Thursday practice report

The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3 SEC) worked through their final practice Thursday in preparation for Saturday night's SEC showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers (3-5, 1-4 SEC). USC head coach Steve Spurrier had little to say about the team's plan for Phil Fulmer's Vols, but did provide a very important injury update. Read inside as GamecockAnthem.com has the full practice report.


The best news of the day came when Spurrier announced that standout cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and big-play tight end Jared Cook should be okay for Saturday's contest.

"Captain Munnerlyn was really sick at his stomach earlier this week, but he was fine today. He should be fine by Saturday," Spurrier said. "Jared Cook was running around pretty well today. Yeah, he looks like he's full-go and ready to go."

The news was not as positive for starting left guard Jamon Meredith, who injured his ankle in the Gamecocks' 24-17 loss to the LSU Tigers two Saturdays ago. Meredith will only be available in "emergency" situations.

"He's gimping around a little bit," Spurrier said. "I guess he could play if two or three guys got hurt. But I guess that's about his status right now."

With right guard Heath Batchelor out as well, that leaves Lemuel Jeanpierre and Terrence Campbell as the starters at the guard spots.

They will be blocking for Stephen Garcia, who Spurrier hopes can do a better job of recognizing the blitz and getting rid of the football when necessary.

"Stephen is going to start the game and hopefully finish," Spurrier said. "If he struggles again, Chris Smelley is ready to play also. (But) we're going to see how Stephen does and try to make a smart decision if we have to. Other than that we're looking forward to a big ball game, Saturday night, 7 o'clock."

Spurrier played off the fact that many believe Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer will be fired if the Vols don't leave Columbia with a victory Saturday, saying he was more interested in what was going on with his program.

"They said that last year, too. (Then) he had a nice little run," Spurrier said. "We're just going to try to play our best; that's all we can worry about. We haven't done that a whole bunch this year, yet. We're going to see if we can have a good offensive game, and play the whole game."


Johnson's defense not looking past Tennessee

The Tennessee Volunteers are only 1-4 in the conference and rank 11th in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense. Not what you normally expect from a Tennessee team.

But despite their struggles, USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says the Vols aren't fooling him; they still have talent.

"I'll tell you, they're a lot better than people think they are," Johnson said. "One thing that jumps out at me is as much as they've been struggling at the quarterback position, he has not thrown a pick in his three starts, and they haven't turned the ball over in four games. As much as they've been struggling, that's saying something."

Johnson says the Tennessee offensive coaches have done a great job simplifying the offense for sophomore quarterback Nick Stephens.

"When they had Ainge they spread it out a lot more. They've got good receivers, good tight ends. The backs protect well, the offensive line protects well. When you've got a young quarterback there's just [only] so much you can do. I think they've probably had to be conservative at times in not putting him in situations where he has to do too much."

Stephens will be throwing against a South Carolina secondary that could be without its top pure cover guy for part of the game. Even though, head coach Steve Spurrier says Captain Munnerlyn is fine, Johnson is worried about his playmaker not getting enough fluids.

"He's been sick. The bad thing was that he's been having the (cramping) problems already," Johnson said. "So that could be something to be concerned about Saturday. So for the next 48 hours we've got to make sure he takes care of that. Just keep pumping those fluids even more so than normal."

With freshman cornerback C.C. Whitlock already missing Saturday's game, if Munnerlyn were to go down, Akeem Auguste could see time again at corner. Johnson says the team has missed Auguste at cornerback at times this year, but the depth at safety hasn't allowed them to play him there and it is rough on a freshman to learn the different coverages at two positions.

Johnson is also not overlooking the Vols running game.

"Phillip (Fulmer) has been up there a long time. He's an offensive line coach," Johnson said. "And Tennessee's running game is going to be Tennessee's running game."

South Carolina fans can relate to being close without pulling out a win, and in the always competitive SEC Johnson says Tennessee has been very close to having a much better record.

"They're not functioning as well as I know they want to. And they don't blow you away when you look at the stats," Johnson said. "But I'm telling you they're a really good, talented football team, and they're just a step away every time from making some big plays."


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