COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sat out Saturday's scrimmage because of a sore shoulder, while Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw was off target in his first action since offseason foot surgery.
Still, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier thought it was a solid showing his offense in the 90-minute session at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"Overall, I would say the offense played a little bit better today," Spurrier said. "Some of the second (team) offensive linemen showed some improvement, so that was encouraging."
It's hard for Gamecock fans to be hopeful when they see Clowney in street clothes instead of his fearsome No. 7 uniform. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said there's nothing to worry about.
Ward said Clowney's condition wasn't serious and the defensive lineman wasn't expected to play much anyway as coaches got a look at South Carolina's younger defenders.
"I guess he bruised it, but it's fine," Ward said. "We weren't going to play him anyway."
Count on the Gamecocks to protect their defensive leader throughout fall camp as the team prepares for its opener against North Carolina on Aug. 29. Clowney is the reigning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting. He had 13 sacks and a school-record 23 1-2 tackles for loss last fall.
What Ward needed to see was his young linebackers — the Gamecocks lost five seniors from one of the most solid groups on the 2012 defense. In addition, one of the expected starters for this year in Cedrick Cooper has been out with dislocated left elbow.
Linebacker T.J. Holloman led the way with an interception of Shaw early in the scrimmage.
"I think they're doing some good things, but again, they're not there yet," Ward said.
Neither, apparently, is Shaw, who was 3 of 10 passing with an interception. South Carolina's senior holds the school's best winning percentage at 17-3 as a starter. But he hadn't seen any live action since coming out in the final minute of South Carolina's 33-28 Outback Bowl victory over Michigan.
While that game will be most remembered for Clowney's helmet-popping hit on Wolverines running back Vincent Smith, it was Shaw's backup, Dylan Thompson, who came and delivered the game-winning, 32-yard touchdown throw to receiver Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left.
Thompson also passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns as the Gamecocks won at Clemson, 27-17, with Shaw sidelined because of injury.
Spurrier has flatly stated several times this summer that Shaw's the starter, although, he would try and work Thompson into the mix.
Thompson led the Gamecocks on two touchdown drives during the scrimmage. He finished 5 of 7 with 74 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Spurrier said Shaw's back was a bit sore after more than a week of practice. "He's been running around and getting a lot of snaps. He might be a little weary-legged right now," Spurrier said. "He wasn't as good as normal."
Spurrier liked the performance of his running backs, who'll try and make up for the loss of Marcus Lattimore, the team's leading rusher the past three seasons.
Brandon Wilds led with 34 yards on five carries followed by Mike Davis with 27 yards on four rushes. Shon Carson rushed for 25 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Wilds was also the leading receiver with two catches, although the most crowd-pleasing may have been Shaq Roland's 55-yard catch and run on a pass from community college transfer Perry Orth.
"The offense did some good things," said Spurrier, starting his ninth season with South Carolina. "I think it's the first scrimmage since I've been here that there wasn't a punt."