COLUMBIA — Last season, South Carolina sometimes slid defensive end Melvin Ingram to defensive tackle so he wouldn’t get double-teamed. Jadeveon Clowney took Ingram’s spot, attracted a double team and gave the Gamecocks three ends among their four defensive linemen, including Devin Taylor, the other starter.
With Ingram’s eligibility expired, Clowney and Taylor are now the starting ends. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has only played Clowney inside at tackle a couple of times during spring practices, but might do it more during the season, since Clowney is a fearsome pass rusher.
“We’re probably going to look at that,” Ward said. “We’ll try to create as many opportunities as we can to get Jadeveon one-on-one, because if he’s outside (at end), people are going to chip him (with an extra blocker). If you put him inside, there’s a chance for one-on-one. But there’s also a chance they could always turn the center to him and double-team him inside. We’ll have to figure out what’s the best way to use him.”
The biggest key to putting Clowney at tackle is finding someone to be the third end and attract double-teams, as Clowney did last year. Right now, Ward said that guy is junior Chaz Sutton.
Smith trying to ‘play big’
As USC tries to replace one of its best wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery, junior DeAngelo Smith finds himself in the mix at Jeffery’s former outside receiver spot, where sophomore Damiere Byrd and junior Lamar Scruggs also are. Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. has said Smith is probably his top receiver right now. Smith is 6-1, three inches shorter than Jeffery, but he said he gained 10 pounds in the offseason and now weighs 205 as he prepares to play a position that requires physicality.
“You’ve got to play big,” Smith said. “You’re on an island with the corner the majority of the time, one-on-one. Either you’re going to make a play or the corner’s going to make a play. I feel like I’m playing bigger.”
Smith said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds in offseason testing, so he has a bit more speed than Jeffery, who was listed last season at 229 pounds.
Backup QB spot unclear
Entering the spring, the quarterbacks behind starter Connor Shaw were, in order: sophomore Dylan Thompson, junior Andrew Clifford, sophomore Tanner McEvoy and senior walk-on Seth Strickland. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus doesn’t expect to finalize Shaw’s understudy until preseason practices in August.
“We’ll worry about all that in time,” Mangus said. “Just trying to get them as many reps. (McEvoy) still needs to play and get reps.”
For more USC coverage, go to postandcourier.com/gamecocks
Gibson getting bigger
USC has three offensive tackles for two spots: sophomores Mike Matulis (out this spring with a shoulder injury) and Cody Gibson, both of whom started at right tackle last season, and redshirt freshman Brandon Shell, a Goose Creek High graduate who is currently the No. 1 left tackle.
“Cody Gibson is starting to look like an offensive lineman instead of a basketball player,” said USC head coach Steve Spurrier. “We expect him to be a lot better come September.”
Gibson, the current No. 1 right tackle, was listed on the pre-spring depth chart as 6-7 and 278 pounds, which is six pounds lighter than his listed weight at the beginning of last year. Matulis replaced Gibson as the starting right tackle with three games remaining in the regular season.
For more South Carolina coverage, go to postandcourier.com/gamecocks
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