South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward detailed a number of personnel changes in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Florida.
Skai Moore is healthy after missing the Tennessee contest with a sprained ankle and will start at Mike linebacker. Jonathan Walton will draw the start again at the Will linebacker spot. Brison Williams will make his second start of the season at safety, with Rico McWilliams and Chris Lammons earning the start at the cornerback positions. Either Chaz Elder or T.J. Gurley will start at the other safety spot.
Williams started at safety against Vanderbilt but has started the other eight games at corner. He was strictly a safety until this season.
“You’re playing against a team that is very athletic, and you want to get your most athletic guys on the field,” Ward said. “(Florida) does a lot of shifting with the tight ends. Brison played well for us at corner, but I think he’s probably played better in his career at safety, when we can get him tighter to the box. He’ll play some corner as well, but you’ll definitely see him at safety. You want leadership and guys that are going to communicate and talk and we get more of that communication with Brison playing safety.”
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Harris or Connor Shaw
Ward said Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris reminds him more of former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw than Josh Dobbs, the Tennessee quarterback the Gamecocks faced two weeks ago.
Harris has rushed for 131 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns. He has thrown for 505 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in playing in five games this season.
“Connor might be a little taller than Mr. Harris,” Ward said. “He makes plays with his feet when he has to. He throws the ball well. They do a good job of getting him out of the pocket, and he’s an athletic quarterback that’s going to do well for them. I think they’ll run him some, but we won’t see the inside run, other than the quarterback draw.”
Junior running back Brandon Wilds sees a simple formula for a South Carolina victory Saturday.
“Hopefully, we can go every game and score every drive,” he said. “If we score every drive, we shouldn’t have a problem.”
The Gamecocks have been good on offense this year, but not that good. South Carolina is third in the nation in FootballOutsiders.com’s Offensive FEI, which is an opponent-adjusted formula measuring offensive efficiency. Georgia Tech and Auburn are the top two teams in Offensive FEI.
After coming into the season with a goal of being SEC champions, South Carolina has found itself adjusting its targets after each loss.
“For anybody, I think it would be hard,” safety Chris Moody said. “We have to keep trying to pick something different every time. We are setting realistic goals with the circumstances, so I think we are getting better.”
Moody has been as surprised as anyone by the Gamecocks’ defensive struggles, he said.
“I don’t think anybody saw this coming, especially going through camp,” he said. “We looked really good, but things happen.”
South Carolina’s offensive line will have to be aware at all times of Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said.
“Fowler is a great football player, great technique, hustle guy,” Elliott said. “He gets after it. He is one of the best defensive ends in our league. They are going to move him inside, outside. They are going to move him all around. We have to account for him, wherever he is.”
Fowler has 43 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks this season.
Bye week success
South Carolina is coming off its second bye week of the season, and that might be good news for the Gamecocks. They’ve won six consecutive games after a bye week.
The first bye week of the season came after the Gamecocks wasted fourth-quarter leads and lost consecutive game to Missouri (21-20) and Kentucky (45-38). They defeated Furman 41-10 after receiving a week off. Last year, they won at Central Florida and defeated Florida after the two bye weeks. The last loss after a bye week came against Clemson to end the 2008 season.
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys Thursday were: RG Cody Waldrop (right knee), WR Matrick Belton (right leg), DE Cedrick Cooper (ankle), OL Donell Stanley (left wrist) and CB Jamari Smith (left foot).
Staff writers Josh Kendall and David Cloninger contributed to this report