Gamecocks begin preparations for Clemson

The Gamecocks began preparations on Monday night for this weekend's regular season finale against arch-rival Clemson. Coming off a much needed bye week and with Saturday's rivalry game on the horizon, there was no shortage of energy around practice. Read inside for a full report on Monday's workout.

"Probably by Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday it will start getting up a little bit more," said Steve Spurrier. "I'm hoping that our guys will play a lot harder and with a lot more effort and we don't get run over; offensively, we take care of the ball and hopefully play smarter. We're all struggling right now, and until we win a game, we'll continue to struggle."

Chief among those struggles in the last two games was the defense. Carolina has been unable to get off the field on third down, and opponents were able to seemingly run the ball at will. Clemson will feature another challenge, with talented running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. When one of the rivalry week-sized throng of reporters asked Spurrier if he was concerned about stopping the run, Spurrier cracked, "Have you seen the last two games?"

"Boston College did a good job of holding Clemson to not very many running yards," he continued. "Hopefully, we've got athletes close to what Boston College has."

Adding to the challenge, Spurrier confirmed that cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will not play this week, and the coaches have not yet decided on his replacement. He injured his foot against Arkansas, and was able to play only one snap against Florida.

"Captain's out for the year," Spurrier said. "He's having his foot looked at by a specialist up in Charlotte early this week."

Although Munnerlyn is out, the rest of the Gamecocks are healthy. Mike Davis and Carlos Thomas, who sat out most of last week's practices with nagging injuries, both returned to practice full speed.

With Michigan's Lloyd Carr retiring, and several other positions at major programs expected to be open soon, the coaching rumor mill is already in full force. As is always the case, Spurrier's name pops up for nearly every opening. When asked if the speculation could be a distraction for him, Spurrier scoffed at the question and said, "It's very easy for me not to think about that."

"We had a good [recruiting] class last year," he said. "I think we're going to have another very good recruiting class. We believe we're going to be a lot better team than we are right now in the future. Hopefully that will come true."

Spurrier reiterated that during recruiting he promised players that he would be at Carolina throughout their Gamecock careers, though he added, "If we keep going like this, I may get fired before their tenure's over."

McKinley looking forward to rivalry game

Junior wide receiver Kenny McKinley is closing in on one of the best receiving seasons ever for a Gamecock. However, on Monday evening he said there is some unfinished business this season: he wants to beat Clemson.

When asked if anyone had come up to him recently to offer encouragement for the rivalry game, McKinley smiled.

"That's been since I was a freshman," he said. "It's no reason why we shouldn't have our best game of the year. We've got to put everything together, offense and defense, and come out with a victory."

McKinley watched some of the fourth quarter of Clemson's loss to Boston College, and he saw a tough loss for the Tigers.

"They had a lot of chances to win, and they're going to be very pumped up to come out here this week since they had a heartbreaking game last week. We've got to match their intensity."

He said that he saw "typical Clemson," and a "very good defense." The Tigers have the sixth ranked pass defense in the country, and McKinley is very impressed with the way they disguise coverages.

"They play a lot of zone, and the try to disguise it," he said. "It's a lot of crazy coverages. We were watching it today, and it was kinda weird. Hopefully we'll fare good against them, we fared good against them last year. We've got to run the ball on them, run the ball hard, and that will open up the passing game."

"We've just got to find the open man in whatever coverage they play," McKinley continued. "We've got some great plays drawn up for everything they do, and we've just got to find the open man. I know Blake will do a great job of that this week."

After talking about the offense, McKinley also gave some unsolicited commentary on the Carolina defense. He thinks that fatigue and a lack of energy had a lot to do with the recent defensive struggles, and the bye week was just what was needed.

"Our defense is going to stop those boys' running," he said. "They're going to do that this week, and the offense is going to come around and do what we've got to do. We're going to put two sides together this week. We had a week off so there's no reason we should not come out with our best game of the year."

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