The Gamecocks practiced for the final time Thursday before they travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. South Carolina is coming off its first SEC win of the year, while the Wildcats are still in search of their first conference victory. For the first time this season, the Gamecocks have generally had what can be described as an “uneventful” week of practice.
“No news this week,” Steve Spurrier joked. “We know it’s going to be a tough, physical game, and hopefully our guys are ready to play a tough, physical ballgame up there.”
For the first time this season there are no expected lineup changes heading into the next game. Carolina will celebrate the occasion by wearing the same all-white uniforms it sported last weekend. The starting lineup will not be identical to last week due to the specific formations used, but the top eleven will remain the same on each side of the ball.
“Knock on wood [they will all be the same],” said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. “I wish y’all would quit asking that. There won’t be anything on the depth chart that we’ll change.”
The consistency in the lineup is mainly due to the Gamecocks having put forth their most complete game of the season. Offense, defense, and special teams all put forth solid performances. Equally key, though, is good fortune on the injury front. Darian Stewart and Emanuel Cook both suffered carpet burn on the turf at Ole Miss, but will suffer no ill effects. Cook also sprained an ankle, but will play.
“He’s fine,” said Johnson. “I don’t know if he’s 100%, but he’s certainly not limited too much.”
Cook’s offensive counterpart, tight end Jared Cook, also suffered a foot injury. Spurrier said Thursday that Cook should be alright, and is expected to start.
“He practiced pretty well today,” he said.
Kicker Ryan Succop also has a minor, nagging injury that will not prevent him from playing. Succop suffered an abdominal strain on Monday, and missed some practice time this week.
“He’s been out here kicking almost every day, every now and then he takes a little time off,” Spurrier said. “He’s been kicking about every day.”
Although Carolina goes into the game with the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week in quarterback Chris Smelley, Spurrier is not expecting a shootout. The Wildcats boast the nation’s best scoring defense, giving up just over seven points a game.
“Kentucky’s number one in scoring defense, did you know that?” Spurrier reminded reporters. “We’ll see what happens.”
Johnson knows the offense may not put up a big scoring day, so the defense will have to hold up its end of the bargain. Kentucky is not as explosive as last year, when it had Andre Woodson, Rafael Little, and a host of talented wide receivers. However, the Wildcats run the same offensive scheme as last season, and quarterback Mike Hartline is a smart decision maker behind center. Injuries along the offensive line, however, will give the Gamecocks an advantage.
“It’s exactly the same offense,” Johnson said. “The quarterback this year is a very good player in the scheme; he knows what he’s doing. They’ve got a lot of people beat up up front, and I think that’s been part of the problem. With all the injuries up front, the running backs really haven’t had a breakout game. Hopefully we can do the same [to stop them].”
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