Stephon Gilmore continues to get some work at quarterback, and Cliff Matthews at tight end. When Thursday night arrives, however, their main priority will be defense.
Gilmore, the true freshman slated to start at cornerback, has gotten reps at quarterback in the USC football team’s “Wildcock” formation. Coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday “there’s a chance” Gilmore could play on offense at N.C. State, but that might make him too busy.
“Our defensive coaches remind me that he’s slated to play about the whole game at defensive corner, and plus he’s on a lot of special teams,” Spurrier said of Gilmore, who will return punts. “We’ve got to use him wisely. But he is such a good runner with the ball, and he can pass pretty good also. We’re trying to utilize our players the best we can to win the game.”
As for Matthews, the junior who starts at defensive end, it sounded even less likely he would get significant snaps on offense.
“Yeah, Cliff, he’s very valuable over there at defensive end,” Spurrier said. “He’s scheduled to play about the whole game there. We’ve got to not use him too much also.”
The backfield bottleneck. Thanks to injuries and the emergence of walk-on Bryce Sherman, the Gamecocks’ tailback quartet became a five-man group. Spurrier said starter Brian Maddox would get the most carries, followed by freshmen Jarvis Giles and Kenny Miles.
That leaves Sherman and Eric Baker waiting on the outside for now. Sherman has been getting work with the scout team, but even he has gotten some snaps with the regulars.
“We’ve got five tailbacks and you can’t play five and you can’t rep five and one of them has to go to the scout team,” Spurrier said. “But what will probably play out is we want to give everyone a chance in the real games as much as we can and after that, we’ll go figure out who the best is. Who’s making yards, who makes guys miss, who can take care of the ball and all that.”
What happens in Vegas. Linebacker Eric Norwood admitted he was surprised to see the Gamecocks are underdogs at N.C. State, the team they beat 34-0 last year.
“Normally I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t know how those things work, the lines and the spreads or whatever,” Norwood said. “They’ve got us as the underdogs. We don’t care. The people who make money do.”
The opener king. Spurrier has won 16 straight season-openers, dating back to his first one at Florida. In fact the only opener he lost was in his final season at Duke — and it was at South Carolina.
Still, the coach shrugged off a couple questions about first games. His mind almost seemed on following it up.
“Some people say you always improve between your first and second game. Well if that was true then everybody would win their second game,” Spurrier said. “We didn’t win our second game last year. We might’ve gone backwards a little bit or something. I just think every game stands on its own merit.”
When Spurrier was asked about the status of one suspended player — tackle Kyle Nunn — he talked in general about players being able to stay with the program.
“When you give 85 scholarships, they all don’t make it,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes it’s too much for some young men to do everything the right way. If we got a curfew, they don’t think it pertains to them, or skipping class, or things like that. That’s why some don’t make it.”
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.