COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — It wasn’t the crisp start to bowl camp South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier hoped for Saturday with several players finishing up final exams and not at practice Saturday.
Spurrier said there was confusion about when his team would be wrapped up with fall semester exams so he cut short the planned workout as the 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) began preparations for the Outback Bowl. The players, who hadn’t practiced since a satisfying, 27-17 victory over rival Clemson on Nov. 24, were sent to the weight room after about 75 minutes.
“It was a helter-skelter type practice,” Spurrier said. “The guys that are going to play in the game, they’re all taking finals.”
Exams end Monday, although Spurrier expected things back on track when the team reconvenes Sunday. Spurrier said preparations for No. 19 Michigan, the Gamecocks’ New Year’s Day opponent, will get going then.
Spurrier and his assistants have been on the road recruiting. Spurrier also spent time the past week consulting with injured Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who announced Wednesday he’d give up his senior year in college despite a second significant knee injury.
“Coaches have been traveling around, players taking finals and we’ll really start getting into Michigan and getting game plans ready,” the coach said.
South Carolina won’t have senior receiver D.L. Moore for the bowl game because of a violation of team rules. Spurrier did not detail what rule Moore may have broken. Moore, who started five games this season, had eight catches for 139 yards. Two of his receptions went for touchdowns.
South Carolina’s leading receiver, two-sport standout Bruce Ellington, would play one final game with the basketball team Wednesday night against Appalachian State before returning to the football team fulltime through the bowl game.
Ellington has 38 catches for 564 yards and six touchdowns, all coming in South Carolina’s final seven games. It was originally thought Ellington would be all football once practice began, but “we’re going to turn him loose and let him play” Wednesday night, Spurrier said.
Spurrier also said injured starter Connor Shaw would return to his role under center against Michigan, although backup Dylan Thompson was likely to see action as early as the opening quarter.
Shaw has a sprained left foot and missed the Clemson game. Thompson, though, threw for three touchdowns and 310 yards in the victory over the Tigers.
Spurrier said Shaw ran around some on Saturday and told the coach he’d be able to practice fully in the team’s next workout.
“We’ll just get both of them ready to play,” Spurrier said. “See how it goes.”
If South Carolina hopes to have success against Michigan — and reach 11 victories for a second straight season — it will need its highly regarded defense to lock up quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson.
The Gamecocks feature one of the game’s best in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a consensus All-America who got four first-place votes in Heisman Trophy balloting. One of those came from his coach, the 1966 Heisman winner at Florida who says he’s always votes one of his players for the award.
Clowney, a sophomore, was tied with Florida State star Bjoern Werner for first in the country with 13 sacks, 4 1-2 of those coming in the victory over Clemson three weeks ago. Plenty of Heisman voters might join Spurrier next fall in putting Clowney on their ballots with a similar season.
“Oh, I don’t need to worry about that. We’re worried about Michigan right now,” Spurrier said. “But it would be hard for a defensive guy to win it, because (Notre Dame linebacker) Manti Te’o did have a super year.”
Te’o finished second behind Heisman winner quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. Spurrier said he voted for Manziel and Te’o behind Clowney.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Friday his team, too, juggled practice and final exams. “You go through all those kind of things and find the times that you can” practice, he said. “We like how they’ve come out. I know they’ve all had good weeks, lifting and running and technique work. It’s all been positive.”
Spurrier says his early look at Michigan shows strength on defense and the ability to make big plays on offense. “Hopefully, won’t be too tough to hit a few (long) balls on, but who knows?” Spurrier said. “They’re a very good team.”