Lorenzo Nunez has started the last two games for South Carolina. He’s led the Gamecocks in rushing both times.
That would be fine with head coach Steve Spurrier if Nunez was his team’s tailback, but he’s not. He’s the true freshman quarterback.
“I don’t want him running that much, I don’t think any of us do,” Spurrier said after his team fell 24-10 to Missouri on Saturday. “Running backs run, quarterbacks pass, receivers catch and every now and then quarterbacks run. We don’t need him to run as much.”
Nunez has 33 carries for 183 yards in the last two weeks. He’s the Gamecocks’ leading rusher and the No. 10 rusher in the SEC for the season with 299 yards on 45 carries.
“I don’t really mind (running),” Nunez said. “If I have to run then I’ll run, but if he doesn’t want me to, that’s his decision. If I do run, when I run I’m going to try my best to get yards.”
Nunez carried 15 times for 60 yards against the Tigers, and he left the game twice due to injuries, one to his ankle and one to his shoulder. The shoulder injury came midway through the fourth quarter, and Nunez did not return to the game.
“Our trainer says Lorenzo Nunez should be OK,” Spurrier said Sunday.
Nunez will start against No. 7 LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium if he is healthy, Spurrier said. Nunez threw three interceptions Saturday while completing 15 of his 24 pass attempts for 172 yards.
“Lorenzo had some freshman plays [Saturday],” Spurrier said. “First game, he took his steps, looked down the field and fired the ball. Unfortunately, at times he didn’t look down the field and just sort of took off running. But that’s a freshman playing in a passing offense for the first time.”
Nunez’s two starts have coincided with the two games starting running back Brandon Wilds has missed due to a rib injury. Wilds may return this week, Spurrier said.
“We have to block better. We have to run better. We have to do a lot of things better,” Spurrier said. “Our offense can’t just depend on the quarterback run.”
Five games into the season, the Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3 SEC) are last in the SEC in scoring (20 points per game), 12th in yards (353.4 per game) and 12th in passing yards (163.2 per game).
South Carolina likely will make some personnel changes on offense this week, Spurrier said, but he declined to say Sunday what they might be.
“I don’t like to do it through the newspaper,” Spurrier said. “There will be some different players. We need to have some different players. We need a little spark on offense.”
Nunez, who said “most” of his carries against Missouri came on scramble plays rather than designed runs, insists he doesn’t feel like he has to win games by himself.
“Not at all,” he said. “It’s a team game. It’s not on me. As a team we have to do a good job and be a team and do what we have to do to win.”
He appeared to be pressing, though, in the third quarter Saturday, when he threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions.
“He’s young. He’s very young. His second start, a road game,” junior linebacker Skai Moore said. “He can only get better from here. He’s a good talent. He just has to get more confidence and get used to the system better.”
Junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who is eighth in the SEC in receiving with 26 catches for 322 yards, has been the only offensive player able to provide Nunez much help so far.
“He just has to relax back there,” Cooper said of his quarterback. “He knows he has players with him. He can run as well. If a play is busted, he knows he has to make a play on his own.”
Just not too many, his coach hopes.