Gamecocks work out on Wednesday

The Gamecocks went through their final preseason session Wednesday night as Thursday is the first day of classes for USC students, essentially beginning the Gamecocks' 2008 season. The Gamecocks will have the day off from practice Thursday before hitting the field again on Friday. Read inside as GamecockAnthem has the full report following Wednesday's workout.


"School starts tomorrow so our guys are pumped up, fired up, [and] going to class [to] sit up front, dress appropriately and try to be outstanding student athletes here at Carolina," Spurrier said following Wednesday's practice. "We start our afternoon meetings and so forth [tomorrow]. [We'll] probably take tomorrow off [from practice]. Our guys haven't had a day off in three weeks."

With Thursday also signaling the beginning of a game week, the team will treat it as they would a Sunday on a regular game week while they will begin their normal Monday preparations on Friday. Coaches all over the country are looking forward to the beginning of game week and to actually preparing for a game rather than preseason practice, according to Spurrier.

After going over the tape of Tuesday's young players' scrimmage, Spurrier said the scrimmage was about what he thought it was while watching it live.

"We turned the linemen loose right at Tommy Beecher a couple of times," Spurrier said. "There were a few good plays here and there. And the defense covers well. We've got some players that when their playing man-to-man nobody can get open. We've got to get the quarterbacks some better plays. They're covering us like a blanket. We've got to find a way to get them open."

Spurrier went on to say that the defense has been great in practices in the past, but has yet to put it all together on the field. While the defense has dominated the last two scrimmages, Spurrier hopes to see that carry over to the games.

"Every year at this time the defense appears to be better than the offense in practice," Spurrier said. "And then we get into the season and for whatever reason the offense is ranked better than the defense... I hope the defense is better than the offense; I hope they rank about third or fourth in the conference. That would give us an excellent chance to really compete. So I'm hoping that defense is really, really good this year."

One new player to add to the defensive depth chart is Rock Hill native Tori Childers, who qualified academically after a stay at prep school and his first test score was flagged.

"Tori Childers passed the test," Spurrier said. "He was very excited. I'm happy for him. He's been through a long road to qualify academically, and I'm real proud that he made it. He had to take the test again and passed it, and he'll be with us hopefully tomorrow."

On the injury front Mike Davis was back and looked good, according to Spurrier.


Johnson talks defense, linebackers

While Ellis Johnson's defense has certainly gotten the better of the South Carolina offense in recent weeks of practice, much like Spurrier did following Thursday's workout, Johnson expressed interest in seeing his unit against another opponent before anointing them great.

"We've got some players that do have some ability, but this defense hasn't been on the field yet," Johnson said. "I have no idea what they're going to do, how well they're going to do, and I think until we play in a game it's still a guess. I've been pleased with their effort; I've been pleased with the intensity. They've tried to be physical. You can't hit all day, every day in two-a-days; you just can't do it. But when we've gone down to the scrimmage, the tackling's been well, the physical part has been good. We'll see if we are what they say we are."

Johnson has spent a lot of time this preseason building depth on a unit that has had multiple starters banged up. Johnson says that starting spur linebacker/safety Darian Stewart's injury is not serious, but it did present them the question of what to do if Stewart were to miss time? Johnson offered several scenarios.

"Darian had definitely established himself there," Johnson said. "The strain in the foot is not serious, but it shows you if we lose that guy, you know, where do we go now? Then it becomes, is it Larry Freeman's job? Is it Antonio Allen's job? Or do we move (Emanuel) Cook up there, and is it Chris Hail's job in the back? We've still got some question's there, frankly. What we'll do is go into game week and rotate those guys and make sure we can go a couple of different directions."

Johnson also expressed some doubt that All-SEC linebacker Jasper Brinkley would be ready for the season opener, saying how healthy the ankle is all week will determine that.

"Jasper's starting to get more and more work. If he can practice a good week of practice before the first game, he'll be ready to go. If he can't, Marvin Sapp has had a great camp and is ready to go." Johnson seemed happy with the overall depth at linebacker and the spring move of Eric Norwood from defensive end to linebacker.

"[Eric]Norwood has had a good camp at WILL linebacker. And also Shaq Wilson, Dusty [Lindsey] and even Rodney [Paulk] could play either side. All of those guys are ready to go."

Johnson has been happy with the play of the junior, Paulk, and says he will be one of the first guys off the bench on Thursday.

"It depends on how we shake things out [which linebacker position Paulk will play Thursday]," Johnson said. "Right now he can play MIKE and WILL and probably will be one of the first guys to go at either spot."


Notes:

- The Lindsey brothers, as well as about four other unnamed players, had to do extra conditioning and were held out of practice due to missing a workout this morning, according to Johnson.

- Spurrier said Stephen Garcia had a better night Wednesday after going 0-for-5 with two interceptions in Tuesday's scrimmage. Spurrier also said Garcia is firmly entrenched as the third-string quarterback.


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