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Even with a couple of players injured at running back, USC coach Steve Spurrier likes his team’s situation at the position.
Of course, it helps to start with junior tailback Marcus Lattimore, who is healthy again after a season-ending knee injury last season. Spurrier said Lattimore will wear a light knee brace for at least the first game and that Lattimore could carry the football 25 to 40 times against Vanderbilt in the season opener if needed.
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Spurrier also wants to see senior backup Kenny Miles get a fair share of carries. Miles played well in the season-ending victories against Clemson and Nebraska while filling in for Lattimore.
“All summer he was one of the top workout guys, according to our strength coaches,” Spurrier said. “He’s one of the leaders on the team, fifth-year senior. You’ve got to admire everything he has done here. He’s already graduated, could have gone and played at a lot of schools and probably been the starting tailback.”
Spurrier looks at Miles’ 4.7 yards-per-carry career average and knows one thing.
“Man we should have given him the ball more. He’s a good player, and we need to get him on the field.”
Miles said Spurrier has given him the message that he should be more involved.
“He's been telling me that he's working me into the game plan, things like that,” Miles said after Monday night's practice. “I'm excited to get on the field and help our guys out.”
With tailbacks Brandon Wilds (ankle) and Shon Carson (wrist) out, freshman Mike Davis will make the trip to Nashville. Spurrier said that Davis would not redshirt if he’s going to be in a position to help the team.
Running backs coach Everette Sands agreed.
“Mike has to be ready. He's the third guy,” Sands said Monday night. “He has to make sure he's ready to roll.”
USC won't hesitate to put Davis in the game, Sands said, but there is no set plan to ensure he gets carries.
GUIDING THE SHIP
The captains for the Vanderbilt game – named by the coaches -- are four senior starters,safety D.J. Swearinger, linebacker Shaq Wilson, and two on offense, center T.J. Johnson and tight end Justice Cunningham.
The coaches will name the captains each week until permanent captains are selected by their teammates during the open-date week in November.
USC fans will get an idea if receiver Shaq Roland can follow in the footsteps of other recent freshmen – such as other S.C. Mr. Footballs Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney and Lattimore -- who have made an immediate impact.
The highly-touted Roland, who played at Lexington High, should play against the Commodores, although he isn’t in line to start.
“He’s going on the trip and he should play here and there a little bit,” Spurrier said.
Roland has performed well in the preseason scrimmages.
“He has caught the deep ball. He has caught some intermediate routes. He can run and he can catch. We know that,” Spurrier said. “It’s a matter of him getting on the field.”
A NEWER MODEL
Vanderbilt’s offense features more firepower than the one that managed just three points on 77 yards in last season’s loss to USC. The Commodores’ starting quarterback is Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His top target is receiver Jordan Matthews, who led the SEC with 19.0-yards per catch.
That would be No. 13.
Both punters, Tyler Hull and Patrick Fish, will wear the same number this season. Spurrier said that’s within the rules as long as both are not on the field at the same time.
“We may start a new trend around the country. See about five punters, all in the same number,” he said. “It’s legal, perfectly legal.”
Spurrier knows it’s time to set aside the preseason jokes and get serious about the games. He notes that winning coaches tend to do more talking and joking since things are going their way, but he prefers not to stir the pot as much once play begins.
“Generally in the offseason, light comments are halfway funny and halfway true,” he said. “It’s not life or death in the offseason. During the regular seasons, I try not to be real funny about anything.”
“We've never overlooked Vandy. To us they've always been good competition. It's SEC ball. Every team is a good team. Vandy is a great team just like they were the year before, and they are progressively getting better.” – Miles on the Commodores
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