South Carolina treated practice 10 of its fall camp schedule like a normal gameday, and it ended with a game-winning field goal from Parker White.
Highlights of the closed session, according to head coach Will Muschamp, included an “explosive” Jake Bentley to Shi Smith touchdown, a Bentley to Mon Denson connection and White’s game-winning field goal.
South Carolina practiced about 150 plays, with three groups getting about 50 snaps each. The team practiced two live kickoff coverages and two live punt coverages.
“I thought we had a pretty good day. … I was pleased with the tempo and pleased with how we handled the day,” Muschamp said. “ … Offensively, we’re running the ball better, [but] we need to throw it better. I think we’ve run the ball pretty successfully in camp, but we’re not as consistent in the throwing game, whether it’s from a protection standpoint or just throwing and catching.”
Muschamp mentioned one standout, offensive lineman Eric Douglas, as someone who has likely earned himself the starting right guard spot.
“Eric Douglas, right now, would probably start at right guard, but he’s also our backup at both tackle positions,” the coach said. “Because he’s very flexible. A smart guy that can do a lot of things and is athletic.”
JOYNER OR HILINSKI?
Muschamp said he saw positives from both of his backup quarterbacks: redshirt-freshman Dakereon Joyner and true freshman Ryan Hilinski.
“There’s not enough [separation] right now, but we need to watch the tape,” the coach said. “We have to watch the tape … make some evaluations about where we are. But I’ve seen some very positive things from both guys.
“And both guys, the mistakes that are being made, are both from young players. And that’s to be expected at a certain point. But at a certain point we’ve got to push forward.”
Muschamp commended Joyner’s leadership.
“He positively affects everybody around him,” Muschamp said. “And he’s really good with the ball in his hands. And he’s a winner. At the end of the day, you look at what he did at Fort Dorchester High School and the success he had there, there’s a lot of intangible qualities he brings to the table that certainly make him who he is as a quarterback.”
Muschamp reiterated a statistic SC quarterbacks coach Dan Werner mentioned last week: He wants the Gamecocks to score touchdowns on 70 percent of its trips into the red zone.
“Offensively, you need to score points 100 percent of the time,” he said. “And if you score [touchdowns] at 70 percent of the time, you’re probably leading the country.
“Defensively, you want to hold the offense to 60 percent of the time having to kick field goals. And if you do that, you’re probably leading the country.
“That’s our standard. That’s where we want to be.”
Last season, he said, the Gamecocks had 56 red-zone trips and 13 times did not score. Eight of the 13 were turnovers and five were turnover on downs.
Offensively, Muschamp has talked a few times during fall practice about his unit taking better care of the football than it did last year. The Gamecocks threw one interception in a “fourth down situation” during the scrimmage, which Muschamp said was a good sign.
“It’s better. Much better than last fall,” Muschamp said. “But it’s got to improve, and he understands that. It’s been much better and today was another positive step.”
However, the coach did say quarterbacks Jake Bentley, Dakereon Joyner and Ryan Hilinski are still holding onto the ball too long.
Tight end Evan Hinson had a hard time breathing earlier in camp because of an irregular heartbeat and will have ablation surgery on Wednesday. Cardiac ablation, according to the Mayo Clinic, “is a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in the heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm.”
Hinson will return in six to eight weeks, per the coach.
Running back Tavien Feaster has been a non-contact participant all camp because he had to have an infected tooth removed. “He’ll be cleared for full contact when we get back at it Wednesday,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp also announced safety J.T. Ibe strained a pectoral muscle — the same injury he had when he played at Rice — and will be out likely for a week. Left guard Donell Stanley had “a little bit of a back spasm” and did not scrimmage but will be back this week.
Tight end Kiel Pollard has a stinger that the team is “working through.” J.J. Enagbare (knee) will be back on Wednesday and Keir Thomas (knee) will be cleared next week.
Muschamp has been pleased with his defense’s effort and play so far in camp. In Monday’s scrimmage, the coach said his unit played well in the red zone and holding the team’s offense to field goals.
“Defensively, I’ve been pleased with our front seven and how we’ve played,” the coach said. “We’ve got to continue to work on our perimeter, as far as leveraging the ball and tackling and getting things on the ground in space. I thought we did tackle pretty well today for the first time.”
The coach also mentioned defensive backs Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu will be strictly cornerbacks this season. Horn, it has been mentioned, worked early in camp at nickelback as well.
The versatile A.J. Turner, who has played mostly running back and special teams during his career with the Gamecocks but has spent all camp playing cornerback, only played corner on Monday.
“He did a nice job,” Muschamp said. “A really nice job.”