Gamecocks Begin Bowl Week Practice

The South Carolina football team began bowl week practice Monday at the Atlanta Falcons indoor practice facility in Flowery Branch. The practice - originally scheduled at Decatur High - was moved due to cold weather. Several members of the coaching staff and defense were available after practice.

The South Carolina football team arrived in Atlanta Sunday afternoon despite the snowy conditions that blanketed the east coast. Except for one. Safety Corey Addison got stuck in Jacksonville, Florida and was unable to be with his teammates for last night's meal and game night at Dave and Buster's in Marietta, Georgia. He arrived safely Monday morning to join the rest of the team.

The team was scheduled to open bowl week with a practice at Decatur High School Monday afternoon, but once arriving there coaches deemed it too chilly with temperatures hoovering in the low 40s. The team followed Florida State's lead and hopped back on the bus and took a 45 minute ride to Flowery Branch - home of quarterback Connor Shaw and women's basketball player Courtney Newton - to practice at the Atlanta Falcons' indoor facility.

"It's a good thing for us," defensive lineman Chaz Sutton said. "We're playing inside and we need to get used to the turf because the last time we were out on the Falcons' field it was rough playing just to keep traction and keep from slipping."

The biggest story of bowl week continues to be the unfolding drama at quarterback for the Seminoles. Christian Ponder practiced for the second day in a row on Monday and appears to be the starting quarterback on Friday. If Ponder is unable to go, back-up EJ Manuel would get the start. Though Manuel runs the ball a bit more than Ponder, defensive line coach Brad Lawing says it really doesn't matter who the quaterback is saying the Gamecocks will be read for "Whoever shows up."

"We're preparing for their offense," Lawing said. "Their offense doesn't really change - they run the same plays."

Defensive back DeVonte Holloman says that he wants Ponder in the game because he wants both teams at full strength. With Ponder being a bigger threat with his arm, it seems a little strange that a secondary that ranks near the bottom of college football in passing yards.

Last week assistant head coach Ellis Johnson compared the secondary to an outfielder in baseball. If an infielder makes an error it usually only costs his team one base. If an outfielder makes an error it usually costs a team runs. The same thing goes for football. If a lineman or linebacker makes an error it usually only leads to a few yards or first down. If a defensive back makes an error it usually leads to points - like the Gamecocks saw a few weeks ago in the SEC Championship game.

"Every time we line up right and got a good idea what we're doing defensively we don't have many mistakes," Holloman said. "We had a lot of mistakes that game (Auburn) and we corrected them.

"Playing defensive back you've got to have thick skin," he continued. "You make plays and when you do mess up it's a touchdown. We've made good plays and we've made bad plays."

Florida State is an offense that is very similar to that of the Gamecocks. They have good quarterback play, big receivers that can go up and get the ball, and smaller receivers that can turn short yardage plays into big plays.

"A little bit of everything," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "They do a great job of attacking the edge of the defense - using their speed with #23 (running back Chris Thompson) to get on the edge - and they do a great job of throwing the ball up to the big receivers. They have small guys that can catch it on a hitch and take it 60 yards and they've got big guys that they can throw it up to down the field. They're a fairly complete team. If Ponder's back there he's an added dimension in their offense. He can make plays with his legs and his arm too."

The biggest difference between the two is running back play. Florida State knows they're going to get a heavy dose of Marcus Lattimore. South Carolina doesn't know exactly who's going to be running the ball at them. The Seminoles have three running backs with at least 80 carries this season and Ponder has 95. That is something the Gamecocks are not used to seeing.

"Most teams have featured backs but Florida State has a lot of backs and they're all good," Ward said. "They don't have the big, powerful fullbacks but they've got athletic guys that they put in the fullback position that they get the ball to in the flat."

Thompson will likely get the most carries. Thompson has 103 carries on the season and has rushed for 698 yards and five touchdowns. Ty Jones has 520 yards and five touchdowns on 83 carries, and Jermaine Thomas has carried the rock 85 times for 484 yards and leads the team with six rushing touchdowns.

Comparatively, Lattimore has carried the ball 248 times. In the Georgia and Florida games alone he carried the ball 77 times.

Perhaps the biggest match-up of the game that could determine how successful Florida State is going to be is the battle between All-American offensive guard Rodney Hudson against defensive lineman Ladi Ajiboye.

"He's real good," Lawing said. "He'll be matched up with Ladi - it's a big challenge for Ladi. I told Ladi if you want to play football after college this is the tape their going to come watch."

Ajiboye - who says he's still not sure about going to the next level - is looking forward to the match-up in what could be his final game playing in his hometown of Atlanta.

"It's exciting," Ajiboye said. "I've got to step it up. I've got to have respect for my opponent and I do. Any person coming across him he's going to try and stop him by any means. He's a good player."

Notes

- It's been said that there is three football seasons - football season, spring football season, and recruiting. Signing Day is a second Christmas to many hardcore football fans. If you look at most recruiting classes among the top 25 you will say a lot from the state of Georgia.

"Georgia is always a growing state and we've always tried to put emphasis on it," recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator Shane Beamer said. "The thing with this state is a lot of people have moved into this state that maybe didn't grow up Georgia Bulldog fans. The whole country recruits this state."

Playing in the state of Georgia is a big deal for both Carolina and Florida State. With the close proximity to both campuses, Georgia is a hotbed for both schools. On Monday, there were several high school coaches and players on hand to take in practice. With coaches unable to talk to recruits right now during the dead period, they're going to let the media do it for them.

"It's huge," Beamer said. "Any time you can get in their backyard and they see you in the news every night and you have a chance to showcase your team in front of their state it's a great opportunity. Now we just have to play well."

- The team visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial site this afternoon after practice and ate dinner at Fogo da Chao.

- There will be a press conference tomorrow at 12:30 inside the Georgia Dome. Head coach Steve Spurrier and two Gamecock players will be there.

- The team will practice at 3:00 tomorrow inside the Georgia Dome.

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