Robertson Still With Team
The biggest news coming out of Columbia on the defensive side of the ball today was the rumor that defensive tackle Travian Robertson had gone home to North Carolina for an illness with his father. Robertson practiced tonight as the team spent the evening at the indoor practice facility in preparation for Saturday's showdown for the SEC Championship with Auburn in the Georgia Dome.
"I don't know anything about it," Assistant head coach Ellis Johnson said when asked about Robertson's issue. Johnson said that Robertson will be ready to go Saturday.
The major task for Robertson and the Gamecock defense will be stopping the most electrifying player in college football in Auburn's Cameron Newton. Newton is the Heisman leader and has been officially cleared by the NCAA to participate in Saturday's game and Auburn's bowl game.
"Nobody has stopped him," Johnson said. "We've just got to try and tackle well and play our assignments. We'll try and guess some things to do at the right time - load up on the run and protect on the pass - but Auburn possesses a lot of problems."
Newton had his coming out party against the Gamecocks and one of his best performances this season. Newton rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 158 yards passing and two additional touchdowns to account for 334 yards and five touchdowns in Auburn's 35-27 win over the Gamecocks.
If the Gamecocks have something going for them, it's the fact that they've seen Newton before. Newton had not had the type of game that everyone has come to expect until the game against the Gamecocks. That's an advantage according to Johnson.
"Our kids have played against him now," Johnson said. "You can see on film how good he is but until you try and tackle him you don't know how physical and strong he is. Our players are educated on just how tough he is to put on the ground."
The thing about stopping the Tiger offense is that they have other playmakers to go along with Newton. Running back Michael Dyer, who rushed for 100 yards against the Gamecocks, has rushed for 886 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Fellow running back Onterio McCalebb, who rushed for 56 yards on just seven carries against the Gamecocks, has rushed for 733 yards and nine touchdowns.
"They're good players," Johnson said. "They've both got good speed. Dyer's a good runner on the inside and McCalebb is good on the ends. He runs like a wide receiver. It's kind of like a wishbone - you've got three options every time."
With the Gamecocks playing for an SEC title for the first time in school history, excitement is at an all-time high in Columbia. While the players share that excitement, they have remained focused on the practice field.
"We haven't had a bad week really all year," Johnson said. "We had a little lack of focus the Furman week and a couple of other weeks, but our kids' attitudes have been good all year. I'm not saying they're not excited about what they've accomplished, but there hasn't been a difference on the practice field."
The team will be leaving for Atlanta early Friday fternoon.
Approx. 1:30 - Coach's press conference
Team Practices - 3:00-6:30 Auburn - 3:00-4:30 USC - 4:30-6:00
FanFare - 1:00-9:00
FanFare - 9:00-4:00
Pre-Game Meal - 1:00
2010 SEC Championship Game - 4:00
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