If you haven’t heard much about Melvin Ingram and Kenny Davis this preseason, you’re about to.
The backup defensive tackles have been thrust into more prominent roles with Thursday’s news that USC will be without one of its starters the first three games, and will have the other starting D-tackle available in a limited role.
Ladi Ajiboye’s suspension had been reported here and by other media outlets previously, although Steve Spurrier had not yet confirmed the specifics of it. Ajiboye did so Thursday: He’ll be back for the Ole Miss game, meaning the Gamecocks will be missing their most active interior player for N.C. State, Georgia and Florida Atlantic.
Pepper’s situation might be more worrisome because it could linger longer. Spurrier said coaches hope to get 25 to 30 snaps a game from Pepper, whose left knee isn’t getting any better.
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As they did with Marque Hall last season, coaches will try to nurse Pepper through the season by having him sit out a lot of practices to save him for the games. Hall appeared in nine games last season, finishing with three tackles.
And while I don’t think Pepper’s knee is as bad as Hall’s was, this is not an enviable situation for the Gamecocks’ defense.
Travian Robertson is solid and can hold his own in any scrum. Davis and Ingram? I guess we’ll find out in Athens on Sept. 12. You might have heard: Georgia likes to run between the tackles.
If D-line coach Brad Lawing can patch it together until Ajiboye returns, the Gamecocks might be OK. Ajiboye says he’s lost 25 pounds from his 300 playing weight from ’08, and he’s moving well.
And Lawing doesn’t have any choice but to get the backups into the fray. They’ll only have that “inexperienced” label for another three weeks.
“Since we’re so short at D-tackle, they’ve got to play now,” Ajiboye said. “Even when I come back, they’ve still got to play.”
Fans will soon find out what that means.