A week after shaking up the starting lineup in the secondary, South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward expects the starting cast against Tennessee to resemble what it did during the first five games of the season.
Victor Hampton has regained his starting cornerback spot after being replaced in favor of Rico McWilliams last week. Ward wanted to get Hampton’s attention after he busted a few coverages against Kentucky, and it seemed to work. The junior sat out the first series but when he entered the game on Arkansas’s second possession, he intercepted an errant pass to set up the Gamecocks’ second touchdown.
“(Hampton) had to be more consistent and not bust coverages,” Ward said on Thursday. “You’ll have young linebackers that bust coverages and young corners that bust coverages but guys like Jimmy (Legree) and Vic shouldn’t bust an assignment. They’ve been here too long. If they bust an assignment, they will be on the bench. If not, they’ll play.”
Legree will start at the other corner position. Brison Williams also didn’t start against the Razorbacks. Ward went with Chaz Elder and T.J. Gurley at the two safety spots, but Elder will miss this week with a concussion and that moves Williams back into the starting lineup, with Gurley or Kadetrix Marcus at the other spot. Ward said he was undecided about which one would start against a pass-happy Tennessee squad.
“They spread the field,” Ward said of Tennessee. “They do a good job running the zone play but they do a good job of spreading the field and throwing the football. You have to play sideline to sideline.”
T.J. Holloman has earned a second straight start at middle linebacker. He started in place of Kaiwan Lewis last week after Lewis suffered a leg infection. Lewis is expected to play.
“Holloman will start at Mike linebacker,” Ward said. “TJ better in pass coverage than Kaiwan, and Kaiwan is, probably, better against the run. This team is going to spread it out a lot, so we’re going to have to defend the pass as well as the run but we’re probably going to see more pass.”
Clowney vs Tiny
One of the most anticipated match-ups Saturday will be Jadeveon Clowney against Tennessee tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson.
The two battled to a stalemate last year — some would argue that Richardson won the battle — until the final Volunteers drive. The Gamecocks held a three-point when Tennessee had the ball inside the USC 20-yard line with less than two minutes remaining before Clowney blew past Richardson to force a fumble by quarterback Tyler Bray to halt the drive.
But Ward isn’t buying into the hype.
“I expect 11 guys to play assignment football,” Ward said. “Everybody is building up Tiny and Jadeveon but it takes 11 guys to play football. JD understands that, and I’m sure Tiny understands it also.”
Ward also expects Tennessee to handle Clowney they way nearly every team has.
“I’m sure everybody will do something different,” Ward said. “Why would I think Tennessee would not do it? They’re going to chip him with a back or put a tight end on him so I think everybody will do it.”
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle) and linebacker Skai Moore (concussion) are expected to be ready to play against the Volunteers. Ellington returned to full practice on Thursday, and Moore has been able to participate in drills for the past two days.
“Bruce is pretty close to full speed,” Steve Spurrier said on his weekly call-in show. “I think he will play a lot. If not, Pharoh Cooper is ready, Kane Whitehurst and K.J. Brent have been in there. Shaq Roland has had a good week of practice. He will be out there playing some.”
The news was not so good on the remainder of the injured list.
Guard Ronald Patrick (ankle), defensive tackle J.T. Surratt (ankle), safety Chaz Elder (concussion), and running back Brandon Wilds (elbow) were all in yellow non-contact jerseys. Center Cody Waldrop had his left ankle in a cast after aggravating his ankle injury this week.
Elder and Waldrop will not make the trip to Knoxville this weekend. Spurrier said Patrick and Surratt will both travel and he hopes they will be able to play in at least a limited role.
Sophomore Will Sport will take Patrick’s spot as South Carolina’s starting right guard, Spurrier predicted Thursday night on “Carolina Calls.” It would be the first start for Sport, who has played sparingly this season.
Spurrier stated on his call-in show that Jamari Smith has moved from the secondary back to running back.
He started the preseason as a running back but moved to the secondary when Cooper moved from the secondary to wide receiver. The Gamecocks want to ensure that running back David Williams will be able to keep his redshirt status in case of injury to Mike Davis or Shon Carson.
"Will be the 14th time I've coached in Neyland Stadium. ... I've coached there more than some of their head coaches." - Steve Spurrier