Gamecocks tabbed 9-point favorites in opener against Aggies

Jadeveon Clowney is two weeks from potentially becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington are gone. Yet, South Carolina’s football program continues to draw high expectations.

In an early indication of what the football season could bring, the Gamecocks were tabbed nine-point favorites Thursday for their 2014 opener against Texas A&M, according to 5Dimes. It’s the first 2014 point spread released to date, though more will come this summer.

South Carolina isn’t the only program losing valuable players. Texas A&M is trying to replace three potential top-10 picks in the NFL Draft: Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel, left tackle Jake Matthews, wide receiver Mike Evans.

So the early line is likely founded in a belief the Aggies will have a harder time replacing their superstars than the Gamecocks. It’s a fair assumption. While Texas A&M has question marks at quarterback, left tackle and No. 1 receiver, none of those positions are concerns for South Carolina.

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How ESPN produced its South Carolina-themed ad for SEC Network

COLUMBIA – Katherine Boidy had high expectations as she settled in before kickoff of South Carolina’s game against Florida last fall.

A South Carolina alumnus, Boidy experienced the magic of Sandstorm many times. She’d seen Williams-Brice Stadium illuminate at night. She basked in the raw exuberance of more than 80,000 Gamecocks fans welcoming their team to the field.

It’s why Boidy, ESPN’s associate director of marketing, thought a commercial showcasing Sandstorm was a perfect addition to the SEC Network’s 14 ads depicting a tradition from every league school. She returned to campus last fall along with a film crew, determined to capture the magic.

Boidy wanted the scoreboard to light up with the crowd. Instead, the crew was greeted by South Carolina’s 19-14 win, the lowest-scoring game of the season.

“That made me nervous,” Boidy said. “We were hoping to have a lot of instances to shoot Sandstorm. There were only three or four moments, and it can easily be double that.”

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New ESPN ad for SEC Network showcases the magic of Sandstorm

ESPN unveiled its 30-second SEC Network ads for all 14 league schools Tuesday morning, including a spot that showcases the core of South Carolina’s game day atmosphere.

The Gamecocks’ ad features the magic of Sandstorm, from laying out team towels on Williams-Brice Stadium’s bleachers to the collective celebration as players take the field. It was shot last fall when South Carolina hosted Florida, a game that ended with a 19-14 win.

Here is South Carolina’s ad:

The new SEC Network ads take one intimate piece of each league school’s tradition and shares it with the public. From Rocky Top to M-I-Z-Z-O-U, Mike the Tiger to Reveille, Gator Chomp to Woo Pig Sooie, Bear Bryant to Herschel Walker, they are windows into each campus’ soul.

If you want to watch all 14, click here.

Frank Martin: ‘I think my career would’ve been terminated a long time ago if I didn’t have positive relationships with my players’

At the end of a 30-minute news conference wrapping up South Carolina’s basketball season, Frank Martin asked for closure.

South Carolina’s second-year coach can’t escape questions about how he relates to players. It’s a fair inquiry, given the coach’s suspension in South Carolina’s regular-season finale at Mississippi State following an incident on the bench with freshman guard Duane Notice.

Still, the incident has followed Martin the past six weeks, and it’s not like he’s been coy about addressing it. Martin has apologized multiple times, answered every conceivable question. So when he was once again asked about his relationship with players Monday, Martin understandably had enough.

“I don’t mean to be rude, because I don’t like being rude, but, please, all you guys in this room (the media), let’s not talk about that moment again,” Martin said. “I addressed that, it’s over and done with. If I behave like that again, then ask me the question. But let’s move on from that. If you want to know about my relationship with my players, go ask them.

“I’m tired of being on that horse. I created it, that’s why I’ve addressed it. I don’t want to keep talking about it.”

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Gamecocks baseball drops out of the top 10 for first time this season

South Carolina’s baseball team was ranked No. 11 in Baseball America’s top 25 poll Monday, falling out of the top 10 for the first time this season.

The Gamecocks had been ranked in the top five for most of the year, including No. 5 last week. They were ranked No. 1 for two weeks in March. But, after an undefeated non-conference season that included a three-game sweep of Clemson, South Carolina has had a tough run through the first half of the SEC season.

South Carolina lost a three-game home series to Florida last weekend, with the Gators completing comeback wins Saturday and Sunday. South Carolina led both of those games in the eighth inning, but couldn’t duplicate the late-inning magic that has been its trademark this season.

“This program prides itself on playing with toughness and playing with pride and playing with emotion,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said after the loss Sunday. “When the chips are down, I think we can circle the wagons with the best of them. That’s what I expect to see.

“We all know what this program is about and how our guys respond to adversity. When our backs are against the wall, we tend to play our best. That’s what I hope to see, and that’s what I think I will see.”

