Gamecocks Conclude Preparations For Gators

The Gamecocks went through their final preparations of the week on Thursday evening before taking on the Florida Gators in Saturday's nationally televised contest in "The Swamp." The conclusion of practice featured a surprise appearance from the marching band, which came out to show their support for the football team heading into this weekend's game.

With about ten minutes remaining in the scheduled workout, the Mighty Sound of the Southeast filed onto the practice fields. The assembled media horde gathered outside the gate, peeking through the bushes to grumble about the band having better access to the team than they do. As the players broke practice, they ambled over to where the band was standing. The band quickly began to play the fight song, alma mater, and 2001. The players cheered after each selection, and Mike Davis even danced a jig during one song. After they finished, the players greeted the band members, and Coach Spurrier joined the scene, thanking band members for their support. Spurrier was pleased that the band had showed up to "give the guys a little support." "I'd always talk to the band right before the season," he said, "but it's the first time I've had one come out on the practice field. That was nice of them."

When it came to on the gridiron information, the coaches were very tight lipped. Coach Nix, who usually meets with reporters for about five minutes on Thursdays, pulled a Bugs Bunny move. He answered one question, and then pointed to Coach Spurrier and said "Don't you want to talk to Spurrier first?" As soon as everyone turned around, Nix disappeared into the night. All he offered from the game plan against Florida was a simple quote, "We're just going to go with our game plan and do what we do."

Nix was able to conveniently avoid answering any questions about Syvelle Newton, who has practiced at safety several times this week. However, Spurrier was unable to dodge the question. "He's been working over there a little bit," Spurrier acknowledged. "We think he can help us there. You've seen our safety play this year; it's not been great. We think he can help us if there's a place for him to go in there. I think he can knock it down, and I think he could pick one off if it comes right to him." That does not mean that Newton has left the offense, Spurrier stressed. "He's working a lot at quarterback too. If Blake gets in trouble, Syvelle will be ready." Indeed, Newton was still wearing a garnet practice jersey, signaling him as a member of the offense. It was an unusual sight to see the defensive huddle comprised of 10 white shirts and one garnet shirt.

Spurrier refused to discuss any other secret changes, or if he even had more. "We'll just wait until we get down there," he mused. "We'll go start playing and see what works. That's the plan we always have: see what works, and if it's not working try, something else."

Spurrier spoke briefly about the Florida defense, saying he was very impressed with how they play. "They've got a lot of active players," he said. "If they think they can cover you, they [play press coverage]. If it doesn't match up well, they back off and play zone like most people." Spurrier went on to describe how important it is to have an active defense. "They don't stand around and watch. They get in the action. We're trying to teach our guys to get in the action a little bit better than we do.

Florida will need its defensive backs to be active. Earlier this week, Urban Meyer said that USC has the best receiving corps in the conference. Spurrier is not sure he agrees, but he will not argue with the compliment. "We're going to use that in recruiting," he said excitedly. He joked, "We've got two guys we've been throwing at all year and all of a sudden we've got the best group. That's pretty good." After considering his squad, he added, "They are pretty good, and they may be the best."

Other Notes

- True freshman Captain Munnerlyn will start at cornerback ahead of sophomore Carlos Thomas this weekend.

- Junior defensive tackle Stanley Doughty is suspended for unspecifed reasons for this weekend's contest against the Gators, and he will not make the trip to Gainesville.

- The Gamecocks will go through a short walk-thru in Columbia on Friday afternoon and then depart for Florida.

Kickoff for Saturday's contest between South Carolina and Florida is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (EST), and the game will be nationally televised by CBS.

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