Gamecocks conclude preparations for Vandy

On Tuesday the Gamecocks practiced for the final time before they travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores this Thursday. They went through a light session in shoulder pads and shorts, and, outside of quarterback Tommy Beecher, are healthy entering the game. Additionally, the offensive line is on notice, and mistakes will not be tolerated.


Steve Spurrier has threatened before to pull out any offensive lineman who commits a false start for at least one play. He has made the threat before, but this week he intends to make good on that promise.

"I feel sure I'll have to [pull] someone out," said Spurrier. "I don't think our guys can do it. Do you? I wish I had great confidence that they could stay onside, but I would say one of them will jump. We've got the backups ready. I can't remember the last game we had when one didn't jump. It's sad and it's embarrassing to me and Coach [John] Hunt."

Spurrier said during his weekly press conference that the offensive line seems to do better on the road, when the team employs a silent snap count. He suggested that perhaps they should switch to a silent count full time, even at home, but that idea was shot down. It s somewhat interesting, even though Vanderbilt does not have a particularly loud stadium, to know that the Gamecocks do not intend to use a silent count at Vanderbilt.

"We're going to try to go ‘hut-hut,'" Spurrier said, "but if it gets loud we can always go on the foot."

On the injury front, Beecher remains the only casualty. Clifton Geathers suffered a bruised thigh against NC State, but he practiced and is expected to play Thursday. Beecher was able to practice some on Tuesday, but is still not ready to play quarterback, although he will be able to resume his duties as the holder on field goals. In his absence, Stephen Garcia will be the backup quarterback, although the Gamecocks could be in trouble if Garcia is forced into action.

"It would have to limit what we do, with Stephen," Spurrier said. "We'd have to be a little bit more conservative."

The Gamecocks will enter the game ranked 24th in both the AP and USA Today Coaches' Polls. Spurrier did not think too much of being ranked near the bottom of the polls, probably remembering what being ranked 6th was good for against the Commodores last season.

"It's better than not being ranked, I guess," he said. "We're just trying to beat Vandy this week and improve from last week's performance. It's good to be ranked, so we'd like to stay there all year."

The ranking is not lost on Vanderbilt, however. The Commodores are pulling out all the stops to try to get their second straight win over a ranked Gamecocks team: Vanderbilt is urging all its fans to wear black. Of course, Spurrier has been involved in a "blackout" before. In 2001, the Gamecocks had a blackout against Spurrier's Gators, and Florida thoroughly dominated in a 54-17 win. Gamecock fans would love to be on the other side of the blackout for a change, but Spurrier is not too worried about what the fans wear.

"I don't think it's going to influence the game," he said. "Guys blocking and tackling usually influence the game."


Johnson hoping to contain dual-threat Nickson

Carolina pitched a shutout against NC State, and new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson received a game ball afterward, but that means nothing as the Gamecocks prepare for Vanderbilt. Not only do the Commodores probably possess a better overall offensive attack, but they are led by senior quarterback Chris Nickson, who is the exact type of dual-threat signal-caller Carolina has typically struggled with. Thus, Johnson has been downplaying the success his unit had in the opener.

"We ain't really been in a severe test," he said. "We were in a tight ballgame the other night, and I like the way we played through that, but we haven't been in a real tough test yet."

Nickson rushed for 166 yards on 20 carries in Vanderbilt's opener, an average of 8.3 yards per carry. Nickson only passed for 91 yards and one score, but picked up rushing yards both on designed runs and called passes, and ripped off a 59 yarder to go along with a pair of touchdowns.

"He scrambled and hit some things," Johnson said. "He didn't have a whole lot of yardage in the passing game, but they didn't have to throw that much. Two of his runs, one of them was almost 50 yards and the other was almost 30 yards, so that's half his [166]. But he had some other good runs, too."

There are some similarities between Vanderbilt's run-pass attack and what NC State tried to use in the opener before Russell Wilson was injured. Wilson was named the starter only days before the game, meaning Johnson had to quickly prepare his defense to face the athletic quarterback. He has now had a full week to prepare for Nickson, but Vanderbilt uses more of a traditional option attack, versus the read-option scheme used by the Wolfpack, which has taken away from the preparation in other areas.

"It's a whole different style," said Johnson. "There's a lot of option in Vanderbilt's attack. The problem with NC State was it was put in there late, and we had to do a fast preparation for them. We've spent a lot of time on that this week, and it takes time away from other things, like rushing the passer and third down coverage. Sometimes you have to kind of put them on the back burner, and we haven't had as much repetition on that as we would have normally."

Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson has used some form of an option attack since his days at Furman, and this season is no different. The only change is that Nickson has the athleticism to turn every play, run or pass, into an option.

"I know they believe in the option and always want that to be a part of their package," said Johnson, "but they've got a guy now that can do it off the line of scrimmage. It's real effective."

It should be fairly easy to find superlatives on a defensive unit that gives up only 138 yards and no points in its first game, but the linebacker corps had a particularly impressive stat. Although eight linebackers accounted for only ten tackles, they were charged with only one missed tackle.

"I gave it to Jasper [Brinkley]," Johnson said, "and he probably couldn't have made it. It would have been a hell of a tackle if he made it. It was just one of those nights. It wasn't a good statistical night, but they all played well."


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