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Spurrier hands out Gamecocks’ annual spring awards

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier issued the program’s annual spring awards during halftime of the spring game Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Here’s the list of who got what:

Legend Award: Marcus Lattimore

Ernest Brooks (MVP of Clemson game): Connor Shaw

Capital One Bowl Big-Play Players: Bruce Ellington (offense)/Victor Hampton (defense)

Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student/Athlete Representative of the University of South Carolina: Dylan Thompson

Joe Morrison Offensive Player of the Spring: Pharoh Cooper

Rex Enright Defensive Player of the Spring: Abu Lamin

Jim Carlen Special Teams Player of the Spring: Elliott Fry

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Paul Finebaum ‘deeply regrets’ calling Jadeveon Clowney the ‘biggest joke in college football’ last fall

Sports talk radio host Paul Finebaum offered a lengthy apology Saturday morning for calling former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney “the biggest joke in college football” last fall.

Finebaum, making his first trip to Columbia since those comments last fall, said he crossed a line speaking his mind before he had all the facts. He called South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner two days after his comment, explaining himself. He also said he’ll reach out to Jadeveon Clowney and personally apologize in the future.

Here’s what apology and explanation Finebaum gave Saturday:

“I had a fascinating first year at ESPN. When you’re a commentator, you speak your mind. You don’t get mulligans. If there was something I could take back, it would be that moment.

“It was on ESPN the Monday after. We sat there. They played Spurrier’s comment. I reacted, because I read a lot into what (Spurrier) said, and I deeply regret it. I called Ray two days later after he spoke out in Fayetteville. (Tanner lambasted Finebaum for the comment.) We had a great conversation. It wasn’t one of these screaming matches. I just said, ‘I want to explain to you, I didn’t mean it.’ And he explained to me what he said.

“I do regret not personally apologizing to Jadeveon Clowney, because frankly, I will. I should. And I’m going to make an effort to. I just thought I’d let everything cool down. It was the wrong thing to say for someone in my position. Just because you think something at the moment doesn’t mean you should say it. I knew better, and I said it, and I think it was hurtful, and I’m truly sorry.

“This is my first trip back to Columbia since then, and I thought I would wait to use this opportunity to address it, because it is an elephant in the room. I’ve been reminded by many, many people. I’m rooting for him. I hope he’s the first player taken. I think he will be the first player taken. He’s a young person who, for whatever reason, had a couple of off games. I didn’t know all the reasons. Because of the relationship I had with Spurrier, I should have called him. But instead I interpreted that he must really be mad to make that statement, and I reacted to Spurrier instead of thinking, ‘This is a young kid who’s doing his best and is just having a tough time.’ For someone who’s been in the business for 30 years, who’s done a lot of the things I’ve done as a writer and broadcaster, I should’ve known better.”

Rory Anderson’s status for next season unknown after successful surgery Tuesday

South Carolina tight end Rory “Busta” Anderson had successful surgery Tuesday morning to repair a torn triceps muscle suffered during the Gamecocks’ scrimmage this past weekend.

“Surgery went well today. Feeling pretty good after & ready to start the return” Anderson tweeted.

Now, the question becomes how long it will take for Anderson to return to the field. After practice Tuesday, Steve Spurrier gave no definitive timeline for Anderson’s return.

“He could be back next year,” Spurrier said. “We’ll see how his physical condition is. He does have a redshirt year available, if we need to do that. We’ll try to do what’s best for Busta, and what’s best for the team and go from there.”

Anderson was primed to be the Gamecocks’ starting tight end as a senior this fall. If he’s unable to play, Jerell Adams would likely fill the starting spot.

Adams caught 13 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore last season. Anderson caught 17 passes for 235 yards.

Rory Anderson tears triceps during scrimmage Saturday, recovery timetable unknown

South Carolina tight end Rory Anderson tore his triceps Saturday during a scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium, an injury that will force him to miss the final week of spring practices – at the very least.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior shined early in the scrimmage. Anderson made Gamecocks safety Chaz Elder miss a tackle in the open field and sprinted for a 52-yard catch. But that was the final pass he’ll catch this spring, if not longer.

“He was stiff arming a guy, and pulled it or something,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Hopefully that can be repaired by the time August gets here.”

Anderson will be evaluated to see if he has a partial or complete tear of the triceps muscle. When it comes to recovery time, the difference is significant.

A complete tear could force Anderson to miss at least some of the 2014 season. It would be a disappointing blow for a player who seemed primed for a big year after catching 17 passes for 235 yards last fall.

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ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay: ‘I just don’t know how you pass on Clowney’

A year ago, it was automatic. Jadeveon Clowney was the top professional prospect in college football. He would be drafted by whichever team was unfortunate enough to have the top pick in the NFL Draft.

Then Clowney played his junior season.

His stats dropped dramatically.

Things don’t look so automatic anymore.

Clowney had 10 fewer sacks and 12 fewer tackles for loss than his sophomore season. His three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss even trailed fellow South Carolina defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles. Now, whichever team drafts Clowney must answer where the lost production went.

After evaluating Clowney’s film from last season, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay doesn’t believe it’s hard to explain.

“I thought he was the most schemed-against player I’ve ever evaluated,” McShay said. “Double teams, singles and then chips, triple teams, throwing away from him to wear him down, running away from him to wear him down. Then when they did come play side, then the doubles and triples were back on.

“I think his production was more in the disruption and the occupying of offensive players. So it was up to everyone else to step up, and most of the time they did.”

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