South Carolina held its annual Media Day on Sunday afternoon to kick off the start of football season. Dozens of players and most of the assistant coaches were made available for questions. Here are some of the key pieces of information from Media Day.
Junior Ace Sanders will spread his talents around to at least two different wide receiver positions this season
-- Junior Ace Sanders is South Carolina’s top returning wide receiver but his role will change a little bit this season. He’s spent the first two years of his career at the “Z” receiver position, which typically lines up in the slot position.
During the first two days of fall practice, he’s worked at the “X” receiver position, which is the spot vacated by Chicago Bears draft pick Alshon Jeffery. Sanders has worked with the first team in drills but expects to move around this year to different receiver positions.
“They have me working at outside a little bit more,” Sanders said. “We move around and learn all the positions. Everyone has been bouncing around. (Where I play) depends on how the rest of the camp goes and preseason practice. I’ll definitely be lined up more outside this year than last year.”
Sanders said behind him at the inside position are sophomores Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd with freshman Jody Fuller working at the position as well. Behind him at the outside receiver position are DeAngelo Smith, Shamier Jeffery, and Shaq Roland.
Sanders said that he likes to play the outside position to be able to showcase his route-running ability and it gives him a better opportunity to get into one-on-one coverage. The advantage, he says, to playing the inside position is being able to create mismatches.
One of the best battles to watch during the first couple days of camp has been the one-on-one drills between Sanders and Akeem Auguste, who has moved back to corner. Sanders got the best of his fifth-year senior teammate in the opening practice on Saturday juking and burning past him in one-on-ones.
“There has been a lot of trash talk going on,” Sanders said. “We know it’s all in good spirits. It’s hard to beat a player every single day one-on-one. I’m going to do my best and he’s going to give it his all, too.”
Sanders said that what he’s done to improve this offseason is learning how to better read defensive coverages. He also said that he’s really turned up the work in the weight room.
Senior Kenny Miles finally addressed the media saying, "I'm definitely coming back."
-- Speaking for the first time since following the Capital One Bowl, senior Kenny Miles finally said the words that his coaches have been publicly preaching.
“I’m coming back,” Miles said, laughing. “I’m definitely coming back.”
“It wasn’t about me. I knew my decision and I talked to my coaches,” Miles said, when asked why he didn’t want to speak to the media in the spring. “We knew what I was going to do. Coach Spurrier had an understanding what I was going to do and besides that, we were out there for spring ball.”
Miles, as running backs coach Everette Sands has stated, has worked hard to improve his speed. He believes that the extra tenths subtracted from his times will equate to more yards on the ground.
“I felt like I’ve been putting hard work just to do what I can do,” Miles said of his workouts to increase his speed. “Speed kills. If you can get around the outside and pick those extra five or six yards and get around the defense, that’s good. Those extra yards help you in the long run.”
Miles has 982 yards rushing in his career and two total touchdowns. He has 32 catches for 226 yards and a score.
-- Freshman Shon Carson has been out of the public eye since tearing his ACL in the second game of his college career last season against Georgia. He, like Marcus Lattimore, is back to full strength and ready for the start of the season.
"I feel like my normal self out there," he said Sunday. "I'm making the same cuts I was when I first got here, so they did a good job rehabbing with me."
Redshirt freshman Shon Carson is back and completely healthy, as evidenced by his flip at Williams-Brice Stadium on USC Media Day
Carson said it's helped that he and Lattimore were able to go throught the rehabilitation process together.
"He's a great leader. You can learn from him, and he's always positive," Carson said. "It was a good process with me and him rehabbing together."
This offseason, unlike Lattimore, Carson has been working some in the batting cages. Carson said he still plans to pursue baseball after the football season is over.
“Yeah, baseball is still in my plans if everything goes right,” Carson said. “It will probably take me a few weeks to adjust back, but I’ve been in the cage a lot over the summer.”
Carson rose all the way to No. 2 on the depth chart as a freshman last year before the injury took place. This year, he's taking the same approach to impressing the coaches that he did then.
"Just come in here and work hard. (Sands) says he's not going to give it to me, [but] I don't ever expect somebody to give it to me. I always work for it," Carson said.
Carson has three carries for nine yards in his two-game career. He also has one kickoff return for 23 yards.
-- Smith was penciled in as the top player on the depth chart at the “X” receiver position to replace Jeffery. With Sanders there working, he’s the backup. There’s no one person who can replace Jeffery, he says, but Smith knows he has to do his part.
Offensive linemen Cody Gibson, A.J. Cann, and Brandon Shell
“We have to do it as a team,” Smith said. “It has to be all of us to replace Alshon. Alshon brought everything. Everything he did, I’m going to try to do the best I can. I just have to do what I can to help the team.”
Smith didn’t see the field much last year playing behind Jeffery but he also struggled to make plays at times when he had the opportunity. During his career, Smith has played in 11 games and has four catches for 23 yards.
“I’ve improved on getting off the line,” Smith said. “My job is to get open and that’s what I’m going to do.”
"I'm just trying to earn the coaches' confidence that I can be that No. 1 guy this year." he added. "I feel confident that I can be the No. 1 guy this year. Again, I'm just trying to contribute as much as I can for the team.
-- Redshirt freshman Tanner McEvoy skirted public discipline from athletic director Ray Tanner and head coach Steve Spurrier for his arrest a week ago for driving after consuming. He was suspended, per athletic department policy, immediately following the arrest, but was back in time for the start of fall practice.
“What I did was stupid and pretty easily avoidable,” McEvoy said. “I learned my lesson from it and I’m going to move on from it.”
McEvoy ran the scout team last season and was the third quarterback to participate in drills during the first two nights of practice.
-- Redshirt freshman cornerback Ahmad Christian is listed as the third-string field cornerback on the preseason depth chart, but Christian says he has been moved to the boundary where he is second string behind Victor Hampton.
"If Coach (Lorenzo) Ward trusts me that I know the playbook and know what I'm doing out there then he'll throw me out there," Christian says. "I'm right behind Vic. [I] take a lot of stuff from him; he's like a big brother to me. We kind of went in the same rotation as far as our career is going now, he redshirted and then I redshirted, he played a big role last year, and I look forward to playing a big role this year, [on] special teams and some defense. It's coming along well."
Christian says that he feels a lot more comfortable now than he did at this point a season ago.
"I know the system now, I know the calls," he says. "I know different techniques [and] when to use them. I definitely thank Coach Ward for redshirting me last year, because last year I didn't know a lot, and this year I've definitely gotten in the swing of things, and I can visualize to see what's going on in the defense."
-- Redshirt freshman Brandon Shell currently projects to start at left tackle in the Gamecocks' season opener at Vanderbilt. But Shell says he isn't feeling any pressure about playing his first meaningful minutes at arguably the most important position on the line.
"It's not really a lot of pressure," he said. "I think all the spots on the offensive line are just as important as the left tackle spot. You've just got to go out there and have a mindset that you can't get beat, and just go out there and play."
The usually reserved and soft-spoken Shell says that he actually likes the intensity displayed by offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.
"You would rather have a coach get on you about things than have a coach that doesn't get on you, because it makes you better as a person and on the field."
Looking back, Shell believes that taking a redshirt last season was overall a positive.
"It helped me a lot as far as learning the plays, and watching those older guys do what they did last year helped me progress on what I'm going to do this year," he says.
John Whittle contributed to this report.