Published November 20, 2014
Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders has spoken with NCAA investigators about his attendance at a party in South Beach this past May. He is also among several players told by Spurrier to end their stays at a local hotel and find other living arrangements.
Spurrier said Wednesday he had no information about what the NCAA might do. But historically, Spurrier said players who are found to have received extra benefits sit out a game or two before they can play again.
"If that happens, we'll accept it and move on," Spurrier said. "But it may not happen. We don't know."
Saunders was suspended by Spurrier on Monday for violating team rules and has not returned to practice. Spurrier said the suspension was not connected to the NCAA probe or Saunders' stay at the hotel.
South Carolina opens the season a week from Thursday against Southern Mississippi at Williams-Brice Stadium after a summer camp filled with off-the-field distractions.
Saunders has been at the center of most of those, yet had seemingly pushed through it to have a solid camp and even drew Spurrier's praise for his commitment and physical fitness. Saunders, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound senior, led all Gamecock receivers in last Saturday's scrimmage with four catches for 63 yards.
Saunders is not the only player to miss practice time. Defensive backs Akeem Auguste and C.C. Whitlock missed Tuesday's practice and defensive lineman Ladi Ajiboye was late because of what assistant coach Ellis Johnson said were issues about their hotel stays.
"I can't comment much on it," Johnson said. "They're cooperating with the process that we're going through right now."
All three were back working out on Saturday, although defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward — also in charge of the secondary — remained unsure if Auguste, the starting free safety, Whitlock, a reserve cornerback, would be available for Southern Miss.
"That's in the hands of the administration and the NCAA and we'll play with what we've got," Ward said.
Saunders' likelihood of playing grows less with each practice missed. He was the Gamecocks' third-leading receiver last season with 32 catches and is considered a likely early round pick in next spring's NFL draft.
If he can't go, the Gamecocks would be left with little used backups Justice Cunningham and Mike Triglia. Fullback Patrick DiMarco had also practiced at tight end, but he's been limited because of a cracked bone in his left forearm.