Practice report: Defense preparing for spread

South Carolina's defense will see the fastest offensive style they have seen all year this week when Missouri comes to town. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has been communicating to his defense all week that they must get their signals and get lined up in a hurry.

Seventh-ranked South Carolina has been working all week at learning how to deal with the speed at which Missouri gets to the line of scrimmage and runs their plays. The Tigers are similar to East Carolina, but the pace is much quicker.

"The only similarities in both teams is they're spread teams," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "Missouri is going to be way faster than any team we've ever played. They're going to be snapping it really, really fast. East Carolina was fast, but the pace wasn't really fast. We've had to get guys to understand all week that they're going to get lined up, and they're going to come, and they're going to run play after play after play."

There is some concern on who the starting quarterback for Missouri will be, but all signs point to James Franklin returning after missing last week's 24-20 win over Arizona State. While Franklin is clearly better than back-up Corbin Berkstresser, both are dual-threat quarterbacks with little change to the offensive schemes.

"We treat them both the same," said Ward. "We're blessed to have a game, the Arizona State game, to see the backup play, and they run the same offense. They both like running the football and both have strong arms. I think (Berkstresser) runs the system, maybe not quite as well as Franklin does, but he's good."

The most talked about subject all week has been the suspension of safety D.J. Swearinger. Swearinger was suspended after his helmet-to-helmet hit last week against UAB and true freshman T.J. Gurley will be starting for the first time in his young career.

"T.J. will be fine," Ward said. "T.J. has played a lot for us in the dime package and the situation we put him in is very similar. He'll be fine."

While that can easily be dismissed as coach-speak, Gurley is one of those guys that just doesn't get nervous.

"T.J. is not cut that way," Ward said. "He's a young man that's been raised in a more rural area and he probably had to fight for everything he had in his life. He just looks at it as an opportunity."

Brison Williams will take over making most of the calls for the secondary, the role that Swearinger had, but Gurley will still be responsible for communicating with the cornerback on his side of the field.

With Swearinger's suspension fresh in everyone's mind, Ward has to make sure his players aren't tentative and remains aggressive. When a player is tentative, big plays can happen. That will go for Swearinger when he returns as well.

"I won't pull anyone back," Ward said. "I told D.J. that when he comes back he can't be tentative. This is a physical game and sometimes you're put in a position you have no control over. That was a bang-bang play with D.J. and the receiver. We'll play the game the way it's supposed to be played and if we have an opportunity to not hit a kid up high then maybe we'll take that opportunity to go lower."


- Saturday also marks the return of spur Sharrod Golightly and defensive tackle J.T. Surratt. Both were suspended the first three weeks of the season for violation of team rules. With the season that Jordan Diggs has had so far as the back-up for DeVonte Holloman, Golightly will return as third-team at spur.

"Sharrod will probably get his most playing time on special teams," Ward said. "If we have to play him on defense we can. Jordan has played well and was better in the last ball game. We have two guys to back up DeVonte which gives us some depth that we need, but Sharrod will get most of his plays on special teams."

On the other hand, Surratt will come in and play on the defensive line immediately. Phillip Dukes tore a ligament in his hand and could be limited for several weeks and some of the younger defensive linemen just haven't performed at a high level, so the 6'2, 295-pound redshirt sophomore will immediately step into the rotation at defensive tackle.

"J.T. will play," Ward said. "Brad does a great rotation of his guys and J.T. will be a part of that rotation."

- Brandon Wilds left practice early with the scout team Thursday. He did not have pads and likely will not dress again this week. Coaches had hoped to have him back this week, but that does not appear to be the case. With Marcus Lattimore, Kenny Miles, and Mike Davis carrying the load a redshirt is not out of the equation for Wilds.

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