Gamecocks conclude preparations for LSU
"Stephen Garcia gets his first start Saturday night and hopefully can go the distance," Steve Spurrier said following Thursday's practice. "We'll see how it works out. We should be ready to play the best we can."
The other lineup change will be at right guard, where Terrence Campbell has been edged out by Lemuel Jeanpierre. Heath Batchelor, another previous starter at right guard, has been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. Jeanpierre has previously started at left guard, but he will slide to the right side of the line this week. When asked why Jeanpierre is getting the start, Spurrier gave an answer that is indicative of just how inconsistent the offensive line has been this season.
"I don't know what he showed," Spurrier said of Jeanpierre. "Maybe it was just time to give him a chance instead of Terrence Campbell, but Terrence is scheduled to play also. They've both had a good week of practice."
Elsewhere on offense, there is little change. Tight end Jared Cook continues to be hampered by a sore foot, suffered against Ole Miss. However, the coaches expect him to be ready to play on Saturday.
"He's been a little gimpy all week," Spurrier reported, "but he was a little gimpy last week and he was pretty much fine for the game. We haven't worried about him yet, but he hasn't done a whole bunch."
Additionally, the offense will be without a pair of players who would not have contributed anyway. Quarterback Aramis Hillary, who is redshirting this season, had minor surgery on his knee to remove some cartiledge. Spurrier called the procedure "nothing serious." More importantly, running back Brian Maddox will miss the game against LSU. Maddox suffered a knee sprain this past Monday and will be held out of game action as he rehabs the knee. He has seen significant playing time this season, but has fallen to fourth on the depth chart and was not being counted on to contribute this weekend.
Because Saturday's game does not kick off until 8:00 PM, South Carolina will have a morning walk-though. Not much is done during the walk-through, but coaches hope it is enough to keep the players loose as they wait for game time.
"We'll come over here about 10:30 or 11:00, and run around for about 15 minutes and then go back [to the hotel]," said Spurrier. "We break up the day that way."
After wearing all white the past two weeks and having a pair of conference wins to show for it, there was speculation that Carolina might try to continue the good fortune by wearing white this weekend. That move would have the added benefit of forcing LSU to wear purple, a color they almost never wear, since they typically don white at home. The thought had apparently occurred to Spurrier, who noted that he did not have time to inform the Tigers that the Gamecocks might wear white (road teams must approve the wearing of white by the home team).
"We're going with the classic: garnet jersey and white pants," said Spurrier. "We're trying to treat this as another football game; a big game, but not too big. Maybe sometimes we've gone too big. It hasn't worked out, so why not just treat it like another good, normal game. The defending champs are coming in, but we're just trying to play better, trying to take care of the ball, trying to hit guys that are open, trying to not let them strip us, things of that nature. That's the only thing we can concern ourselves with: playing the game better, coaching better and playing better."
Gamecock defense hopes to contain talented LSU offense
It almost seems wrong to say it, but this year the key to defeating LSU, a program renowned for its elite defensive units, might be slowing down the offense, rather than trying to avoid being shut out. That puts pressure on the Gamecocks' SEC best defense to rise to the occasion. The Tigers feature the SEC's third leading rusher, Charles Scott, who is averaging 114.0 yards per game.
"This kid's seasoned, he's tough, he's played in this league," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. "They've got guys that can come in behind him and play at top speed too. You don't have any drop off, so it keeps him fresh. It's a major, major challenge [to stop him]."
The junior Scott may have the experience, but he needs freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee to hand him the ball. Lee came off the bench to split time with starter Andrew Hatch during the Tigers' first three games, but has started the last two. Much like LSU will try to do with Garcia, the Gamecocks will try to pressure Lee and force him into mistakes.
"He's obviously a freshman, and that's a tough job," Johnson said. "They've sort of adjusted their offense to fit him a little bit better, and he seems to get better and better. He's a good player and he's got great people around him."
Although the starting lineup remains unaffected, there have been a pair of changes to the Gamecocks' defensive lineup this week. Safety Antonio Allen will not play, while wide receiver Dion LeCorn has moved to safety. Allen has struggled with academics, and the coaches decided to eliminate distractions and give him a chance to improve academically.
"Antonio is struggling right now with some academic issues and they felt like the most important thing was not the next three or four weeks, but the next three or four years," Johnson said. "They wanted to give him some extra attention in study hall and tutoring, so he's been pulled from practice to concentrate on that. It's unforeseen when he will come back."
After falling down the wide receiver depth chart, LeCorn has been moved to safety to see if he can contribute more there. Despite only having a week's worth of practice time on defense, LeCorn has impressed coaches with his enthusiasm and work ethic enough that he could play this weekend. However, Johnson cautioned that the decision on whether LeCorn sees the field will be made by safeties coach Ron Cooper, and will be based on the situations Carolina finds itself in.
"I haven't talked to Ron to know if he's got full confidence to put him in there," said Johnson. "It may be determined by situation. He's had a pretty good week: he's caught onto things faster than we expected. He's got an optimism about this [move], but I'm not sure he's ready in his first week."
Asked if LeCorn would ever make the return to offense, Johnson was equivocal.
"Nothing's ever permanent," he said, "but it's not a temporary move."
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