Practice Report: Life must go on

The Gamecocks practiced Monday for the first time since the disappointing loss to LSU. Adding to the disappointment, the team found out earlier in the day that All-SEC middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley will miss the remainder of the season after tearing a knee ligament against the Tigers.


"Jasper ended up tearing a ligament in his knee in the first quarter of the game," said Steve Spurrier. "He tried to go back in but couldn't move at all."

Brinkley tore the LCL in his right knee. He is scheduled to have surgery on the knee on Wednesday, and the rehab will keep him out for the rest of the year.

"The positive part is that I think we'll be able to get a medical hardship, so we believe he'll be back next year," said Spurrier. "It's up to the NCAA. They've been pretty helpful to student-athletes in the past few years."

Looking for a positive, Spurrier managed to find the silver lining.

"Next year at this time we might be saying we're glad he got hurt. We all plan on being here next year. We should definitely have a stronger team next year, so in a way having Jasper here next year is a positive."

Turning to the rest of the team, Spurrier was pleased with the day's practice, saying, "Guys were bouncing around a little bit."

"We're looking forward to the ballgame Saturday at 12:30," he said. "Hopefully we'll have a full house out here. I think it's Homecoming, so we'll have a Homecoming Queen and so forth. Hopefully it will be a fun day."

"Mississippi State is a very tough team," he continued. "[They are] 3-1 just like us, so we have our work cut out for us this Saturday. They've got a good defense and run the ball well. The way we've been trying to stop the run, we could be in trouble if they start rolling up and down the field. That's the key to the game right there - if we can slow them down some."


Sapp knows he has big shoes to fill

Filling Jasper Brinkley's shoes is no easy task, but the responsibility falls to junior linebacker Marvin Sapp, though Spurrier added that he will not be filling the void alone.

"Marvin Sapp I think is scheduled to take [Brinkley's] spot," Spurrier said, "but other players have to step up and start making some tackles. It's as simple as that."

Sapp will take over in the middle, with Rodney Paulk and Cliff Matthews maintaining their spots at the strongside and weakside spots, respectively. Sapp was second on the team in tackles a year ago, and has started 4 games in his career. However, most of Sapp's experience has come at outside linebacker, although he assured reporters that he is ready to slide inside and take over.

"I've started before. I played inside last year; I played some inside earlier this year," he said. "[Against] South Carolina State, I played some MIKE, [and] the week before that. I think that gave me a chance to get warmed up for this…I'm going to go out there and play, have fun, but do my assignments. In the end, I'm having fun out there and trying to win."

Playing in the middle means more responsibility for Sapp, since the middle linebacker is responsible for making all the defensive calls. He knows what to expect, but it will help to have Brinkley on the sidelines, giving him pointers.

"He's a great guy to talk to," Sapp said, adding he will consult with Brinkley "as much as I need to." "He's not shy with helping you out or giving you pointers."

He has no delusions about making fans forget Brinkley, although he is confident in his own abilities.

"Of course it won't be the same, because Jasper's not in there, but we adjust," he said. "One of the adjustments is letting me step in and play my role as middle linebacker. I'm not nervous, I'm just anxious to play. I've got to count on my teammates, just like they've got to count on me to step up. I think my challenge will be to take the lead on defense, and to take charge like Jasper did take charge. I love to play football. I'm just going to be here, going to do my assignments, do what my coaches ask me to do, and try to lead this defense."

Sapp was able to find some positives in the LSU game. He noted that after an initial struggle when Brinkley went down, the defense was able to regroup and play better down the stretch, holding the Tigers almost 20 points below their season average.

"We shut them out in the [fourth quarter]," he noted. "I think we got our second wind, and we just realized that we've got to step up. We are a team, and a team is more than one person. It's a loss, and we play to win. Right now, we're putting it behind us, we're trying to move on to the next challenge. We're still in this thing. We're not going to get down about ourselves because we can't do anything about last week. All we can do is control the next game. Our goals are still out there, and we're going to try to accomplish those goals. As far as it being a hurdle, we want another chance at jumping that hurdle."


Notes:

- There were a slew of minor injuries suffered against LSU. Marque Hall has a left knee sprain that limited him in practice, but he should play against the Bulldogs.

- Jared Cook left the game after taking a shot to the ribs. He has a chest contusion, and is probable for this weekend.

- Matt Clements has a sore knee, and was limited in practice.

- Gurminder Thind, Kevin Young and Dustin Lindsey remain out.


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