COLUMBIA — The outlook is much rosier.
A day after Steve Spurrier seemingly read off his entire starting rotation when discussing No. 9 South Carolina’s rampant injuries and illnesses, the Gamecocks hit the practice fields with several of the names present. Jadeveon Clowney, Marcus Lattimore, Byron Jerideau, J.T. Surratt, Bruce Ellington, Ace Sanders, T.J. Johnson, Jimmy Legree and Mike Matulis all practiced.
Kelcy Quarles and Cody Gibson did not practice. Gibson has been out for 11 days with a serious illness and is not expected to make the trip to Florida, while Quarles (sprained shoulder) has a similar prognosis.
Quarles, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said, will not travel to Florida as a combination of his injury and discipline for punching an LSU offensive lineman last week. Surratt, Phillip Dukes and/or Gerald Dixon Jr. will play in his place.
“He’s probably going to miss a week,” Ward said, comparing Quarles’ injury to Connor Shaw’s shoulder, in that it needs rest to fully heal. “We’re going to suspend him, so he’s not going to travel, for the punch.”
But the others should be fine.
“Jimmy will play, Jerideau will play, J.T. moved around a little, we’ll see how he and Jerideau feel after practice today,” he said. “Clowney will be fine. His foot’s bothering him a little bit but he’ll be fine.”
The players hit with a flu/stomach bug that has circulated through the locker room over the past two weeks may have some stamina issues, but are all expected to play. Sanders and Jerideau said as much earlier in the week. It’s a tremendous comfort to have those players available, but all problems aren’t solved.
Now USC has to figure out how to avoid what happened last week at LSU, against a Florida offense that will doubtless try to do exactly what LSU did.
The No. 3 Gators (6-0, 5-0 SEC) were a two-man show in last week’s win over Vanderbilt, tailback Mike Gillislee and Jeff Driskel gashing the Commodores for a combined 244 rushing yards and three touchdowns. With Driskel having only thrown for 836 yards and the Gators having given up 18 sacks, it’s likely that Florida won’t want to challenge Clowney and Devin Taylor coming off the edges and stick to running the ball.
LSU certainly did, the Tigers’ fleet of running backs running over and through USC’s defensive front. Ward said that there was nothing scheme-wise that triggered the performance; it was simply USC’s lack of fundamentals, such as proper tackling.
“We didn’t win our gap,” Ward said. “There were times when we got reach inside, so the ball guy hit a seam. We were in position to make a lot of tackles and we missed the tackles. It comes back down to technique and fundamentals.”
Trash talk at LSU
And then there’s the other thing.
While Ward restressed that Clowney in no way said anything to LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the pregame, as Mettenberger claimed, USC’s defensive backs did. They said something along the lines of that Clowney was going to “get” Mettenberger, and Mettenberger ran with it.
Ward said that Mettenberger was smart to do that, to get his team fired up. As for his team, he had a different message.
“It happened in the pregame on Saturday, I addressed it at that point on Saturday,” Ward said. “When we had a meeting Monday, I told them, ‘If you’re going to talk trash, you better be willing to back it up.’ That’s the bottom line – if you’re going to talk it, you got to bring your ‘A’ game. If you ain’t going to bring your ‘A’ game, don’t talk it.”
Talking on the field is part of the game and Ward understands that. He actually sees it as less than when he was a member of Alabama’s squad from 1986-89. “I think it was bigger when I played,” Ward said. “Back in the Miami days, that’s what they did. I was kind of a junk-talker myself.”
Ward said that he usually stuck to talking about players’ mothers or things like that, and he doesn’t mind if his players do it. But, as he said, they better be ready to prove it.
“It’s a big-boy game,” Ward said. “You going to talk big talk, you got to play like a big boy.”
Note: Former Gamecocks Melvin Ingram and Patrick DiMarco were at practice on Thursday.