Ingram works at tight end

For the third week in a row, instead of answering questions about the upcoming game, Coach Spurrier was asked about off-field issues. This week it was the dismissal of tight end Weslye Saunders Wednesday afternoon. As expected, Spurrier had little to say about Saunders, and instead focused on the upcoming game with Furman Saturday night.

"As many of you have heard, Weslye Saunders is not a member of our team anymore, and that's about all we need to say about it," Spurrier said following practice. "We wish him the best in whatever he does after this. He's on scholarship through the year and hopefully he'll stay and graduate."

After getting that out of the way, it was all business and talking about Furman for Spurrier.

"We had a pretty good practice today," Spurrier said. "Looking forward to the game Saturday night. Furman is a good team - has tremendous tradition up there - and they're gonna come and give us their best shot. We'll be ready to play Saturday night."

Spurrier says there's not much to go on with the Furman defense after the Paladins cruised to a 45-15 victory over Colgate last week. With the game well out of hand most of the way, Furman didn't have to do a lot defensively. They only gave up 260 total yards against Colgate.

"They only played one game, and they only played Colgate so they haven't been tested a lot yet," Spurrier said. "But they've got an active bunch of guys. They're well-coached, in position, don't make a lot of errors so if you're gonna beat them you have to execute."

With Saunders officially off the team, Spurrier and his staff can focus on who they have. Patrick DiMarco and Justice Cunningham have seen the most action this season. The duo only has three receptions for 25 yards, but have been credited with great blocking through the first two games. The Gamecocks were working another guy at tight end today; 6'2, 260-pound defensive tackle Melvin Ingram.

"We actually had Melvin Ingram over at tight end today," Spurrier said. "We're gonna try and double-train him as D-tackle and tight end. Melvin's pretty good in there. He's sort of an offensive talent. He can catch, run, throw, all that stuff."

Though the Paladins only gave up 260 total yards against Colgate, 209 of those yards came on the ground. That has to have running back Marcus Lattimore licking his chops. Most Gamecock fans have probably memorized his 37-carry, 182 yard performance against the Bulldogs that has garnered him national attention. None may be quite as impressed as running back coach Jay Graham.

"He was very impressive," Graham said. "His pad leverage, his leg drive, his ability to manage everything in the pass game. You got some freshmen that can come in and can run the ball but the most impressive thing is in the passing game, pass protection, all those different things that you have to do as a running back is pretty good."

Perhaps the most impressive aspect Lattimore showed was his ability to break tackles. Spurrier and Graham have both discussed his pad leverage and his ability to stay low yet remain balanced enough to shed defenders. Graham was very impressed with all the broken tackles Lattimore forced.

"The biggest thing he did is he broke a lot of tackles," Graham said. "He did some good things in the run game - caught the ball well on that 16-yard gainer. He managed the run game well. It wasn't always big gainers. It was a lot of 5, 6, 7-yard runs. As the game went on he continued to break tackles and he's really coming along well, but the biggest thing now is it's going to get harder and harder. He's been doing a good job of just preparing for the next game."

With Lattimore receiving 37 carries, that meant the other running backs got the ball very little. Brain Maddox got two carries at the end of the first half, but it was the Lattimore show the rest of the way. When you have such a talented group of players with guys like Lattimore, Maddox, Kenny Miles, and Jarvis Giles someone is not going to get many carries. Graham emphasized that just because certain guys don't get many carries in one game doesn't mean they won't be the guy leading the team the next game.

"We talk about when a guy starts to get the hot hand, whoever it may be, you gotta let him finish the game," Graham said. "That's just how it goes. We talked about doing some things as far as substitution, but when a guy gets a hot hand let him finish the game. Kenny got in there and got some plays. Brian got in there and got some plays, but we hope to get them some more carries as the season goes on."

The guy that appears to be the odd man out right now is Giles. After having an impressive spring and summer, Giles seemed primed to battle Miles and Lattimore for carries. However, after a shoulder injury sidelined him prior to the season, Giles has been put behind the 8-ball. Giles only has two carries for 12 yards through two games. None feel for him worse than Graham.

"He's competing hard," Graham said. "Nobody feels for him more than I do ‘cause it's a frustrating situation. But the best thing to do is to go out and compete every single day, and once your opportunity comes along you take hold of it. That's something that he's starting to understand. He just has to continue to work every day, and every rep he gets he gives it 100% and he's doing that. It's just real competitive at our position."

Spurrier would love the opportunity to give some of the other guys a lot of reps Saturday night, but is quick to remind fans of the struggles the Gamecocks have had when hosting in-state FCS programs.

"If the opportunity presents itself," Spurrier said of getting some other guys in there. "We don't ever approach a game thinking we're going to empty the bench. Those Wofford games - two of them - we barely got by with a win. Furman - I think - is a very comparable team to Wofford. Hopefully we're a little better - I think we're a little bit better - than we were back then, but time will tell."

Only time will tell, but with all the talented players on this football team, you know there's guys just chomping at the bit to get their opportunity to shine. They may just get that opportunity under the lights Saturday night against the Paladins.

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