Wilson Will Play Against Auburn

Ellis Johnson says Shaq will play early and often Saturday night against the Tigers

Shaq is back. Assistant Head Coach Ellis Johnson met with the media following Thursday's practice and Johnson says that you can expect to see Shaq Wilson's return to the field in Saturday night's match-up with the Auburn Tigers.

"He's done well," Johnson said of Shaq's progress in practice this week. "He's been out a while so a few things pop up here and there - a little rusty - but physically he's fine. I'm sure he's not in the best condition of his life cause he really hasn't been able to do the kind of things you've got to to do to be in top shape."

Wilson severely pulled his hamstring on the second day of fall practice and has been held out of practice until this week. Wilson, the Gamecocks' leading tackler from a year ago, has been working hard to put himself in a position to return to the line-up. That return will be this Saturday night. Johnson is not sure if he will start, but you can expect to see a lot of #16 out on the field.

"I don't know (if he will start)," Johnson said. "I'm gonna talk it over a little bit with him. He's probably had as good a practice as any of them, he's a returning starter, he's been a leading tackler on the team. He deserves to start. So does (Tony) Straughter. He's gonna play early and play a lot."

The Gamecocks have also been without one of their cornerbacks for most of the week. C.C. Whitlock, a Junior from Chester, is at home mourning the loss of his brother who was killed Sunday night. Whitlock is expected to be back with the team tomorrow in time to leave for Auburn.

"He's gonna come back," Johnson said. "Everybody has to deal with things on their own term, so I don't know how much it will bother him or affect him. He stayed around for a couple of days here, got some support from his friends, and then had to go home with his family and obviously be there. We don't know what frame of mind he'll be in, but hopefully he'll be OK and ready to go."

The Gamecock defense will be tested by Auburn's quarterback, Cam Newton. Newton is averaging 175 yards passing per game with 7 touchdowns, but also leads the team in rushing with 103 yards per game and 2 touchdowns. He's only been intercepted once this season. Johnson thinks the key to containing Newton is to confuse him.

"What everybody has to remember is that Cam is a young player," Johnson said. "I don't know the system or how many different reads he's got to know - pass protection calls and all that. I don't know if they ask a lot of him to do that or they don't. He's making some really good throws - he can throw any throw that's been invented. Is he making them consistently and accurately, I don't know. I've seen him throw a lot of balls that can really stretch you vertically and horizontally. He can get that ball out there on the quick throws and, boy, he can throw it a mile on the deep balls and catch you in some coverages where you've got one out there who's living alone for four or five seconds. I think he's a big time threat with both his arm and his feet."

Newton will certainly pose a threat to a Gamecock secondary that has giving up a lot of yardage through the air. The Gamecocks are currently ranked 12th in the conference in passing yards given up, giving up nearly 268 yards per game. Johnson says the secondary will be challenged early and often against the Tigers.

"They all do," Johnson said of the secondary being challenged. "A lot of their deep balls are thrown out on the boundary - a lot of those double moves to get people singled up on corners, but they'll all be equally tested. A lot of times it's how much they help each other."

Despite giving up a lot of yardage between the 20's, the Gamecock secondary has stepped up inside the red zone along with the rest of the defense. The Gamecocks have only given up 2 defensive touchdowns this season, none of which were inside the red zone. If the Gamecocks can limit the big plays and continue their great play inside the red zone, they may be returning to Columbia with a win Saturday night.

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