South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier sent out a plea to Gamecock fans; play nice with GameDay's Lee Corso.
"I just want to encourage all of our fans and our students to really be a class act this weekend," . Spurrier said following Wednesday's practice. "GameDay is here. The whole nation will be watching. I think the last time they were here, some of our students or fans were giving Lee Corso some grief."
Spurrier is speaking of the GameDay trip to Columbia in 2006 when the Gamecocks hosted Tennessee, a game in which the Vols won 31-24.
Corso, who seems to thrive being the ‘bad guy' on the GameDay set, may be the most hated man in Columbia on Saturday outside of Alabama coach Nick Saban. He has said that not even Spurrier could win an SEC Championship at South Carolina and that he would get down on his hands and news and crawl across the Georgia Dome if South Carolina ever won the SEC, something Spurrier noted on Wednesday.
"I know he did say that it's almost impossible to win the SEC here, but I guarantee he'd love to see South Carolina win it," Spurrier said. "He would love to crawl across Williams-Brice Stadium and salute the fans. That's what he said he'd do if we ever win it. He was just trying to mention how difficult it was since we've not really been all that close in our history."
What may have drawn the most ire from Corso towards South Carolina was the 2007 campaign by the Gamecocks in which Corso's words were used prior to 2001in an effort to show Corso that it can be done in Columbia. Spurrier says that despite the on-air jabs, Corso is a good person.
Lee Corso is a good person and a good man," Spurrier continued. "I guarantee he roots for us most of the time. I hope our fans and students will really show the country that we are a class bunch of people here in Columbia and we'll have a big Saturday."
Spurrier seems to be in rare form this week leading up to Saturday's game with #1 Alabama. From Tuesday's jabs at members of the media and LSU head coach Les Miles during his weekly press conference to Wednesday's comments towards Corso, Spurrier seems to be in a better mood this week than he was last week following the loss to Auburn. One might say he hasn't sounded this way since the week of the Georgia game.
Whether or not he will be as happy following Saturday's game as he was following the Georgia game depends largely on the play of T.J. Johnson, Garrett Chisolm, Rokevious Watkins, Kyle Nunn, and Terrence Campbell. They will be facing the task of playing against the third ranked team in SEC in rushing yards and the #1-scoring defense in the country in Alabama. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott says it's no surprise that the Tide defense is ranked so high.
"They're going to be the best we face, without a doubt," Elliott said. "They're extremely strong and athletic - giving up 100 (101) yards rushing. They've got a great defense."
While the Tide defensive line only has three sacks so far this season, they are very effective in disrupting the opposing offense. The Nick Saban defense is designed to confuse the opposing offense, which it has done well so far this season. The Tide will bring pressure from all over the field and often times a hole in the defensive line at the beginning of the play will quickly be filled by a stunting defender. That has led to 20 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hurries, and 11 interceptions.
"They've got an odd package where they bring a lot of pressure and they play a 4-man front, but they're just so great skill players," Elliott said. "Even the big guys up front can do so much. We've got to play great to win."
Last season, the Gamecocks only managed 64 rushing yards in Tuscaloosa and 278 total yards. It will take a much better effort up front by the Gamecock offensive line. One guy that was not there last season is Chisolm. Last week Chisolm made the list for the William V. Campbell Trophy. The Campbell Trophy is awarded to the best college football player that with the best combination of academics, community service, and on-field performance. Elliott says that it's a testimony to the type of person Chisolm is.
"The man works hard," Elliott said. "He works hard out here in practice. Hats off to him. He comes in here and walks on a year ago - this time a year ago he had just started to surface. Garrett hasn't played a whole lot of football, but he works so hard in the classroom and on the field it's just a testament to how he was raised and what kind of person he is. I'm really proud of him."
If the Gamecocks want to beat the Tide, they will have to take care of the ball and not put themselves in situations where the Tide defense knows what's coming. Elliott believes a lot of that will be based on the protection his line provides for Stephen Garcia.
"It's extremely important, but if we can establish a run game we might not have to protect so much which is something that no one's been able to do against Alabama," Elliott said. "We've got to protect, we've got to be smart scheme-wise, we can't give up cheap easy sacks and put ourselves in 3rd-and-18's. That's something we've worked hard on this week and we've got to go out there and compete. I think we have a pretty good plan."
Running back coach Jay Graham is telling his guys to be ready for a physical game.
"It's going to be a physical game," Graham said. "They tackle well, they try to constrict everything down in the box, and they pride themselves in stopping the run. So I've told my running backs ‘you're going to have to break tackles' in this kind of game - you've got to keep your pad leverage low and ball security is key."
If the Gamecock running backs want to see the epitome of breaking tackles, they won't have to look no farther than across the field Saturday afternoon. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is well-known for his ability to break tackles. Graham says his guys see quite a bit of Ingram during film sessions.
"I usually go back and look at film and do a tackle-breaking tape and he's showed up a couple of times on the tackle-breaking tapes," Graham said. "I'll take the best backs in the conference and break it down and show them different ways you can break tackles. He was on there a good bit."
Freshman Marcus Lattimore will receive most of the carries and will be playing in the biggest game of his young career. Lattimore, who has rushed for 378 yards and 6 touchdowns, will be facing the best defense he has faced since becoming a Gamecock. Graham says he hopes Lattimore will be up to the challenge.
"In a big time game on a big stage every young player wants to play well so I'm hoping that he does," Graham said.
Though Lattimore will receive most of the carries, the other running backs will see some carries too. Expect to see Brian Maddox and possibly Kenny Miles getting some carries this week.
"They'll be ready to rotate in," Graham said. "We'll see what type of game it is and that will determine how much they rotate in."
While no one will know how this team will play until they step out on the field Saturday afternoon, Elliott says there's a lot of excitement at practice this week.
"It's been a pretty good week," Elliott said. "Practice has been up-tempo a little bit, guys are having a little bit of fun out here. Of course when you play the #1 team in the country you kind of get excited about it. It's a chance to gage yourself against the best in the country and that's all we can ask for. I think they're excited and up for the challenge."
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