8/6 Practice Report: Defense Wins Round Two

Following the Gamecocks' second practice of the fall, Coach Steve Spurrier delivered news that all fans dread: injury news. "Cory Boyd sort of cracked his hand tonight," Spurrier announced. Boyd fumbled during one of the drills, and when he tried to dive on the ball, he injured his hand.

Spurrier did not offer too many details, as the injury is still being diagnosed. "[Boyd] rolled his hand up. He might be out a couple of days and have to wear a protective cast on it." Spurrier later described the injury as a "bruise."

Mike Davis continues to sit out practice waiting for an infection to heal. "They're just holding him out. They're trying to keep that thing good and dry. He doesn't need to sweat for a while." The timetable for Davis' return is 2-3 days, but it would not be surprising if he misses more time.

With Boyd and Davis likely to miss the next couple practices, Taylor Rank will step into the spotlight. "Taylor Rank is our man," Spurrier proclaimed. "That's the way it happens some times, so right now, tomorrow Taylor will probably line up as first team tailback." Bobby Wallace will continue to be used as a spot player and change of pace back.

Despite being suddenly thin at running back, Spurrier was pleased with the team after two practices, praising the defense in particular. "Our defensive guys are running around pretty well. I thought our linebackers really played some good zone drops tonight, which we've not been accustomed to doing very well. The defensive backs covered well tonight. The defense is going to be better." Spurrier stressed that the reason for the defensive improvement was mental. "They got more organized, and our quarterbacks weren't patient enough to go underneath. You have to be patient, and our guys didn't do it quite as often as they should have. Quarterback play needs to get a little bit better all the way around. Nobody was particularly better than the other tonight. Give the defense credit; they played their assignments pretty well tonight."

Specifically, Spurrier praised two newcomers on defense. LB Rodney Paulk (Fr., 6-0, 212) and DE Eric Norwood (Fr., 6-2, 258) both stood out. "The defensive coaches said Rodney Paulk had a good night tonight, playing his assignments and active and quick. Eric Norwood kept looping around our offensive tackles. He was playing faster than our guys." However, Spurrier cautioned that the defense is always ahead of the offense at this time of year, especially while the players are practicing in shorts and helmets. "Defensive guys play really fast. Of course they're faster than the offensive linemen anyway. You usually can't get many balls off in shorts because the defensive guys are flying all around the quarterback."

Offensively, Spurrier targeted a pair of wide receivers for praise. Moe Brown (Fr., 6-0, 173) and, of course, Sidney Rice (So., 6-4, 202) were singled out. "Moe just didn't get many balls coming his way tonight, but I think he'll be ready to really contribute." On the other hand, Rice was busy all night. When asked if he was concerned about the defensive backs losing confidence after being repeatedly beaten by Rice, Spurrier chuckled. "The defensive coaches are trying to get them to play for the fade, but Sydney still gives them a little double wrinkle and can get open on that." Spurrier also praised Rice for his work in the off-season, saying that Rice should be an even better player this year. "He is a little quicker than last year, and knows what we're trying to do."

Wide receiver Noah Whiteside still has not gotten word if he will be eligible to play this season. When asked if Whiteside would be eligible, Spurrier replied that he did not know, and seemed unwilling to worry. "I don't need to know until the fourth game of the season," he said.

When asked what he could tell about the team after two days of practice, Spurrier replied with words that must be music to the ears of the Gamecock Faithful. "The only thing I can tell is I think we're going to be a better team. [We have] better players, better attitude, and better coaching. I think we're going to coach better this year." The head ball Coach admitted there are many issues to be worked out, especially with the offensive line. "Obviously, we've got some youngsters in the offensive line, but that may be where we are right now. We're not going to be able to stand back there a long time to throw it, but we didn't stand back there a long time last year either."

"Hopefully we'll win more games, it will be interesting to see what happens."

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