The mood around the South Carolina football program on Wednesday evening was not good. Head coach Steve Spurrier said that Kelcy Quarles, Byron Jerideau, J.T. Surratt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Marcus Lattimore were all “doubtful” for Saturday’s game against Florida due to various injuries, and Jimmy Legree, Bruce Ellington, and Ace Sanders among others were battling sickness and may not play.
That was either a smokescreen by Spurrier or Benny Hinn made a guest appearance to heal the masses.
Following Thursday’s practice, Jeriedau, Surratt, Clowney, Lattimore, Legree, Ellington, and Sanders were all in the regular practice uniforms and participated fully in practice. At this point Quarles and Cody Gibson, who is apparently seriously ill, will not make the trip to Gainesville.
“Jimmy will play, Jerideau will play, J.T. moved around well and we’ll see how he and Jerideau feels after practice,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said following practice. “If they feel good they will both play.”
Quarles has not practiced all week and was in a sling with no range of motion Wednesday evening at practice. Ward says it was a similar injury to the fracture quarterback Connor Shaw had earlier this season except to a different spot. Whether he would have been healthy or not to play is circumstantial at this point because Ward said that he would be serving a one-game suspension for a punch he threw at an LSU offensive lineman early in Saturday’s ball game.
“My first time seeing (the clip) was when Coach Lawing showed it to me two days ago,” Ward said. “We don’t play football that way. No matter what happened to you, whether you think you got a cheap shot, you play the game to the whistle.”
Now that the injury/sickness news is out of play, Carolina now turns its full attention towards third-ranked Florida, the current leaders in the SEC East with a 3-0 conference mark. The Gators are not the high-flying team that they were when Spurrier roamed the sidelines, or even in the Urban Meyer era, but they are effective. Florida is second in the conference in rushing, averaging just over 233 yards per game, and last in passing, averaging 145 yards per game.
“What we spent time doing is preparing for the run game,” Ward said. “We gave very little emphasis to the passing game. If they want to throw the football, so be it. That’s what I want them to do. We practiced stopping the run.”
That would be a good decision for Ward and his defensive staff after LSU carved up the Carolina defense for 258 yards on the ground. LSU got plenty of push on the line, but it was more of players being out of position than anything that cost the Gamecock defense.
“I don’t think we got pushed around,” Ward said. “We got ‘reached’ so we didn’t win our gap when they ran on the edges, and then there were times when we got ‘reached’ inside so the back hit the seam.”
Florida possesses the strength up front that LSU had, sometimes having as many as seven offensive linemen in the game, but they don’t have the big running backs they can run in and out like the Tigers had. What Florida does have, however, is the second-leading rusher in the league in running back Mike Gillislee. Gillislee is averaging 102.5 yards per game, just behind Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Johnny “Football” is averaging nearly 113 yards per game.
“LSU used two big tight ends, but they’re tight ends that are offensive linemen,” Ward said. “Florida just does it with offensive linemen. They have a seven-offensive line set and they’ll put it on the field. They ran it against LSU and at one time ran it, not in the same formation, 20 straight times.
“Florida has big linemen too, but they’re more misdirection,” Ward continued. “They have downhill plays like the inside zone while LSU is going to get in the I-back and run the lead. They have some tough running plays inside but they’re more about getting on the edge and running misdirection."
Carolina will do nothing special to try and stop Florida’s running attack. There will be no loaded formation with multiple defensive linemen to combat Florida’s seven offensive linemen they will use at times. Carolina will just do what they’ve done all year and, if they fill their gaps, can be just as dominant as they were in the first six games.
“We have to win our gap and fit the run right, and we have to be sound on the backside because they’re going to run comeback plays and misdirection,” Ward said. “We just have to be sound defensively.”