Three weeks ago it appeared that Akeem Auguste could possibly miss the entire season for the second year in a row. Now it appears he could return as early as next week.
After missing all but one game in 2011 after injuring his foot prior to fall camp beginning, Auguste was expected to start opposite Victor Hampton in the spot vacated by Stephon Gilmore after Gilmore entered the draft a year early.
After taking the medical redshirt for the 2011 season, Auguste suffered a groin injury early in fall camp and appeared ready to apply for a sixth year and return in 2013. That has apparently changed in a hurry as Auguste will return soon.
"I expect Akeem to be back really soon," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Thursday. "You could see him as early as next week. They'll make the decision, but he's out running and feels good. It's not bothering him so we'll be seeing him real soon."
Ward credited head training staff for Auguste's progress and said it could still be a week-to-week decision.
"Clint (Haggard) and (the training staff) have done a good job with him," Ward said. "It feels good when he runs and doesn't bother him, so we'll see if he's ready to play next week. If not, then we'll see the following week."
Auguste's return creates extra depth at a corner position that has been lacking it. Jimmy Legree has stepped in in Auguste's absence and has played extremely well. Auguste will not be handed the job when he does return, he will have to earn it from Legree.
"Akeem knows that he will have to earn the position when he comes back," Ward said. "It's not that he lost the position, but we're in a season-situation and Jimmy has played well. Akeem knows that he will have to work his way back in."
Even Auguste does not earn the starting role back, he could still step in on nickel and dime packages and provide another viable back-up along with Ahmad Christian.
Another player that has missed some practice time this week is defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney suffered a rib contusion during last week's game against East Carolina and has missed some practice time this week.
"He said he felt better today than he did yesterday so he practiced today with no problems," Ward said.
Clowney has not put up eye-popping stats this season with six tackles and a sack, but he has been performing at a high level and getting to the quarterback.
"He's causing big plays," Ward said. "He's putting pressure on the quarterback; he had the one sack last week but had the facemask. I think he's been very productive, maybe not in stats but it's been in causing big plays for us. He's been very disruptive."
With the speed of Clowney and Devin Taylor, along with strength of Byron Jerideau and Kelcy Quarles inside Carolina has been a victim of some holding calls that have not been made. There's nothing they can do about whether or not it is called during the game, but they can make it more difficult to grab their uniforms.
"That's something that we're going to have to deal with," Ward said. "I think the guys are going to tape their jerseys down more than they have in the past. The offensive line will have a harder time trying to grab on something."
Brad Lawing criticized some of the younger guys earlier this week on their performance late in the game against ECU. With SEC play heating up next weekend, this weekend could be the last chance they get an opportunity to gain some experience.
"They got a lot of plays, but they didn't play the way we wanted them to play," Ward said. "We definitely have to improve and we tried to do that Monday night in our Monday Night Football session, especially with the guys up front and even the guys on the perimeter. We tried to work on some of the things they did wrong and help them understand that we have tempo that we want to play with here at South Carolina and when they're on the field we expect them to do that."
If those younger guys hope to get a chance to gain some more experience this week, Carolina must stop a UAB offense that runs the same schemes as Arkansas, a team Carolina has struggled against. While the Blazers clearly don't have the players Arkansas has, the Gamecocks still have to find a way to defend the scheme.
"Garrick came from under Petrino so I'm sure they'll run the same system," Ward said. "You can look at some of the plays that UAB ran in the first game and tell that they installed the same system. We definitely studied the Arkansas system."
What Carolina must do is play the ‘picture' that UAB paints. In certain formations and sets UAB will run certain plays. Arkansas did the same thing under Petrino's scheme.
"Based on formations, certain things are going to happen; they paint you a picture," Ward said. "We've been trying to teach them this week that when you see this picture what you can expect. That doesn't mean it's 100%, but you can anticipate certain plays coming from that picture that they're painting you on offense.
J.T. Surratt and Sharrod Golightly will both return from suspensions next week before the Missouri game. Ward expects both to step in and contribute right away.
"I think they will both come back and help us," Ward said. "I can see J.T. coming in and playing a lot for us. He's had good practices and we've repped him on everything we've done except when he's on the scout team. He's gotten all the individual reps that the team runs, so we'll be expecting him to play. Sharrod will hopefully be read to continue pushing Jordan and DeVonte and help us at spur."
Connor Shaw threw a limited amount of passes Thursday afternoon and the coaches will wait and see how he feels Saturday. If he's not able to go, Dylan Thompson will earn his second consecutive start.
Practice report: Auguste to return soon?
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