Practice Report: Defensive Changes Coming

The Gamecocks returned to the practice fields for the first time since a disappointing final-play loss to Auburn last Thursday. The biggest concern facing USC this week, according to Coach Spurrier, is getting refocused for this Saturday's road contest at Kentucky.

However, Coach Spurrier stated on Monday night that he is confident the players will not suffer any hangover following the loss. "We're over it," he said. "We ain't talking about that last one. We're talking about Kentucky. They're a team that has the same record we have. They've beaten teams similar to what we've beaten. We're right there together."

In their last game, the Wildcats gave up over 500 yards to Central Michigan. Meanwhile, the Gamecock offense has come alive the past two weeks. Spurrier cautioned that what appears on paper to be a huge mismatch may be much tighter than expected. He pointed out that the Wildcat defense played considerably better against Florida two weeks ago. "Florida had about 6 [points] with a minute left in the half, and got 26 for the whole game. Florida's defense held Kentucky to about 65 yards in the second half, so that Florida offense had it about the whole game and didn't go very far against them."

Gamecock fans came away from the Auburn game particularly pleased with the play of the offensive line. The much-maligned unit played probably it's best game of the year, opening holes for the running backs and providing decent pass protection when Carolina went to it's spread formation. Spurrier downplayed the success in the passing game, saying "They played a little bit better, but [Syvelle Newton] dodged a bunch of [defenders], and they only rushed three most of the night." He was more complimentary toward the run blocking. "Run blocking was very good. We averaged about 5 yards per run. If we'd had the ball more we would have had the chance to run a little bit more."

The success of the line was surprising, given that they continue to start two true freshmen. Despite the fine play from all the freshmen, including Moe Brown, Chris Hail, and others, Spurrier is disappointed he has to rely so much on young players. Young players make mistakes, and mistakes lose ballgames, according to Spurrier. "We are going to try to play with less errors if we can. The last play of the game we had five freshmen on the field: two offensive linemen and three receivers. We had three or four on defense. It's hard to play error-free your first year, but we'll keep pushing for it.

"We'll try to play our best one of the year. We didn't play our best the last game. We had some good plays here and there, but overall we had mistakes that prevented us from winning the game."

The Gamecocks are relatively healthy, but there are a few injury concerns. Unfortunately, Andy Boyd re-injured his shoulder and will be out another three weeks. The good news is that Emanuel Cook and Kenny McKinley should be ready to play against Kentucky. McKinley had a breakout game against Auburn, but injured his shoulder late when he fell on it hard. "I'm hoping he'll be ready Saturday," Spurrier said. "He says he will, but he's all jammed up. He landed on his shoulder. He tried to run a little bit [at practice], but that was it. They x-rayed him; they say he's ok, just bruised."

Spurrier said that the defense will feature something new to help get off the field in the third quarter. However, he declined to go into any specifics about the changes. "We're going to try something different," he said, "but I ain't telling you. It's a secret. I'll tell y'all after the game what we did different."

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