When freshman wide receiver Nick Jones found out he was starting this week, the first person he told was Marcus Lattimore.
“He was more excited than I was,” Jones said. “It’s going to be crazy. Me and him have been on the same field since we were 7 years old. I am ready to see that (again).”
Jones and Lattimore played youth football together and were teammates at the powerhouse Byrnes High School program in Duncan. Jones is hoping the coaches’ decision to give him his first career start holds until Saturday, when the No. 12 Gamecocks take on Vanderbilt in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“As for right now I am starting this week and we’ll see from there,” he said Wednesday night after South Carolina finished a rain-shortened practice.
The 5-foot-8, 189-pounder who was redshirted last season wasn’t in the regular rotation during fall practice but moved up the pecking order based on his three-catch, 52-yard effort against Navy last week.
“I was just patiently waiting on my number to be called, and it got called,” he said. “I knew all my assignments, and I was able to perform like I wanted to.”
Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. did not speak to the media Wednesday. The Gamecocks are ninth in the SEC in passing offense (159 yards per game).
“We work real hard on the passing game, and it’s going to improve,” Jones said. “Expect improvement.”
The offensive line’s pass blocking has been “average,” offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said, but the team’s passing game struggles can’t all be put on the offensive line, Elliott said.
“To say we’re the main ingredient, no. Everybody has to do better,” he said. “You can’t pinpoint one particular thing.”
Backup running back Kenny Miles will play Saturday with his injured right hand wrapped with a soft bandage. Running backs coach Jay Graham feels confident it won’t affect Miles’ ball security, he said.
“He’s just getting used to it,” Graham said. “It’s going to be a different feeling for him. He is just getting back to feeling good about it.”
Coach Steve Spurrier said earlier this week that he hopes to utilize Miles more this week to take some of the load off Lattimore.
The Gamecocks have won 15 of their last 17 home games
“We let one slip away last year (in a home loss to Arkansas) and we are hoping not to let one slip away this year,” safety DeVonte Holloman said. “We want to defend our home turf.”
For the first time in his 258 career games as a college head coach, Spurrier won back-to-back three point games in the last two weeks – 24-21 over Navy last week and 45-42 over Georgia on Sept. 10.
“I’m sort of happy about that,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun winning those three-pointers than losing them. Who knows whether this one will be a three-pointer or not.”