August 10, 2011

Brent breaks out in morning workout





To read Wednesday's FREE practice NOTEBOOK, click here.

The following is our REPORT from Wednesday's practice.


Freshman wide receiver K.J. Brent may or may not earn a spot as one of South Carolina's top six wide receivers this season, but that's not going to stop him from trying.

Brent, a native of Waxhaw, N.C., showed off his skills during Wednesday's two hour-plus workout, making a sensational leaping grab of a pass (he out-leaped the defender and wrestled the ball away) in the left corner of the end zone during the 7-on-7 drill before coming through with a key reception in a 45-play mini-scrimmage that closed out the session.

"K.J. had a bunch of balls come his way and he played well," USC wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. "It's all about opportunities at receiver. With different coverages, you sometimes get more opportunities than others. He had some balls come his way today and he made some good catches."

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Brent, who ended the 7-on-7 drill with his second touchdown grab in three snaps, added a reception deep down the field late in the mini-scrimmage.

Has Brent moved into contention to become one of the six receivers Spurrier Jr. plans to get ready for the Sept. 3 season-opener? If so, he will end up playing in his hometown. Waxhaw is a suburb of Charlotte located about 15 miles southeast of downtown.

Brent's challenge over the next three weeks is to sustain a high level of play, always difficult for a first-year player learning about the rigors of major college football.

"He could be, but it's still early," Spurrier said when asked if Brent could earn one of the six spots. "There's a lot of camp left. Today was the first day we had some pretty good contact. Frankly, some of our receivers aren't used to getting hit. We took some good hits today. I reminded them that I have never been part of a good defense that didn't have (defensive backs) that hit you hard. They have to get ready to get hit. We have some DBs that can fly around."

Except for the first-down catch by Brent, the Gamecocks' offense struggled in the first two series of the mini-scrimmage until putting together a 17-play drive for a touchdown, when quarterback Connor Shaw connected with DeAngelo Smith on a pass across the middle.

One of the key early plays on the drive was a reverse to Ace Sanders, who turned the corner and raced upfield for a sizeable gain.

"Ace is looking good," running back Kenny Miles said.

All the running backs except Marcus Lattimore saw action in the mini-scrimmage, with freshman Shon Carson leading the way with four carries.

After a short gain on his first carry, Carson bounced off several would-be tacklers for a solid gain. Two snaps later, he grinded out a tough run to keep the scoring drive going. On his final carry, the Lake City native broke loose for a good gain.

Carson is right in the thick of the fight for the No. 2 running back spot behind Lattimore, and isn't even thinking of redshirting right now.

"I've had to adjust to the game speed, but I'm getting better every day," Carson said. "I'm learning a lot from Marcus Lattimore. Everybody is competing and getting each other better. I'm trying to win the battle. I came here to win the number-two spot."

Carson, who was selected in June's Major League Baseball draft, said he has received permission from Steve Spurrier and Ray Tanner to try out for the USC baseball team when football season is over.

Bruce Ellington took two snaps out of the "Wildcat" formation during the mini-scrimmage.

USC will next practice at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, continuing a stretch of week-long morning workouts. Friday's workout is scheduled for the same time before Saturday's 4 p.m. scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"I like them better," Lattimore said. "We get out here early in the morning, get our body warmed up. In the afternoon, we get more of a little break, so there's more time to rest."

Lattimore said the Gamecocks are already feeling the anticipation of opening the season in a little more than three weeks.

"Oh yeah, there's a lot of anticipation," Lattimore said. "We're out here hitting each other. We're going to take all of our anger we have out on East Carolina. It should be a fun game. But we have to get better both on defense and offense."

Rokevious Watkins and Kyle Nunn rotated at right tackle and left tackle again as offensive line coach Shawn Elliott continued to experiment with various combinations. Watkins has primarily played right tackle but insisted he feels comfortable at any spot.

The offensive line has struggled at times to keep the defensive line away from the quarterback, but Watkins believes the experience of squaring off with the deep and talented defensive line will pay dividends for the offensive front down the road.

"We're rotating both sides and getting reps at both spots just in case," Watkins said. "Any place on the line coach needs me to play, I'll be there. I can play either guard or tackle as long as I'm playing offensive line. We've been doing pretty well. We just have to keep working. We have a long way to go. It's good to have the talent on the D-line to go up against every day. They give us some amazing reps. It's pretty much a simulation of what we're going to see every week."

In the 7-on-7 drill, Lamar Scruggs, Smith and Nick Jones all had touchdown catches.

NOTES:

-- Freshman receiver Damiere Byrd is nursing a jammed thumb, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch passes.

-- USC confirmed that Shaq Wilson is wearing No. 54 this season, barring any other changes.

-- Players in yellow jerseys or sitting out were: CB Akeem Auguste (left foot), OL Mike Matulis (left foot), OL Brandon Shell (shoulder), DE Gerald Dixon (leg), OL Cody Gibson (right knee), WR Zach Broome (left knee), DT Travian Robertson (hamstring), spur Jared Shaw, FB Matt Coffee, DT Kelcy Quarles (heat) and DT Byron McKnight (hamstring).

-- Auguste was not wearing a walking boot for the first time since practice began a week ago. Instead, he wore an ankle brace to protect the arch in his left foot.

-- DE Chaz Sutton returned to practice after being thoroughly checked out by doctors for multiple medical conditions.

-- Robertson sat out for the fourth straight day with a hamstring issue, but did do some light running on the side.

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