The South Carolina football team practiced for about an hour in shorts, shoulder pads, and helmets on Thursday afternoon. As practice drew to a close, word of a formal letter of inquiry from the NCAA was received earlier in the afternoon. Head coach Steve Spurrier had little to say regarding the letter.
After passing the question to Media Relations Director Steve Fink, Spurrier responded; "He said we did, we did." When asked if he was concerned about the process, Spurrier answered; "I'm concerned with doing whatever I can to try and help our team beat Georgia."
South Carolina president, Dr. Harris Pastides, released a statement on the matter.
"I assure our fans and community that we will do what is right for the university. Winning and playing by the rules go hand in hand. And by playing by the rules is the only way to win. We will continue to cooperated with the NCAA investigation as we have in the past regarding possible rules violations. While we are working in full cooperation with the NCAA, our expectations have always been that our student-athletes and staff maintain highest NCAA standards."
Despite the investigation and the letter of inquiry, there is still a football game to be played Saturday afternoon. It's a pretty big one, too. The Gamecocks open up SEC play with East rival Georgia, who has had their share of NCAA trouble this week as well. AJ Green was suspended for 4 games and will not be playing against the Gamecocks. Spurrier says everything has little impact on the game.
"Two good teams going at it," Spurrier said. "We'll see what happens here high noon on Saturday."
As Spurrier is always quick to do, he was not singing praises of his offense despite a good performance in the season-opener with Southern Miss.
"I'm not overly-optimistic," Spurrier said. "Our whole team needs to play and play and play and play and play on a high level every week. If we do that for five or six weeks in a row then maybe we'll have a little optimism that we're going to continue doing it."
The offensive line did well against the Golden Eagles, allowing the Gamecocks to rush for 224 yards and did not allow a sack. Spurrier hopes that's a sign of improvement, but was quick to say that the Southern Miss defense does not compare with what the line will see Saturday.
"We'll find out Saturday if we can block these guys a little bit.," Spurrier said. "They're a good front; fast, quick, good linebackers and all that. So they're a good challenge."
Spurrier said there will be three running backs trying to find some holes created by the offensive line. Freshman Marcus Lattimore, Sophomore Kenny Milles, and Senior Brian Maddox will all get carries against the Bulldogs.
"Marcus and Kenny are probably the top two with Brian Maddox in there some also," Spurrier said. "We may use two tailbacks in the backfield. So they're all three in the mix right now." Spurrier added; "Jarvis (Giles) has been hurt a little bit and missed some time, so he's a little behind."
The Gamecocks hoped to get back SPUR Antonio Allen from a hamstring injury, but his status is still up in the air and doesn't look promising.
"Antonio's still hobbling a bit," Spurrier said. "He's gonna probably suit up, but we'll see how he's running early Saturday morning."
Assistant Head Coach Ellis Johnson says not to expect to see Allen except in extreme situations.
"He's gonna be on a minute-to-minute basis," Johnson said. "They'll let us know if we'll have him available. He hasn't had a snap of practice all week, so as far as playing at the line of scrimmage it will only be in an emergency."
With Allen out, Johnson said you'll probably see the same guys lining up at the SPUR that you saw last week.
"Same people we had," Johnson said. "We'll have (Demario) Jeffery and Blake Baxley will be available. We've repped Dion LeCorn a little bit. I guess Alonzo's (Winfield) got a little bit of work there."
The status of DJ Swearinger after suffering a concussion last week is much better. "So far," Johnson said on if Swearinger will play. "He's been given the clear."
Ladi Ajiboye will play, but he will still be wearing the cast on his hand.
"[He'll] play with that one hand," Johnson said. "He's not Ladi, but he'll be available. Probably won't start."
The Gamecocks will conclude their preparations for Saturday's contest with a walk-through tomorrow afternoon.