I was able to make my way down to The Proving Grounds this evening to take in the Gamecocks' second fall practice in preparation for the 2012 season. There was a nice crowd on hand and the weather actually wasn't too bad.
Here are a few thoughts after watching the Gamecocks this evening:
- Marcus Lattimore doesn't look like his old self. He looks better. You can obviously tell he's put in the work to get back into game shape and he looks a bit lighter than what he was last year. He also looks quick...suprisingly quick. He was sharp out of the backfield in one-on-one situations routinely beating his defender to make the wide open catch. The Gamecocks are in for a treat if Lattimore can stay healthy the entire season.
- Jadeveon Clowney looks to be much thicker than what he was last year. You can tell the offseason program worked with him. His arms looked like they've filled out and appears to be just as fast. He should have a monster year.
- Victor Hampton looked pretty built as well. He should play an important role on this team in 2012.
- Freshman Rico McWilliams went down with a knee injury in the 7-on-7's later in the evening. He was on the ground for awhile before being helped off the field. Hopefully it's not a serious injury but they won't know more until at least tomorrow.
- A few other players who stood out physically: Jerell Adams, Kelcy Qualres, Rory Anderson, Brandon Shell, Mike Davis. Quarles looks like he's beefed up a bit but still maintained his quickness. Anderson added some muscle mass but looks like the speedy tight end we saw last year. Adams is a physical specimen at tight end. I think he'll see the field plenty this year. Shell is exactly what you look for in a left tackle. Davis' frame reminds me of former Alabama running back Mark Ingram.
- As for the quarterbacks, I must say, Dylan Thompson impressed me some tonight. He's got the arm strength and threw some very deep balls tonight. Connor Shaw was okay in my opinion. I saw a few balls thrown that were a bit flat. Didn't see much of Brendan Nosovitch, Andrew Clifford tonight. Tanner McEvoy has that weird delivery still and didn't notice much out of him. He did throw an interception to DJ Swearinger in the team drills that he'll probably hear about for awhile.
- Speaking of Swearinger, this guy was all over place. He's a fun one to watch with his attitude and approach to the game. I like his mindset and think he'll be a leader on this defense.
- Never saw any field goal kickers tonight. Maybe they are saving that for when nobody's at practice. We did get to see some punts though and Mike Williamson is a best bet there. He's got the leg with a nice bit of hang time when he gets a hold of a kick. The question on his is consistency. But, to me, he's clearly above the other competition.
- At the punt returner slots, I saw Shaq Roland, Akeem Auguste, Bruce Ellington, Ahmad Christian(I think) and DeAngelo Smith.
You really can't gauge a whole lot from a practice like this. They aren't in pads yet so the hitting is to a minimum. They won't start working on the game plan for Vanderbilt for another few weeks. It's an opportunity to teach and see who prepared themselves over the summer.
I will say this team, as a whole, is physically impressive. They look like your typical powerhouse SEC team.
Overall, it was a good practice. They'll come back out again Sunday night at 7:30.