Defense preparing for Worley

How a team reacts to playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd is always an unknown. But the Gamecocks will face another unknown this week in the form of Tennessee freshman quarterback Justin Worley. The freshman from Rock Hill will get the start for the Vols this weekend.

Fresman quarterback. First start. SEC game.

For most defenses, a combination like that is a reason to lick their chops, but for the Gamecocks, who must go into Neyland Stadium to face the Tennessee Volunteers, they are taking a bit more cautious approach.

Trailing late in a blowout loss to Alabama last weekend, the Vols decided to burn the redshirt of freshman quarterback Justin Worley and put him the game. Coach Derek Dooley announced this week that he will get the start against USC this weekend.

Adding more intrigue to the mix is that Worley calls Rock Hill, SC home, and beat USC freshman Jadeveon Clowney in the state championship game last year.

Without quarterback Tyler Bray, who defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson called "probably the best pocket quarterback" in the SEC, the Vols could show more of a conservative look and emphasize the running game on Saturday.

"Really it was a situation with them changing quarterbacks, there was not a whole lot you wanted to assume," Johnson said early this week during an interview with 1400 The Team's Teddy Heffner. "We think that Tennessee will become more of a running team, become more a ‘pound it' team with a young quarterback."

An offensive change in philosophy is certainly not ideal for this late in the season, but Johnson also added he believes the Vols have the big men up front, as well as the backs to carry the ball, to get the job done.

"They've got very good running backs and their offensive line is young but physical," said Johnson. "I think they're better run blockers than they are pass blockers, and I think they're going to make that transition very easily. I know it's tough to make your first start in front of that many people, but we're expecting a very physical game."

Of course Gamecock coaches were asked this week about not recruiting Worley, but Coach Johnson said it was simply a matter of the type of player USC was looking for at the time. Johnson has an extra familiarity with Worley due to him being from one his main recruiting area in the Rock Hill region.

"I evaluated him and watched him for three years," said Johnson. "So (I'm) very familiar with him. At the time we were looking for a mobile, running quarterback, so we didn't recruit Justin. But I'll tell you he is a leader, fantastic passer, and he's a very capable young man. I know they hated to pull the redshirt on him this late. But I'll bet he's very capable of running their offense."

In the end, Johnson noted that the Gamecocks have to play their own brand of defense and keep the young quarterback from making impact plays against them.

"It depends on the game and we're not good enough to start trying to figure out ways to handle other people. We've got to get better at what we do. And I think what we do well right now is keeping big plays off the board. We're not playing well on third down and as well as we can. The quarterback's escaping the pocket and we're also breaking down on a few things out there. Frankly I think we need to be more physical against the run."

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