First of all, I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. The summer is now officially over and autumn is upon us. We're off to a good start on the football field.
I spoke with Cory Boyd Monday and put him through his paces in so many words. He tells me his ankle is fine. He showed no signs of limping. He was able to twist and turn on the ankle Monday afternoon. This surprised me after seeing him go down like he did Saturday but he really appears to be no worse for the wear and will be full speed and 100% in time for the Georgia game.
Troy Williamson came into his own Saturday against Vanderbilt but remember, he had a big game against Vandy last season as well. Two things where Troy is concerned. One is that he is not talking to the media this week - avoiding us at all costs. While some in the media find this agitating, I for one am all for it if it helps him have a big game against Georgia. Two is that Georgia is going to be all over Williamson like white on rice this Saturday. This is going to open things up for Whiteside and Thomas. Thomas has always played well against Georgia and he too seems no worse for the wear against Vandy - no limping at all. Whiteside is the one to watch Saturday. He looked good Monday and is ready for his big chance catching the ball.
I kidded around with Noah about allowing himself to be tackled by the Vandy punter Saturday and he laughed. "Oh man don't I know it," when I asked him the juke step that didn't work. "Don't worry," he added. "Next time I'll take it all the way. I know what I did wrong and I'll do better next time."
Antonio Lamar is now going full speed and is in pads but the jury is still out about when he might be ready to play. As I understand it, physically he is ready. Mentally he is not. He still has yet to completely grasp the system, particularly pass blocking and picking up blitzes.
What made the Gamecocks look so good against Vanderbilt Saturday? After speaking with coaches and players Monday I can tell you what they believe was the key. It wasn't Pinkins, it was the running backs. It wasn't the defense.
It was blocking.
After watching film of the game I believe they saw what many of us saw. They saw players getting downfield and blocking with purpose. Johnathan Joseph had to really hustle to get downfield and throw the key block for Jamacia Jackson on the interception return, otherwise Jackson does not go all the way. Andy Boyd, Troy Williamson and Daccus Turman also threw some very key, big time, blocks. But it was the offensive line that did it on every down and set the pace for the entire game. Not only were those guys blowing people off the line but they were getting downfield and blocking after initial contact as well. If you have a tape of the game go back and watch the offensive line closely. It was incredible.
This team is very, very confident about their chances against Georgia. Not in an arrogant way, but in a realistic way. I spoke with many members of the team Monday and they are a mature, self secure bunch. They know what Georgia is capable of but they are confident in their own abilities and not the least bit intimidated.
The original line on this game was Georgia by nine. It has already dropped to eight which means there were some heavy bucks laid on the Gamecocks by late Sunday and very early Monday. This group of Gamecocks appreciate being the underdog in this game. Before the season started most betters that I know were thinking this line was going to be more in the 13 to 14 point range. Make what you will of all of that.
I spoke with Ricardo Hurley in great detail about something I thought I had observed in the Vandy game ... something all current and former linebackers can relate to. It appeared to me that he suffered a stinger in the head on collision up the middle in the first half against Vandy. He confirmed that to be the case and said that for a moment it worried him but he shook it off. I noticed it immediately and was waiting to see what happened ... stingers are painful pinched nerves that make you feel like you've suffered a major neck injury for a moment or two. Panic sets in initially as your entire body goes numb and then this pain shoots through your back and neck that is difficult to describe ... sort of like being stung by a million bees. Thus the name 'stinger.' But Ricardo said he shook it off and it is not bothering him now and he mentioned it to no one. He was surprised that I had noticed and we immediately went into linebacker talk ... I came away from it feeling very good about Ricardo's dedication this season. He is loving the game ... again. He was miserable being asked to play defensive end last season and it showed. Right now you could cut off his legs and he would still find a way to get out there and make big hits. What I am trying to say is that Ricardo is going to live up to all of the recruiting hype this season. It is all coming together for him. His ability to stay out there and shake off that stinger proves it to me. That's tough to walk off - but he did it and for those that have ever been there, we have to be impressed.
Keep your fingers crossed for this offensive line. After speaking with Shank Monday I am more convinced than ever that beyond the starting five and maybe Telfort and Thompson ... we are thin and in need of suffering absolutely no injuries in this Georgia game. Knock on wood. If we get past Georgia without any major injuries on the offensive line and give the newbies time to get some reps in against South Florida and Troy State, then we have a chance.
Ryan Brewer and I talked by phone for a little while Monday morning. More on that later. I will share something with you. When asked what he thought about our chances against Georgia, he said, "If they believe they can win, then they will. If they have it right in their heads this week heading into the game then they have a good chance." That may be an obvious statement to some, but we all know it rings very true.
Hearing those words come straight from Ryan Brewer's mouth, left little doubt why he was and continues to be, one of the all-time fan favorites for USC. The way he says it, the way he translates it as his philosophy, there is absolutely no doubt..he believed. He always went into things knowing he could win if he gave it his all. In my humble opinion this football team this season has that ... they believe. I am certainly not promising a victory Saturday nor am I writing that these Gamecocks are world beaters for the season. But what I am absolutely sure of is that they are going to give it their all and they are confident in their abilities. No one is going to intimidate them this season.
The biggest surprise of all? Unlike last season when Lou clearly was worried the entire week prior to the Georgia game - this year he appears quietly confident. He is notorious for being down-trodden and mealy-mouthed on Mondays. But not this Monday. All I can say is that yesterday at his press luncheon he was happy, upbeat and tremendously sure of his football team's ability. Who knows what that means but I thought I would share that observation with you and allow you to decide for yourselves.
Looking forward to the chat tonight.
Oh, and by the way, it appears that something good is about to happen between the city and the University regarding a new baseball stadium. We are watching this closely and expecting word within the next week or so.
Rooster Report - 7 September 2004
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