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South Carolina opens spring practice without stars

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina started spring practice quietly after a season where the Gamecocks and their star players made a lot of noise.

Coach Steve Spurrier usually makes the opening practice of spring an event, inviting fans and having his players put on a show. But the Head Ball Coach, who likes to move practices to find good weather and even runs some drills shirtless in the summer, delayed the first practice for two days hoping for decent weather.

A cold rain forced the Gamecocks into a closed practice in their cramped, outdated indoor facility Thursday. They wanted to get at least one practice in before spring break started this weekend.

Spurrier didn't talk to reporters after practice, sending out a few of his assistants.

''Indoor facility, so not a whole lot goes on,'' said Spurrier's son, wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. ''But it was good to get a good day in- just to line up and run plays and snap the ball.''

South Carolina fans already expected a quieter spring after defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, expected to be a top NFL draft pick for years, moved on, along with other stars such as quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton.

Head coach Spurrier has said he still expects to compete for South Carolina's first Southeastern Conference title and a fourth straight 11-win season or better.

Whether the Gamecocks do that might hinge on a very inexperienced secondary. Just four cornerbacks returns, and none of them have more than two starts. The team recruited the position heavily and expects those freshmen to get on the field quickly. But they aren't around for the spring, Ward said.

''Whether we have enough good players to win a lot of ball games in the SEC - they're not on campus yet,'' Ward said.

On offense, Spurrier has said even with Shaw graduating, there won't be a competition at quarterback as senior Dylan Thompson will be his starter. All-SEC running back Mike Davis is back, too.

If there is a breakout star for South Carolina next fall, it could be sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. Spurrier has tinkered with him taking snaps in the wildcat formation.

''For him to come from a guy who wanted to be a lockdown corner when he got here to playing receiver, returning punts and playing quarterback at a high level, he's certainly proven he can play,'' Spurrier Jr. said Thursday. ''We're going to try to get him on the field and give him the ball as much as we can.''

South Carolina is on spring break next week and won't return to practice until March 18.

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