Depleted secondary gets ready for opener

In two days, the South Carolina Gamecocks will take on East Carolina in Charlotte. The Gamecocks are hurting in the secondary, which is exactly what ECU and their pass-happy offense wants.

South Carolina concluded its first game-week preparations for Saturday's season-opener against East Carolina in Charlotte. Assistant head coach Ellis Johnson is still searching for depth in the secondary. Akeem Auguste, who returned to practice briefly before re-injuring his foot during Monday's practice. Auguste is doubtful.

"It's a wait and see if we can do anything to get a couple of emergency snaps out of him," Johnson said following Thursday's practice. "He's not ruled out but he's going to be just an emergency thing where we might have to use him a few plays or won't have him at all."

Auguste has been cleared by doctors to play and there's no major damage that could be worsened by playing. It's just a pain thing.

"If he feels like he can do anything on it tomorrow we can strap him up and get a few plays out of him," Johnson said. "It's painful to the point where it may not be weak, but when he pushes off of it that pain is going to force him not to have quickness."

Johnson says he has four that he feels comfortable with, but with the losses of Auguste and Victor Hampton - who along with Devonte Holloman is suspended the first game - there is very little depth back there.

"We have four right now that have had a pretty good camp and the rest of them are sort of chasing themselves around," Johnson said. "We'll have to hope we don't have any bad luck and throw it up and go."

Following this week's game, Holloman is an option for Johnson at safety, but it would only be a move out of absolute necessity.

"I don't want to move him back there - I think he's a better player at Spur and he's had a really good camp at Spur - but if he's the only guy we have then we'll put him back there," Johnson said.

Where Johnson doesn't have a depth problem is up front. The Gamecocks have one of the best defensive lines in the conference. While he's not in the starting line-up, don't be surprised if Jadeveon Clowney is on the field when they head out for the first time.

"We're working different personnel packages," Johnson said. "The actual starting line-up is going to be the same we had - Devin (Taylor), Melvin (Ingram), Travian (Robertson), and Aldrick (Fordham). We may start the game with the other package. We just don't know. They're all going to be playing a lot."

Getting ready for an offense that ECU has is extremely difficult. It is not a typical offense that you see from week to week, especially in the SEC.

"We don't have to adjust our scheme, but it's just not a scheme where you blitz to get to the quarterback," Johnson said. "Most of the time when you're going one way the ball is going the other way. The average time the ball is in his hands is two seconds. He's got times when he drops back and they keep the (running) back in to throw it down field, but it's very hard to predict when you're going to catch them in it. If you blitz five or six and they have a screen play on they have a good play."

The ECU offense thrives on quick passes to get the ball to receivers in the open field and let them work, putting pressure on the linebackers and secondary to make open-field tackles.

"They have quick screens on the edge, they have really well-executed running back slip screens, they throw tunnel screens to the wideouts coming back under," Johnson said. "They spread it around and that's why you have to prepare for it."

After three weeks of practice, the team is ready to just hit somebody else.

"Practice has been good," Johnson said. "You always have your drags in camp when you get tired of practicing against each other. We're the only level of football where you can't go and scrimmage somebody. You have to sit there and grind on yourself seeing the same routes and the same blocking schemes. They (offense) know what we're calling over there so they scheme it up, we know what they're calling over there so our players catch onto things. It really gets to be an absolute grind."

In less than 48 hours, they will get to do just that.

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