South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has admired Vanderbilt’s defense from afar all week. “Sometimes I am amazed that the other team gets their guys in position all the time,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes we struggle to get our guys in position. They play all the coverages and play them well, and they have some defensive backs that love interceptions.” Now Spurrier will get a chance to see the nation’s most opportunistic secondary up close. The Commodores lead the nation in interceptions with 10 and have returned an interception for a touchdown in every game this season.
Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore is on pace to gain 2,136 yards this season, but it’s a pace he probably can’t keep up. Spurrier wants to give Lattimore more rest after rushing him 29 times per game through the first three games. The question is, will he be able to? Backup Kenny Miles is nursing a right hand injury that will require him to wear a soft wrap during the game. Eric Baker is next on the depth chart, and true freshman Brandon Wilds could get a look as well. Lattimore has taken all but four carries given to the running backs.
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The Gamecocks were seventh in the nation in sacks last season with 41. They are tied for 102nd this season with two. Part of that is based on their opponents’ offensive schemes. USC didn’t have a sack against quick-passing East Carolina or rush-heavy Navy. “Now we can deal with regular issues that we will face later in the season instead of having to prepare for one single offense one week and doing something completely different the next week,” said defensive end Devin Taylor, who has yet to register a sack. Spurrier has made it clear he’s disappointed his heralded defensive end trio of Taylor, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney hasn’t gotten to the quarterback more.
Victor Hampton’s debut
USC will get needed help in the secondary Saturday with the debut of redshirt freshman Victor Hampton. The former four-star prospect was expected to make an immediate impact last year but redshirted partly because of his inability to stay in the coaching staff’s good graces. Hampton was suspended for the first two practices in the spring and was briefly kicked off the team this offseason before being allowed to return. He sat out the first three games this season because of an academic-related suspension. “He brings another aggressive corner,” safety DeVonte Holloman said. “He’s really good at bump-and-run coverage. He gives us another guy who can give receivers fits.”
Spurrier suggested Hampton wouldn’t be the only new face in the lineup this week. That could mean new starters or a more liberal rotation for the backups. “We may bring some other guys along and give them a chance to play also,” Spurrier said. He declined to be more specific. Wide receiver Nick Jones has earned a spot in the starting lineup, which would be one change.