COLUMBIA — Today will again be decision day for South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, as his coaches and trainers determine if he will play Saturday night at home against Alabama-Birmingham.
He is recovering from a bruised right (throwing) shoulder, suffered in the Aug. 30 season opener at Vanderbilt. He didn’t play last week against East Carolina because he couldn’t do enough in Thursday’s practice.
USC coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday morning on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference that he planned to have Shaw “try to throw a little bit” at Wednesday’s practice, and then “see if he can throw full-go Thursday before we’ll know if Connor is able to play. If he can throw it down the field without any pain, he’ll start Saturday night. If he can’t throw anything but screen passes, I think we’ve got to let (backup Dylan Thompson) play.”
Thompson started against East Carolina and threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 21 of 37 passes.
“(Shaw) is looking good,” wide receiver Damiere Byrd said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s getting better. We’re just waiting for him to come on back so he can help us make plays and help us win games.”
In his second year playing college football, wide receiver Bruce Ellington (Berkeley High) feels more prepared. That’s because he spent the offseason working on his route running and getting bigger. He knew he had to do both in order to become a more complete receiver.
Through two games, Ellington has four catches for 63 yards — all in the ECU game. He said he is coming out of the breaks in his routes more precisely this year.
“Last year I didn’t really know where (defenders) were going to be and how the defense was going to play,” he said. “So now, watching film, I’ve learned that. And just when I’m running inside routes, not peeking and looking inside before I turn (which would tip off the route to the defense).”
Ellington said he weighed 185 pounds last year and is now 197, which helps him at slot receiver where he plays, because that receiver must block more often than outside receivers.
“I can tell a lot of difference,” Ellington said of his weight gain. “I can block. I can get little physical inside.”
Tailback Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury last year at Mississippi State while blocking. All tailbacks must block out of the backfield, but when he got hurt, Lattimore was lined up as a wide receiver and blocking. Spurrier said Lattimore did a nice job of blocking from the backfield against ECU, but don’t expect Lattimore to line up wide and block this season.
“We don’t want to put him in that situation again if we can help it,” Spurrier said.
Practice makes picks
USC has five interceptions this season, including four against ECU. Last season, USC ranked sixth nationally, with 19 interceptions.
The key to all those picks against ECU?
“Last week in practice, we caught a lot of passes,” said free safety D.J. Swearinger. “In every drill that we did, we caught a lot of passes. It just transferred over to the game, and when we got an opportunity to catch passes, we caught those passes. That’s something we’ve got to just keep doing in practice, catching a lot of passes before and after practices, and we’ll be catching those interceptions.”
USC’s players have also instituted a penalty for dropping a pick in practice — 15 pushups.
USC released its non-conference men’s basketball schedule Wednesday. The Gamecocks will open coach Frank Martin’s first season Oct. 30 with a home exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan. Their first official game is Nov. 11 at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The Gamecocks play two games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — Nov. 24 against Missouri State and Nov. 25 against Southern Methodist or Arkansas-Little Rock. Their other road non-conference games are Nov. 29 at St. John’s (on-campus arena) for the SEC/Big East Challenge and Dec. 22 against Manhattan in the Brooklyn Nets’ arena.
The Gamecocks’ best non-conference home game is Dec. 2 against Clemson.
Fall baseball begins
USC begins fall baseball practice Friday, under new coach Chad Holbrook, and will hold two scrimmages that are open to the public this weekend — Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The Gamecocks lost in the national championship series this past season after winning the title the previous two years.