Batchelor getting look at right guard
The weather forced Carolina indoors for the session, something that has happened only a handful of times under Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach did not think that the practice suffered by movie inside, saying that a change can help liven things up.
"We practiced in the indoor facility today and had a pretty good workout," he said. "Sometimes I think it's good to get a change of routine and go inside and avoid the inclement weather, so I think we had a decent workout."
There is less space inside, limiting some of the drills the team can work on. However, they are still able to work on the most important things, according to Spurrier.
"You can still get all your inside blocking, blitz pick-ups, and all those kinds of things," said Spurrier. "You just don't throw the deep balls, but we don't throw many deep ones anyway so it was perfect for us."
Spurrier continued to practice all three quarterbacks - Chris Smelley, Blake Mitchell, and Tommy Beecher. He declined to say if any had gotten an upper hand in the battle for the starting job, and added that the decision could be announced on Friday.
The other area where a lineup change could take place is the offensive line. Spurrier similarly declined to say who has the edge to start at the two guard spots, but he did state that there is a new player in the mix. Redshirt freshman right tackle Heath Batchelor has practiced some at guard this week, and could see some snaps there on Saturday.
"We've got Heath Batchelor in there now," Spurrier announced with a smile. "There's a new name: Health Batchelor. He's been a backup tackle for eight weeks and has probably played six plays all year. Maybe he'll be our right guard."
Spurrier said there is no way to know if the offensive line has improved this week until they face some live action. That live action will not come until Saturday, when Spurrier and the rest of the Gamecocks will find out if the line has improved.
"I'll let you know after the game," he said. "That's the only thing that counts. What we do in practice, hopefully prepares you for the game, but what you do in the ballgame is the only thing anybody sees or the only thing that pays off."
Turning his attention to the Volunteers, Spurrier said the Gamecocks will not have an advantage just because they won in Knoxville two seasons ago. All he was willing to promise was that the Gamecocks would not have a repeat of their Vanderbilt performance.
"It's just another big Eastern Division conference game, and both teams need to win," said Spurrier. "I think we'll play with a lot better smarts than we did last week. Obviously last week our offensive guys weren't into the game. We have no excuse whatsoever. Hopefully, we'll give Tennessee a good game."
Norwood confident that USC defense can get to Ainge
Most of the attention this week has been on the Gamecock offense, and for good reason. When the defense can hold the opposition to 17 points, one would expect a Steve Spurrier offense to be able to easily put up at least 18.
The struggling offense puts more pressure on the defense not to give up points, and the defense has more than been up to the task this season, even with injuries to starters Jasper Brinkley and Nathan Pepper. The strength of the defense has been the defensive line, led by end Eric Norwood, who has registered 46 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, and 6 hurries along with two touchdowns.
This week, Norwood will likely face his toughest test of the season. Tennessee has given up just 2 sacks this year, and only one to starting quarterback Erik Ainge. That sack came on Ainge's third pass attempt of the season, and he has remained upright for the next 253 pass attempts.
Norwood is not interested in hearing all the statistics about the Volunteers' protection. Talking to reporters Wednesday evening, he made a promise.
"We're going to get pressure," he vowed. "[Kentucky's quarterback Andre] Woodson hadn't been sacked that much, and we got back there on him. I don't think their o-line is that much superior over Kentucky's."
Norwood acknowledged that Tennessee has a talented offensive line, and said that Ainge's decision making also contributes to the sack numbers.
"It's partially due to the o-line and partially due to the quarterback getting the ball out quick," Norwood said. "He's a smart quarterback. [But] we're going to get him on the ground."
Norwood then added that he feels like the Gamecocks owe Tennessee after losing a tight game in Columbia last year. Tennessee won 31-24 and scored a touchdown on an interception return in the first quarter and set up another touchdown with a punt return down to USC's 5-yard line in the 4th period.
"We feel like we've got to go get one back," he said. "They took one from us last year."
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