Saturday was the first of nine practices USC will hold in Columbia before departing Dec. 27 for the Jan. 2 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., against Nebraska. These practices can be valuable for preparing young players who might play more next season.

"I take certain parts of practice, when we're practicing for a bowl, and I call it spring practice," said defensive line coach Brad Lawing. "So today, we probably had about 25 minutes of spring practice. All those guys that redshirted and the young ones, it's for them. The older guys watch what's going on. They help coach those young ones. It's about learning how to play fundamental football. If you're a freshman or redshirt freshman, you're in that group."

Five juniors submit NFL paperwork

College football underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL draft. Before then, they can submit paperwork to the league's committee that advises them on where they might be selected.

South Carolina defensive end Devin Taylor said he and four of his fellow juniors did that: wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, strong safety DeVonte Holloman and free safety D.J. Swearinger. They should hear back from the committee by early January.

Jeffery and Gilmore are considered the most likely candidates to turn pro, but neither has said what he plans to do. Taylor also said he isn't leaning one way or the other. Regarding Holloman submitting his paperwork, Taylor said, "He just wanted to see where he was at. It wasn't like a big thing about leaving."

"I just put (the paperwork) in, just to get evaluated, just to see what everyone else says, but that's about it," said Taylor, who is 6-7 and 260 pounds, and could be moved to outside linebacker in the NFL. "At the end of the day, it's still my decision whether I'm going to go or not, depending on what they list me as, either a defensive end or an outside linebacker."

USC coach Steve Spurrier has said he tells his players they should leave if they're projected to be first-round picks and stay in school if they're not. Taylor said he hasn't told himself he will definitely leave if the committee projects him to get picked in the first three rounds.

"Because nothing's really ever guaranteed, because they'll say sometimes some people will be first through third, and they'll end up getting drafted in the fourth or fifth round," he said. "So we'll just see when it comes time."

This and that

Jeffery broke a bone in his hand during USC's last game, Nov. 26 against Clemson, and had surgery to fix it. He practiced Saturday. Starting right guard Terrence Campbell did not. He cracked his fibula against Clemson. Spurrier has said he expects both players to be OK for the bowl. ... USC has not heard back yet about its appeal for a medical hardship waiver and sixth year of eligibility for starting left tackle Kyle Nunn. ... Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who interviewed last week for Southern Mississippi's head coaching vacancy, was requested to appear at post-practice media interviews, but did not. ... A team spokesman said all of the Gamecocks are academically eligible for the bowl game.