Sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper has 360 receiving yards in his last two games, and he’s headed into a matchup with the player South Carolina coaches think is the best cornerback in the SEC.
Florida sophomore Vernon Hargreaves, 5-11, 195 pounds, is an All-America candidate who has two interceptions and 10 pass breakups this season.
“He’s pretty doggone talented,” Gamecocks wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. “We watched him against (Amari) Cooper from Alabama and we said, ‘Those are two guys who are going to play this game for a while.’ He’s talented, moves well, quick, strong. You have to try to find out where he is and when you can get away from him, get away from him a little bit.”
Spurrier Jr. does not believe the Gators will keep Hargreaves on Cooper exclusively.
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“We will pick our spots with him, but I think we’ve got a pretty good plan,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He can’t cover everybody hopefully.”
Cooper is the SEC’s second-leading receiver with 51 catches for 786 yards.
“I think he’s their best receiver,” Hargreaves said. “Just his ball skills his ability to make plays. He’s natural. There’s not a lot of things he could point out, he’s just a good football player. You always gotta be aware where he’s at.”
The Gamecocks will need a big contribution from Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd if Hargreaves is able to neutralize Cooper but neither of those players is coming into the game on a roll. Byrd has four catches in the last three games, while Roland did not have a catch against Tennessee.
“Neither one of them has played great. Neither one of them has played as well as they could have,” Spurrier Jr. said. “I am holding them to a pretty high standard. They need to play well and they can play well. Hopefully, these last few games they can show what they are made of and play to a high level.”
Head coach Steve Spurrier was asked during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference if this has been his most frustrating season in recent memory.
“Yes, it has been obviously because of our record,” he said. “We have had some leads the fourth quarter and the entire team did not finish the game. We win and lose as a team, and we have lost our share of the close ways. Anytime you lose close ones and one play determines the game, that is frustrating for coaches. But that’s just where we are right now.”
Back in Action
After thinking his college football career might be ended by a triceps injury, senior tight Rory Anderson has a bounce in his step at practice this week.
“He’s had a great week of practice. Two of the better days he’s had,” tight ends coach G.A. Mangus said. “He’s been running around, looking like he’s full speed, ready to roll. He’s excited about getting back. There when you first find out and you kind of have an idea that you’re done for the year and all of a sudden you find out it’s not as bad as once thought, I think he’s pretty excited about as any of us would be.”
Anderson, who has missed the last two games, has 18 catches for 204 yards this season. Mangus has not decided if Anderson or Jerell Adams will start against the Gators.
“We’ll see how the next day or so goes,” he said.
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys Wednesday were guard Cody Waldrop (right knee), wide receiver Matrick Belton (right leg), defensive end Cedrick Cooper (ankle), offensive lineman Donell Stanley (left wrist) and cornerback Jamari Smith (left foot).
Clayton Stadnik will start his second straight game at center, but Alan Knott also is expected to play at the position, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said.
“It’s kind of a tossup with those guys,” Elliott said. “One is not any better than the other right now. Clayton probably had a better game (against Tennessee).”