Gamecock Offense Starts Strong, Defense Finishes Stronger


Quarterbacks Eli Jenkins, Tyler Vann (6), Christian LeMay (5), Ryne Strickland (7), Max Shortell (11) Tyler Will (12),

Quarterbacks Eli Jenkins (green), Tyler Vann (6), Christian LeMay (5), Ryne Strickland (7), Max Shortell (11) Tyler Will (12),

JACKSONVILLE — The Gamecocks’ offense entered Thursday’s scrimmage looking for a better showing than their last scrimmage.

Telvin Brown got them started when he took Kyle West’s pass 70 yards to the endzone on the first play. But, the defense showed why it is not always how you start, it is how you finish.

“(The offense) got in some third down situations,” first year head coach John Grass said. “They did better in the third down competition before the lay it and play it drives started. But when the scrimmage started, they struggled on some third down situations and fourth down situations in the redzone.”

“I think if they cashed in there, they would have had a really good scrimmage. But, I’d say it was an average scrimmage because they didn’t put those in the endzone.”

The offense showed glimpses of last season’s explosiveness all scrimmage. Brown played a major role in that. He was targeted in several big plays including a 70-yard touchdown and a 37-yard pass from redshirt-junior quarterback Christian LeMay. Brown said he “wanted to come out and set the tone.”

“Last week,” he said, “left a bad taste in our mouths on offense. I took it upon myself get the offense going and making plays when I could.”

It was Brown’s second touchdown this spring. He has scored two of the Gamecocks’ three offensive touchdowns in their two scrimmages. The other touchdown came on an eight yard run my junior running back Troymaine Pope late in the scrimmage.

“It’s a process,” Brown said. “Going through spring, everybody is trying to get clicking, trying to fill roles. It’s a process. We all know that now. Going into my third year, I know it’s a process.”

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Eli Jenkins did not participate in Thursday’s scrimmage for precautionary reasons. Jenkins is recovering from offseason knee surgery. That left room for other Gamecock quarterbacks to see increased time on the field.

Redshirt-freshman Tyler Vann was one of those quarterbacks. He led the Gamecock offense on a drive that went 60 yards and finished in the redzone.

“He’s doing a good job,” Grass said. “He’s moved up the depth chart and knows where to go with the ball. He’s from North Sand Mountain. He’s a walk-on guy, preferred walk-on. He’s doing a really good job. He’s a sharp kid. He can run it, throw it, he would play for some folks. He’s having a really good spring. He’s really impressed us.”

wpid-20140320_105040.jpgVann’s drive ended with a block field goal attempt from 20-yards away. Redshirt-senior linebacker Omari Jones led the charge through the offensive line to allow a teammate to block the attempt.

“Me and Sig (Devaunte Sigler) knocked over the guard,” Jones said. “Maybe EB (Eric Butler) or Dink (LaMichael Fanning) blocked it.”

Jones got used to playing with his hands on the ground last season as the starting defensive end. This spring, he is getting used to playing with his hands on the ball. He helped the defense go above and beyond its four turnover goal when he caught one of five interceptions Thursday.

“Last year they used me more at the bandit position, which was more of a defensive end, and they allowed me to stand up,” Jones said. “Later in the year, they began to let me do a little more pass coverage. With the new staff, they’re more focused on doing it all. Rushing, covering, just playing more in space and using a little more speed.”

Jones’ interception came on a tipped pass by Sigler. Fanning tipped two more passes that led to interceptions.

“We’re getting better up front,” Grass said. “Our offensive line doesn’t have a choice because of that defensive line. They’ve go to get better, for sure.”

The Gamecocks will practice in shorts Friday before being released for spring break. They return to practice on April 1 and scrimmage again April 5.

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