COLUMBIA — South Carolina wrapped up spring football practices with last Saturday’s spring game, and at halftime of the game, coach Steve Spurrier handed out all the usual spring awards.
Here now, some superlatives — or, in one case, lack thereof — that you didn’t hear about Saturday’s spring game:
Senior defensive tackle Byron Jerideau was suspended for part of the offseason after an alcohol-related public disorderly conduct arrest. After being reinstated, he responded well during the spring and is currently USC’s best tackle, according to defensive line coach Brad Lawing.
Jerideau, who is 6-1 and 316 pounds, will be a space-clogging presence more so than a pass rusher this fall. But Lawing expects him to be a consistent presence on the field and not require too many breathers.
“He still does bonehead things every now and then, but he’s changed his whole body, his whole conditioning,” Lawing said.
“When he first got here, he was in no way, form or fashion ready to play college football. He’s in shape. He can actually perform the things we ask him to perform.”
You can’t really say that redshirt freshman wide receiver Shamier Jeffery’s stock fell, but he didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do before a knee injury required minor surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the spring.
Jeffery, who is 6-1 and 214 pounds, could still be in the mix come preseason practices in August. The Gamecocks are searching for a big-bodied downfield receiving threat now that Jeffery’s older brother, Alshon, is off to the NFL. But now, Shamier Jeffery finds himself behind 6-1 DeAngelo Smith, who emerged from the spring as USC’s top big receiving target.
USC’s coaches named offensive, defensive and special teams MVPs of the spring, and it’s hard to argue with the defensive choice: end Jadeveon Clowney, who gave the offensive tackles fits throughout the spring, as he improved his mental grasp on the game.
Coming off an impressive freshman season in which he didn’t play full-time, Clowney seems poised to be one of college football’s best pass rushers for the next two seasons before heading off to NFL riches.
Everybody has their eyes on running back Marcus Lattimore, who is returning from a season-ending knee injury and will be full-speed for summer workouts. But an equally intriguing player returning from injury is senior cornerback Akeem Auguste, who missed last season because of foot surgery. He will also return for summer workouts.
USC had the nation’s second-best pass defense last season, but lost both of its corners, C.C. Whitlock and Stephon Gilmore, a potential first-round NFL draft pick. It will be interesting to see how Auguste responds to returning, and playing opposite a first-time starter in sophomore Victor Hampton. Auguste started nine games in 2009 and 10 in 2010.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward feels confident that the move of DeVonte Holloman from strong safety to spur outside linebacker will stick this time, largely because Ward liked what he saw from the new strong safety, sophomore Brison Williams. Last spring, Ward tried moving Holloman from strong safety to spur but had to return him to strong safety.
Because of the absence this spring of offensive tackle Mike Matulis (shoulder surgery), line coach Shawn Elliott couldn’t get a thorough assessment of his three tackles. Matulis and Cody Gibson are both sophomores who split time starting at right tackle last season. Redshirt freshman Brandon Shell (Goose Creek High) has tremendous upside, but is he ready to start now? Elliott will have to wait until August to see how his two tackle spots shake out.