Watkins: 'We're going to keep fighting'

The Gamecocks head to Knoxville this week with inexperienced starters in key positions and an offense that has been heavily criticized all year. Offensive right tackle Rokevious Watkins still remains optimistic about the abilities of himself and his teammates.

"We're going to keep fighting," said Watkins. "We're going to come to practice everyday get a good grind going. Hopefully, it will show up on Saturday."

Watkins played last year as an offensive guard, but started this season at right tackle. During his first attempt ar the new position South Carolina's offense generated 351 yards of total offense against ECU. The Gamecocks had just one lost yardage play in 65 plays. Watkins recorded eight knockdowns, four pancakes, allowed no sacks and no quarterback pressures.

With senior lineman Kyle Nunn sidelined and now out for the season, Watkins has dealt with making the move to left tackle since midway through the Auburn game.

"It's just like going from right hand to left hand," said Watkins.

It's been a process.

"There might be a play where the movement is different," said Watkins. "You might have expected that when you were on the other side because you did it for so long on that side." The South Carolina offense got it together against Mississippi State to make the last drive and win the game. Watkins said that boosted their confidence.

"Once you change there might be a bit of a difference, but once you get it going it will pick back up," Watkins said.

The offense has been forced to handle change all season with fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia getting dismissed from the team, various other players suffering minor injuries, and their biggest change - sophomore tailback Marcus Lattimore suffering a season ending blow to the knee at Mississippi State.

Head coach Steve Spurrier said Lattimore is still a big part of the team and will make the trip to Tennessee with his teammates.

"He'll be there in spirit for encouragement. I'm sure he'll be a super teammate on the sidelines," said Spurrier.

Watkins claims it came at no surprise to him that Lattimore still wanted to help the Gamecocks in any way he can.

"No matter what the situation is, he's going to always fight to be there with us, through every part that he can," said Watkins. "We know how bad he wanted to be out there so we're going to try and do it for him and all the rest of the guys we lost, Garcia included."

Watkins also said he and the rest of the offensive line is ready to take freshman running back Brandon Wilds -- Saturday's starter -- under their wing and help him fill Lattimore's spot.

"We're going to open up holes and get him into the end zone as much as possible, said Watkins. "And try to protect him the best we can."

Spurrier said the game at Rocky Top is a big one for the Gamecocks because they have only won there once in school history.

"Hopefully our guys can play one of their best games," said Spurrier.

Watkins said they are doing all they can to prepare for Tennessee, including keeping sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw confident.

"We come to him every Friday night and Saturday morning, letting him know we've got his back and we're fighting for him so he can be able to stand in the pocket and be comfortable," said Watkins.

However, Watkins also said that they can't worry about what Tennessee is doing too much.

"Tennessee is a very good team. I actually have a lot of friends that play for Tennessee", said Watkins. "But we can't worry what Tennessee is doing. We're worried about what the Gamecocks are doing."

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