South Carolina Football: Final Winners and Losers from Spring Ball
South Carolina spring football season is done, so it's time to look at the Gamecocks' winners and losers.
The Gamecocks answered some questions, especially on the defensive side of the ball, though there is still a lot of work to be done to have the team prepared for the fall.
The offense saw a lot of movement among the skills positions.
With spring being the time for players to work their way up the depth charts, South Carolina saw a few players really stand out. But, there are always a few players who slide down the chart.
Here are three winners and the three losers from the South Carolina Gamecocks' spring ball.
Winner: Connor Mitch
Connor Mitch is somewhat of the golden boy of South Carolina's future at quarterback. And he made a lot of progress toward being the No. 2 quarterback this fall.
Right now, Dylan Thompson is a good distance ahead of Mitch and the rest of the quarterbacks on the roster, though Mitch could continue to make up ground if he continues with this quick progression.
Mitch offers mobility, an area where Thompson is not exactly gifted. He extends plays and adds another dimension to the offense while still maintaining a strong presence as a passer.
When Perry Orth pushed Mitch after Brendan Nosovitch slid out of contention for the backup role, Mitch elevated his level of play despite being a young player.
Mitch has a bright future and made a strong case this spring that his future is about to become the present.
Loser: Na'Ty Rodgers
Na'Ty Rodgers is a big, powerful lineman with very good footwork for his size. He had everything to lose.
Early on, Rodgers had the the inside track to being the starter at right guard, even ahead of Mike Matulis, who is now the projected starter. But Rodgers' fate changed with his off-field incident involving alcohol.
Head coach Steve Spurrier quickly slapped Rodgers with a suspension, and he missed a little bit of practice time. The incident also seemed to affect Rodgers' play, as he tapered off during the backstretch of the spring season.
Rodgers clearly made a mistake. South Carolina's staff hopes it was a one time deal and this is not a character issue that will exist in the future.
Rodgers is a young kid in a high-pressure situation as a Division I college player in the SEC. I'm not saying what he did should be overlooked, but the South Carolina staff should help build this kid's character and get his confidence back, because he will be valuable in the future or as a backup this season.
Winner: Brison Williams
Brison Williams really showed how valuable he is for this young Gamecocks secondary by proving his versatility.
As a safety who shifted to cornerback for snaps due to the lack of any depth at the position, Williams made his case as a potential starter at cornerback this fall.
He showed he can cover players right off the line of scrimmage rather than being more of an in-space, center-field coverage player like when he played safety.
Williams still makes the most sense as a really good strong safety, but South Carolina has flexibility at safety, whereas the cornerback position will depend on the incoming freshman trio of Wesley Green, Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith.
Williams also showed great leadership skills, which is something the Gamecocks will need among the young secondary players this fall.
Loser: Rory Anderson
It's hard to place Rory "Busta" Anderson on the loser list, but I have no choice.
Anderson is an athletic, long-bodied tight end who could have been poised for a big season. However, he tore his triceps and underwent surgery in April.
Unless your name is Ray Lewis, and you can miraculously recover from a brutal injury in a few weeks and then win a Super Bowl, you are going to miss a lot of time. Six months is a good estimate for the amount of time Anderson will miss.
This is all unfortunate for Anderson, who is entering his senior season with NFL potential.
Anderson is definitely out until the fall and will more than likely end up missing most—if not all—of the 2014 season. Torn triceps are an uncommon and painful injury, and it's not worth risking Anderson's health by rushing him back onto the field.
The good news for South Carolina is Jerell Adams and Drew Owens provide solid depth at tight end in Anderson's absence.
Winner: Carlton Heard
Carlton Heard joined the team last spring but sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. During the spring, with the opportunity to get onto the field this fall, Heard really stood out from the pack.
He looked great as a route-runner during the spring game while also displaying his consistent hands. Heard impressed coaches during practices, too.
He has average size, and wide receiver is a bit crowded right now. Pharoh Cooper, Shaq Roland, Nick Jones, K.J. Brent, Shamier Jeffery and Damiere Byrd make it difficult for Heard to crack the rotation.
The departure of Bruce Ellington to the draft opens up a little room for Heard to work his way into the mix as maybe the fifth or sixth receiver on the depth chart. That should get him some playing time as a spot substitute.
Heard has earned time on the field.
Loser: Brendan Nosovitch
Nosovitch seemed to be the No. 2 guy for the fall, but that was before Connor Mitch made up a lot of ground with quick progress and promising performances on the practice field.
Nosovitch looked uncomfortable throwing the football this spring. Whether it was his decision making or just not throwing a clean ball for his receivers to catch, Nosovitch struggled.
The one bright spot of Nosovitch's game was his scrambling. He was comfortable with tucking the football and running, but that isn't the element of the quarterback position Spurrier wants to see out of Nosovitch. South Carolina expected accurate passing and smart decisions out of Nosovitch and didn't get either.
This spring leaves Nosovitch tumbling down the depth chart. Unless he gets his act together, Mitch will definitely be the backup and Orth could end up as the third-string quarterback.
Nosovitch definitely didn't expect to be in this position at this point of his career with the Gamecocks.