Final thoughts, lessons learned from South Carolina’s Garnet & Black Spring Game

The last taste of South Carolina football we’ll have for a few months came with Saturday’s Garnet & Black Spring Game.

Here are some final thoughts on the spring game:

Sold on LaNorris Sellers

I’m just so incredibly impressed with LaNorris Sellers. I had written previously that South Carolina took a major gamble by not seeking out a veteran quarterback in the portal and, instead, giving the keys to a guy who we basically judge on a few incredible plays ... in garbage time. But Sellers continues to show poise and maturity. He completed 9 of 11 passes in the spring game and ran for nearly 40 yards, showing a willingness to make the right play time and time again. If that continues, the Gamecocks gamble will have paid off.

Receivers playing catch-up?

In saying that, I’m not sure who the heck he’s gonna throw to. South Carolina’s receivers didn’t do a whole lot in the spring game — which isn’t always the best barometer, but doesn’t help the confidence. Granted Nyck Harbor, who was busy nearly setting track records, didn’t play but, still, no one caught more than two passes and no one reeled in a catch over 17 yards. Redshirt freshman Tyshawn Russell and freshman Mazeo Bennett had solid moments, but it will be interesting how much the Gamecocks try to beef up their WR room in the spring portal window. And if they don’t, does the production turn into deja vu from last season — where one guy (Xavier Legette) is unstoppable but doesn’t have much help?

Meet the ‘flex-nickle defense’

Defensive coordinator Clayton White has said the Gamecocks defense is going to run what he calls a “flex-nickel defense.” In other words, sometimes the Gamecocks will be in a 4-2-5 scheme and other times in a 3-3-5 look. This is really hard to pull off — which is why you probably haven’t heard “flex-nickel defense” before. But I asked White a few days ago if the edge rushers are the reason he can pull this off. He smiled. Yes, to have guys like five-star freshman Dylan Stewart and Georgia Tech transfer Kyle Kennard and Bam Martin-Scott makes it doable. Those guys, who had a field day during the spring game, are so long and athletic that they can switch between playing outside linebacker and defensive end like its nothing, giving White the flexibility to change schemes on the fly.

Speaking of the offensive line

I refuse to make any offensive line judgments from a spring game. Offensive line is about chemistry and that goes out the window for a spring game where there’s a draft and equal teams. Also, defenders have the advantage in scrimmages. They know some of the plays. Know the snap count. Know who they’re going against. If the defense doesn’t dominate a spring game, that’s probably a bad thing. In saying that: It’s going to be very interesting how the Gamecocks balance youth with experience on the offensive line. Do redshirt seniors Vershon Lee and transfer Torricelli Simpkins III both start? Do second-year guys Tree Babalade and Markee Anderson get in there? Can five star freshman Josiah Thompson become a week-one starter? Also, a year after seemingly every OL got injured, does it even matter who starts week one?

Keep an eye on Bryan Thomas

Look out for edge rusher Bryan Thomas Jr. It’s really easy to get caught up with the heralded freshmen or the highly-sought-after transfer. Sometimes forgotten are the developmental players who have been on campus for a few years but failed to shine. In two seasons at USC, Thomas has racked up less than 30 tackles and just one sack. Yet in the spring game, he was the most-productive guy on the field, leading everyone with seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. Thomas said everything is finally clicking — get this — because he gained weight. He said he put on 10 pounds of muscle after last season and feels like he’s just as fast but now can tackle running backs much easier. Definitely a guy to watch when fall rolls around.

Cue the cryptic tweets

I have no clue the thoughts of Edge Desmond Umeozulu, nor his intentions. But after the spring game, he tweeted an emoji of a clock. Who knows what that means? But in the era of the transfer portal, it’s hard to see any cryptic messaging and not start worrying about the portal, which closes on April 30. Beamer said he will begin meetings with every single player at 7 a.m. Monday and it’s fair to assume some will choose to enter the transfer portal after that conversation. And, to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. Guys should be allowed to go where they can play and often a coach will be honest and say, “Look, you have an uphill battle to see the field.”

So get ready for those tweets in the next week.