Following last week's loss to Auburn, South Carolina Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward was contemplating making a switch at Free Safety. Akeem Auguste, the preseason starter, has struggled making the switch to full-time safety after splitting time there and at corner in 2009. Following Monday night's practice in preparation for the nationally televised match-up with the #1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, Ward says he has decided to go ahead and name D.J. Swearinger as the starter for Saturday's contest.
"Right now we're planning on starting D.J. at Free Safety and Akeem will play. He could play a little corner, too, behind Stephon."
Swearinger says it's no big deal who the starter will be as both will see significant playing time against the Tide.
"Right now I am the starter, but whatever happens happens."
Statistically, Auguste has had a good season. Auguste is currently third on the team in tackles and assists with 13 and seven, respectively. His total of 20 tackles ranks fourth. However, it's the passing game where Auguste has struggled. Ward said that Auguste has struggled with assignments, resulting in busted assignments
That could all change if the other starting safety, DeVonte Holloman, can't go. Holloman suffered a concussion during the third quarter of the Auburn and has been held out of practice since as a precautionary measure. Defensive Back coach Shane Beamer says that Holloman is expected to be back tomorrow.
"He came out today and did a little bit with Coach Fitzgerald, and we're optimistic that he'll practice tomorrow," Beamer said. "He did some running today and some lifting - did not practice - but we're optimistic we'll get him back out tomorrow."
Should Holloman not play on Saturday, Ward says they'll move Akeem back to Free Safety and move D.J. over to Boundary Safety. Beamer says redshirt freshman Corey Addison has been taking all the reps at Boundary Safety with Holloman out and the coaches won't worry if Corey would have to see extended playing time.
"Right now we're going along with the premise that DeVonte will play," Beamer said. "So if that's the case D.J. and Akeem will work as the Free Safety and DeVonte and Corey Addison are working at the Boundary Safety. Right now, with DeVonte not practicing, Corey Addison has actually been taking all the reps - him and Dion LeCorn. He's a tough kid and a smart kid so if we had to go with him we'd feel OK about that."
After allowing Cameron Newton and Michael Dyer to lead a Tiger rushing attack that churned 334 yards rushing, many wondered what happened to the Gamecock defensive front - mainly the leader of the line, Cliff Matthews. After recording 47 tackles and tying Eric Norwood for a team-high seven sacks, Matthews has struggled a bit this season. Matthews has recorded only 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Defensive Line coach Brad Lawing said that a brace on his repaired shoulder has hindered his performance all season.
"He missed two tackles last week because of it," Lawing said. "He's got a brace on it and he can't extend his arm. He's been playing with it the whole season - it's a preventive thing, but it does hinder his performance."
Ward says that the coaches are currently looking into making some changes with the brace to help Matthews return to his old form.
"We were looking at Cliff on film and we think the shoulder brace he's been wearing has limited him a little with his arm so we're probably going to do something to adapt that brace," Ward said. "He hasn't had the use of the shoulder he had redone. He's well, but we have to find a better brace for him to use."
As if seeing Alabama on the schedule wasn't frightening enough, it's even more frightening following their 31-6 beatdown of the Florida Gators. The Tide used three Gator interceptions, 176 rushing yards, and a dominant defensive unit that yielded only 281 total yards to Florida. Beamer summed up the Tide in just one word.
"Impressive," Beamer said. "They did a heck of a job against Florida. They're well-coached, sound, tough, physical. They have a lot of good players and depth - offensively, defensively, special teams - they've got good players everywhere."
After the Gamecock defense gave up 334 rushing yards to the Tigers, the dynamic duo of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and back-up Trent Richardson are licking their chops. Ward believes that the change of offensive style may help the Gamecocks.
"The game will be slower (than Auburn)," Ward said. "Alabama's not going to try and trick you formation-wise, they're not going to run a hurry-up offense, they're gonna line up and say ‘my 11 is better than your 11 and this is what we're gonna do. You've got to stop it.' So I think the game will slow down for our players and I think we'll do a better job of lining up and executing our assignments.
Lawing says the most important thing for the Gamecocks to do is to do what they do and not focus too much on what Alabama does.
"Alabama's a good team," Lawing said. "We're just really focusing on ourselves this week so that we can play the best we can play."
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