Lorenzo Ward approached a large media contingent Tuesday evening with a big smile on his face, but then admitted some of it was forced.
“Probably the worst (season) I have been a part of,” said South Carolina’s third-year defensive coordinator, joking about his job security by saying the swarm of reporters had some similarities to buzzards. “Well, I can’t say that, because we went 2-14 when I was with the Raiders. Lost 12 in a row.”
The Gamecocks defense is ranked last in the SEC in yards and points allowed and has surrendered two-touchdown leads in three games this season, including last week in a 45-42 overtime loss to Tennessee.
“It’s tough, but you have to grind through it,” Ward said. “You are not used to losing. We got accustomed to winning around here. We need to go back to it. We are going through this for a reason, and there a lot of reasons, but we can’t give up on the kids and can’t give up on the system.”
Asked if he had concerns about his job security, Ward replied, “Not at all.”
“We have three games left in the season,” Ward said. “We don’t want to lose those three. We have to do the best we can do to beat Florida.”
One day after announcing that redshirt freshman Na’Ty Rodgers would not return to the team, Spurrier decided to allow Rodgers one more chance.
“Na’Ty came back, convinced me that he will be a solid student-athlete, go to class, do everything he is supposed to do, so I am giving him one last chance,” Spurrier said.
Rodgers, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound Maryland native, has been moved from offensive tackle to defensive line, where he practiced Monday night with the team.
“(Offensive line coach Shawn) Elliott, I think, had had enough of him,” Spurrier said. “We’ll see if he can do any good (on defense). If not, he’ll be on the scout team and go from there. We’ll see if he can play a little more aggressive than what we have been getting.”
Ward and defensive line coach Deke Adams suggested it will be difficult for Rodgers to contribute this year.
Spurrier expects “several” juniors to participate in the team’s Senior Day activities on Nov. 22 prior to the South Alabama game, but that doesn’t mean those players will skip their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft.
“I think a lot of them are,” he said. “I think (running backs) Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds and, maybe, (offensive tackle) Brandon Shell, I am not sure, maybe a few of the defensive guys.
“We will have several juniors do the senior walk and then they will make the decision later whether to go or come back. If they want to walk twice, that’s fine, too. We’ve had several guys do that.”
Linebacker Skai Moore (ankle) is off crutches and said he’ll be ready for Florida, although he didn’t practice Tuesday.
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys were: safety Chris Moody (concussion), spur Sharrod Golightly (wisdom teeth), spur Jordan Diggs (shoulder), Shell (ankle), offensive lineman Mike Matulis (knee), defensive end Mason Harris (knee), Moore (ankle), safety Kadetrix Marcus (shoulder), offensive lineman Cody Waldrop (right knee), wide receiver Matrick Belton (right leg), tight end Rory Anderson (left tricep), defensive end Cedrick Cooper (ankle), offensive lineman Donell Stanley (left wrist) and cornerback Jamari Smith (left foot).
Staff writer David Cloninger contributed to this report.