaded backfield.
“It’s a different experience,” Carson acknowledged to Gamecock Central on Thursday. “It’s fun being around my teammates. It’s been a good thing because I’m getting used to the speed of the game.”
USC baseball coach Chad Holbrook told reporters in February during his preseason press conference that he would sit down with Carson when spring practice concludes to determine his future with the Gamecock baseball program. Carson, a 44th round draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, hopes to wear the USC baseball uniform in 2015 and 2016.
“I still have two more years to play baseball, so I just wanted to focus and see how football goes,” Carson said. “If it doesn’t go like I want it to, I’ll come back and play baseball. This spring, I felt like I had to be out here and compete (for the starting job at running back) and get better in order to get playing time.”
En route to rushing for 256 yard on 61 carries last season, Carson posted a career-high 102 yards rushing in the hard-fought home win over Florida in November, including a 58-yard burst off the five-yard line in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning field goal.
- Spurrier Jr. on the backup QB battle: “They’re all good players. Obviously, it’s a big spring for all those guys to learn, get reps and play, and get their opportunities in the stadium in scrimmages. They’ll separate themselves as they go.”
- Spurrier Jr. said Damiere Byrd “jogged around a little bit” on Thursday, which he described as “encouraging.”
- WR Jody Fuller is still slowed by a sprained knee, Spurrier Jr. said.
- Spurrier Jr. on WR K.J. Brent: “He’s a steady player. He just needs to get an opportunity to play a little bit. He’s a good kid, he’s tough, he works hard. He does everything right. He contributes on special teams. He’s a good player to have on the team. He’s done well.”
- Rising senior tight end Busta Anderson said he has been doing ‘more coaching’ during spring practice. “Being an older guy, I have to take responsibility and show the younger guys how to do their assignments,” Anderson said. The newest tight end is 6-foot-6 walk-on Jacob August, a Cardinal Newman graduate that attended Fork Union last fall.
- Anderson on USC’s depth at tight end: “We have plenty of tight ends. We’re a pretty good group as a whole. We can provide a lot of help for our team this year.” The depth chart is led by Anderson with Jerell Adams, Drew Owens and Kelvin Rainey behind him.
- Anderson says one linebacker that has stood out to him is sophomore Jonathan Walton from Daphne, Ala.: “I call him Bama. He is pretty physical. He is very good and athletic.”
- Anderson on the NLRB decision earlier this week giving Northwestern football players the right to unionize since they were “employees” of the school: “It’s something I’ve been thinking about myself. College is a business. We already know that. It can be a good thing, but it can bring a lot of questions and negativity towards the players. I definitely feel like I’m an employee out here. I’m coming in and working hard every day, going to class and study hall and doing everything I need to do. It gets hard out here.” Anderson said he believes players deserve a monthly stipend.