Got a feature on sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland coming up for tomorrow’s P&C print edition.
I had a chance to have a relatively lengthy discussion with Shaq during media day and then again during practice earlier in the week.
It’s kind of a story of redemption, well, kind of.
I think he’s on the verge of having a breakout season. I watched Shaq play in high school and marveled at his athletic ability at Lexington High School. Not quite in the same class as Summerville’s A.J. Green, but close.
He talks about coming into preseason camp last year and just relying on his athletic ability and realizing pretty quickly that he couldn’t make it on athleticism alone. He understands that he’s got to be focused, study the playbook and treat it more like a “business” than as a sport. Which to be honest, it what it is at this level.
I was very impressed with his honestly about his struggles as a freshmen. There are not many 19-year-old kids that can look themselves in the mirror and admit it was their fault things didn’t go their way. Shaq didn’t blame anyone, but himself, which is the sign of maturity.
The Head Ball Coach (HBC) and Spurrier, Jr., have both mentioned him during the preseason.
“Shaq’s out there making some plays,” the HBC said.
Another wide receiver to watch is Shamier Jeffery, who has lost 25 pounds from his redshirt freshman season. Jeffery, the young brother of All-American Alshon Jeffery, has caught the eye of Spurrier, Jr., as well during camp.
“He’s a totally different player,” Spurrier, Jr., said.
Bruce Ellington thinks the wide receivers corps are going to surprise observers this fall. The loss of Ace Sanders to the NFL was thought to be crippling, but Ellington thinks they’re ahead of where they were last season as a group. One season is there are no freshmen at wide receiver. Everyone knows what they’re doing and the emergence of Roland and Jeffery has Ellington optimistic about the Gamecocks passing game.
“I don’t know that we’ll shock the world, but I know what we’ve got,” Ellington said. “I know we’ve got the talent and I know what we’re capable of doing.”
Matulis likely done for season
Mike Matulis had his shoulder operation today. I talked with someone on the Gamecocks training staff, who spoke with doctors, (I know this is just hearsay and second-half information at this point), that operated on Matulis and said it went fine.
Spurrier said Thursday night that he expected Matulis to redshirt this season.
That makes sense because Matulis has a redshirt season to take and he wasn’t going to start this season anyway even if he was healthy.
I’m not so sure we’ll see Matulis play again. That’s his third shoulder operation. He had operations on both of his shoulders after his freshman and sophomore seasons. That’s starting to sound like a chronic problem.
So, it seems to make sense to give him a year off, rest his shoulders, and see if can make a go of it during spring practice in 2014.
Connor Mitch update
Freshman quarterback Connor Mitch went through spring practice and has shown flashes of what made him a top recruit in preseason camp, but hasn’t started to challenge either Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson on the depth chart, according to USC QB coach G.A. Mangus.
Mitch, who is from Raleigh, N.C., threw for 12,078 yards and 153 TDs during his high school career and was considered the 13th best pro-style QB by Rivals.com. He enrolled in January and took part in spring practice where he got a lot of reps because of the absence of Connor Shaw.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell called Mitch the best “quarterback Spurrier has signed at South Carolina.” While he’s not as highly rated as Stephen Garcia (No. 4 dual threat QB), Farrell said Mitch is a better fit in Spurrier’s offense.
Still Mitch is only a freshman.
“Connor has a lot to learn,” Mangus said. “That’s typical for a true freshman. It helped him getting an early start last spring, but he’s got a lot to learn.”
Mangus would like to redshirt Mitch this season, but is optimistic about his future.
“We’re trying to give him a sense of urgency because you never know what can happen,” Mangus said. “We don’t want to be like Maryland and have a linebacker playing quarterback for us midway through the season. We’re going to try and give him as many reps as we can early in camp. Mitch made the most of the reps he got in the spring because Connor Shaw was out. He definitely showed the promise of why we recruited. Now, it’s just a learning curve for him. He’s off to a good start and I think has a bright future.”
Just a reminder that Saturday’s scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium is close to public and the media.
HBC not happy with all the video cameras and smart phones and is afraid you guys will tip off opponents on “trick plays” that we’re going to run.