Defense must "affect" Davis

South Carolina began game week preparations Monday night for Saturday's season-opener against ECU in Charlotte. After a few minutes at the Bluff Rd. practice facility, the Gamecocks were forced indoors after a line of severe storms and win moved through Columbia

After weeks of talking about themselves, the South Carolina defense finally got to talk about their opponent, East Carolina. Game week is finally here and the Gamecocks are finally in game week preparation. Monday's practice was spent mostly at the indoor practice facility after a severe storm moved through Columbia.

The key word for the defense this week will be "affect." The Gamecocks must affect ECU quarterback Dominique Davis. They're not going to get to Davis often, as evidenced by ECU giving up just 15 sacks in 13 games in 2010. They just have to get to him.

"Knock some balls down, get in his face and hurry him a little bit," defensive line coach Brad Lawing said about the key for his line Saturday. "He's hard to get to because of what they do. The ball is out of his hand quick. We've got to do a good job of getting some guys freed up in pass rush and affect the quarterback. That's our whole deal. If we can get him on the ground it would be great, but nobody else has done it much."

If there is a defensive line that causes ECU problems, it would be Carolina. With seniors Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson and junior Devin Taylor anchoring a talented line that many claim will be one of the best in the country, the Gamecocks will be tough for anyone to stop. It will be even tougher for an East Carolina line that features just one senior and four sophomores.

Carolina can throw in guys like 6-1, 319 pound guard Byron Jerideau along with the 6'3, 303 pound Robertson to clog the middle in run situations, and they can go quicker with Taylor and freshman Jadeveon Clowney on the outside and Ingram or Fordham alongside Robertson or Kelcy Quarels on the inside in obvious passing situations. Having eight legitimate SEC defensive linemen, some of which can play both inside and outside, is quite a luxury for Lawing.

"We've got a good group," Lawing said. "We're going to decide later in the week how we're going to approach this game. It's probably going to be a little bit different than how we approach some other games. We're rotating a lot of groups, too, in practice this week. We've got some guys that are good players and have worked hard and hopefully they'll play well on Saturday."

The Pirates would seem to be able to match-up well on paper with the Gamecocks with size in the middle and less on the outside. Center Doug Polochak, the lone senior, is 6-4, 303 pounds. Guards Adhem Elsawi and Will Simmons are 6-5, 319 and 6-5, 310, respectively. Tackles Jordan Davis and Grant Harner are 6-3, 290, and 6-6, 287, respectively. However, the game of football is not played on paper and the Gamecocks have a clear advantage in both experience and talent.

However, all that doesn't matter if you can't get to the quarterback and affect him.

"We just have to be smart on defense," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "If you're going to blitz this kid you're not going to accomplish a lot. You have to do things to make him move his feet, but he gets rid of the ball real fast so we're going to have to play some good, tight coverages and our d-line has to try and get their hands up."

"It's frustrating because you can get close to him and almost sack him, but he gets rid of the ball," Robertson said. "We're going to try and play our part and try to affect him and try and help the DB's out and try and get in his face."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where success lies for ECU - the arm of Davis. If he has time to sit back and read the defense, the Pirates will be tough to stop. If he is forced to move his feet and throw under pressure he can almost single-handily lose the game. In the six ECU wins in 2010 - none of which came against a team from a BCS conference - Davis was 159-of-254 for 1,859 yards and 21 touchdowns with just five interceptions and seven sacks. In the seven Pirate losses, Davis was 234-of-355 for 2,108 yards, but was intercepted 11 times and sacked eight times.

In the three losses to BCS schools - Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Maryland - Davis was 98-of-152 for 763 yards. He threw more interceptions (seven) than touchdown passes (three). If Davis has a similar day Saturday against a Gamecock defense that should be better than all three of those 2010 defense, it could be over by halftime.

Carolina will try and make things even more difficult for Davis by constantly switching things up.

"We're going to be multiple with what we're doing," Lawing said. "We do a lot of stuff. I tell people we've got over 100 years of coaching experience in our defensive meeting room. We do a lot of stuff because of it. There's a lot of different ideas, but it always come down to Ellis (Johnson) is what matters. He's very open to doing things and that's why he's so highly thought of as a coordinator."

Notes

- Saturday's game will be a family reunion of sorts for the Paulk family. Sixth-year senior Rodney Paulk of South Carolina will face his younger brother, Leonard Paulk, a defensive back for East Carolina.

"It's the first time we've ever played against each other so it will be a fun time," Paulk said. "We've still got to play our games though - I have to go out and play mine and he has to go out and play his."

Paulk says family from all over will be at Saturday's game and that both Paulk's will try and "show out" for the family.

Leonard Paulk could start at Boundary Cornerback for the Pirates.

- Akeem Auguste injured the foot that has kept him sidelined for much of fall camp at the end of practice and could miss the opener. C.C. Whitlock will get the start regardless of Auguste's availability.

"I think C.C. has gotten better in camp and even Coach Spurrier admits he's doing better," Ward said. "He just has to make plays when he has the opportunity."

Marty Markett and Auguste will be the back-ups if Auguste is cleared to play. If Auguste does not play, Cadarious Sanders will move into the back-up spot in Auguste's place.

Auguste will be reevaluated tomorrow.

- Ward noted that the linebackers and secondary have set a goal of 30 interceptions this season, three times the total of the 2010 season.

- Special teams coach John Butler named Joey Scribner-Howard the punter, which was expected. Scribner-Howard beat out Patrick Fish for the job. Jay Wooten will handle all other kicking duties.

D.J. Swearinger will start as kick returner and Stephon Gilmore or Ace Sanders will return punts.

- Steve Spurrier will hold his first weekly press conference Tuesday. The team is scheduled to practice at 4:15 tomorrow afternoon, but there is no media availability afterwards.


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