South Carolina’s defense will be facing the SEC’s third-leading rusher this week in Auburn sophomore Michael Dyer.
Having faced the SEC’s leading rusher, their own Marcus Lattimore, in practice for the last 18 months should have them prepared well for it, several Gamecock defenders said this week. The 6-foot, 230-pound Lattimore and the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Dyer have very similar running styles.
“It helps us tremendously,” linebacker Rodney Paulk said. “We feel real good about our chances. As long as we execute we should be all right.”
Dyer is averaging 106.5 yards per game. He rushed for 1,093 yards last season on 182 carries.
“They are going to run him a bunch, we know that,” South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said. “They are going to run a lot more certainly than they did last year with Cam Newton back there. Their quarterback is not a real runner. I think he can run a little bit here and there, but Dyer is their main guy.”
Lattimore and Dyer are friends but have not spoken this week, Lattimore said.
“One thing we have in common is we run hard,” Lattimore said. “He has good hands out of the backfield. He can cut, make you miss, and he weighs a lot, too.”
Freshman safety Brison Williams, who broke his arm during a preseason scrimmage, will make his debut this week as a backup, assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said.
“He’ll play a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s not ready to start. He’s been out too long and hasn’t picked up all the assignments and things, but he’s really better than I thought he would be at this point.”
Spurrier said he is not too concerned about the number to timeouts South Carolina had to call against Vanderbilt because the play clock was running out.
“That’s not our problem,” Spurrier said.
He did acknowledge “a little confusion” in the offense’s timing.
“We start late,” he said. “Seems like we break the huddle on the sideline when the clock’s running. After a timeout, or a new possession, or whatever, everybody says, ‘Don’t go out there yet, the clock’s not running,’ then we get halfway out there and there’s about 12 seconds, we got a guy shifting or something. Some other times, we get up there and we’re trying to check to a play and this, that and the other, and dah-dah-dah.”
Johnson is not thrilled with the play of his linebackers, but there’s no shakeup in the near future. That means Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens will start again this week.
“We don’t have a linebacker who has had a breakout game that deserves to stay on the field 55 or 60 plays, and we don’t have one who has played bad enough to put him on the bench,” Johnson said. “They have all been OK. I told them it’s B-minus, C-plus, and it’s got to get better.”
Backup linebackers Quin Smith (16) and Rodney Paulk (15) have combined for 31 tackles this season while Wilson (14) and Bowens (13) have combined for 27.
TALKING THEM UP
Auburn’s defense is ranked 110th in the nation in yards allowed (477.5 per game), but Lattimore is trying to talk up the Tigers.
“I look at those stats and I think they’re kind of deceiving,” he said. “I think they’re a little better than the stats show. They have a lot of good athletes on the d-line. I think they’re better than that.”
Lattimore has a tough case to argue. The Tigers are coming off a game in which they allowed 307 yards to Florida Atlantic, which averages fewer yards than any FBS team in the country (164).