Auguste ready to return

Akeem Auguste has played in one game in nearly a season and a half. Auguste will finally return to action Saturday when sixth-ranked South Carolina heads to Lexington to face Kentucky in an SEC East match-up. Auguste's return provides extra depth in the secondary.

At a point in the season where many teams are dealing with various injuries and loss of depth, the South Carolina secondary is getting stronger. This week Carolina welcomes back safety D.J. Swearinger from a suspension last week, as well as the return of Akeem Auguste.

"I feel real good," Auguste said. "I have to get back into my groove and I'm a little rusty."

Auguste has missed 16 of the last 17 games due to a foot and groin injury. He played against Georgia last season despite the foot injury and would be shut down for the rest of the season following that game, and he has missed the first four games of the 2012 season with a groin injury.

"It was very frustrating, but I can't control it," Auguste said. "God had a plan for me and I guess the plan was for me to miss these first four games and come back ready to play. I took it with a grain of salt and kept on pushing."

The Gamecocks have gone through the 2012 season in a three-way rotation between Victor Hampton, Jimmy Legree, and Ahmad Christian, but now they have the most experience player of the group back just in time for the brutal four-game stretch that could be the most difficult group of games in program history. Following this week's game at Kentucky, Carolina will play Georgia, LSU, Florida, and Tennessee in four consecutive weeks.

"Now we have depth and experience," Auguste said. "I've played a lot of football and will play all four years against Georgia, played against Tennessee and all those guys. I've already played against the best so it's more about me just focusing in and getting ready for everything."

Auguste has been running and cutting some the last few weeks, but this week marked his return to the field for the first time since early in fall practice.

"The first couple of days have been good," Auguste said. "The coaches have been easing me in there and getting me a couple of reps here and there. I don't know how much I'm going to play on Saturday but I should be ready to go."

For secondary coach Grady Brown, having Auguste back is another playmaker for him to return to at corner if one of his other guys struggles or suffers an injury.

"He's back and we're happy to have him back," Brown said. "He's done a good job the first couple of days of running around. He's moving well and everything so it's a pleasure to have him back."

After initially injuring the groin early in fall camp, Auguste sat out a few practices before injuring himself again in one of the scrimmages. While many hope Auguste will get in there and immediately play 30-40 snaps, that just isn't reasonable. Auguste will be eased back into things, playing less than 20 snaps this week and then see how things are for next week's showdown with Georgia.

"You kind of want to take it slow with Akeem," Brown said. "I think that's kind of the mistake that happened last time. Going into the Vanderbilt prep he wanted to play and he got in there and just wasn't ready to go."

Legree, who replaced Auguste as the starter at cornerback, has had a remarkable year so far that includes a pick six against East Carolina. Legree will remain the starter this week and for the foreseeable future with Auguste being the back-up as he gets back into the swing of things. That does not mean that you won't see Auguste playing opposite side of Legree or potentially starting across from Legree. The bottom line is that the best will play.

"The best people play," Brown said. "Whoever is playing the best at that particular time will play. You can call it a three-way battle, you can call it a four-way battle with Ahmad. At the end of the day, the only way we win is playing the best players. Whoever is playing the best and has practiced the best that week will play and will get most of the reps."

Regardless of who plays where and for how many snaps, the Gamecock secondary improves itself by just having Auguste available. If there has been a weak spot on the defense it has been in the passing game and the fifth-year senior adds an additional player that can help bring that number down.

"We've given up a lot of yardage, but at the same time we haven't given up too much," Auguste said. "We haven't been giving up big plays, but it is little things that we can fix. I feel that Jimmy and Vic did a real good job while I was out.

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