The University of South Carolina football team hit the practice fields for its first official practice of the 2012 campaign on Friday night. The squad went through a two hour and 15 minute practice session in helmets and shorts at the Bluff Road "Proving Grounds."
Head coach Steve Spurrier, who is beginning his eighth season guiding the Gamecocks, was pleased with the physical condition that the players reported in. "We're in very good shape," said Coach Spurrier. "Our strength coach Joe Connolly and his staff did a super job all summer. It was evident in the way they were able to run around and move and last for a little over two hours tonight."
Friday saw the return of standout junior running back Marcus Lattimore to the practice fields. Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through the 2011 campaign. "Marcus was running around full go as we expected," noted Coach Spurrier. "He said ‘I'm doing everything Coach.' Health-wise everybody is healthy right now. Shon Carson was back. All the guys that had surgeries are ready to go."
Coach Spurrier was also pleased that the Gamecocks are ranked ninth in the preseason Coaches' poll. "It was neat. It's the first time in school history. We love doing some first and that was a first. It's nice, but we haven't talked about it. Our guys know we've got a chance. We'll see how we progress as we go through the season."
Redshirt freshman Tanner McEvoy practiced with the team on Friday following a suspension. "Tanner's back. He's been approved to come back to the team. He got arrested and he will pay his fine."
Coach Spurrier had high praise for a freshman tight end. "Jerell Adams is a ballplayer. He's a very good athlete who can play. You'll hear a lot of him this season."
The Gamecocks will return to the practice fields on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. That practice is open to the public.