Practice Report: Gamecocks Ready For MTSU

On Thursday evening, the Gamecocks went through their final preparations before Saturday's home finale against Middle Tennessee State. Following the frigid practice, Coach Steve Spurrier and Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix spoke with the media.

Sandwiched in between marquee opponents Florida and Clemson, the Blue Raiders may seem like little more than a sixth win and a tune-up for the in-state Tigers. While the coaches and players would certainly love it if the game went that way, they are not taking anything for granted. "They're a very good defense," Spurrier said. "They do a lot of different things, he said, specifically mentioning how Middle Tennessee State mixes up its blitzes and coverages. "They do more different things than most SEC schools."

On the other side of the ball, Nix is focused on stopping the MTSU rushing attack. "They are real good football players," he said. "We need to contain the running game and reduce the amount of passing attempts." Nix has one simple goal for his defense this week. "We've got to force some punts," he said. "We need to play better on third downs and force some punts." He went on to add that he wants to create more turnovers and scoring opportunities. "It's still not a penalty for the defense to score," Nix joked.

Back on offense, Spurrier faces an unusual challenge going against the MTSU coaches. Head coach Rick Stockstill coached under Spurrier a year ago, while offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus played and coached under Spurrier at Florida. Mangus played quarterback on Spurrier's first two Florida teams before coaching the offensive line. He has bounced around the coaching ranks since then, but Spurrier is pleased and wary of coaching against a former player. Between Stockstill and Mangus, Spurrier does not expect to be able to hide anything from the Blue Raiders. "It [the familiarity] will help a little bit, but they know our audibles and all that, so we won't try to audible much," Spurrier explained. "You always have some phony ones. You give one and hope they see it, but you have another one on."

There will be no changes to the starting lineup on offense or defense this week, but there are several changes in personnel. Once again, Stanley Doughty will not dress, though he has participated in practice this week. Mike Davis is listed as doubtful, and Spurrier said he is being held out for precautionary reasons. Davis has an abscess on his hip "that they don't want to take a chance of getting infected," according to Spurrier. "Taylor Rank will get his chance again, along with Cory Boyd and Bobby Wallace." Sidney Rice has been fighting a groin pull, but seemed to be moving freely after practice. Spurrier dismissed the injury, saying, "He had a little groin pull bothering him, but he should be fine Saturday."

With Syvelle Newton playing safety now, Tommy Beecher will be the backup quarterback, although Newton might get the first look if starter Blake Mitchell goes down. "Syvelle's got his little package. We can always put him in there. Beecher would be after that," said Spurrier.


- USC unveiled its master plan for athletics facilities after practice Thursday night. Spurrier had to leave to do his radio show, but said he was excited about the plans. "There are some beautiful pictures of the baseball stadium, football stadium, and academic learning center. There's a whole lot that Eric Hyman has got planned for South Carolina Athletics. It's neat to see."

- On his call in show last week, Spurrier criticized the game officials. He was reprimanded by the SEC, and joked that he has to be careful what he says now. "You boys don't have to listen to my call in show any more," he told reporters. "I can't say anything since y'all report everything I say. You might as well tune out now, because I have to talk like a regular coach now." As he left the field, he jokingly added, "You ain't gonna get anything."

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