Interim South Carolina football coach Shawn Elliott said tailback Brandon Wilds will make his return to the field after a week in which his presence was a hot topic of discussion among the Gamecocks fan base.
Wilds was listed as available before last week’s game against LSU, but then-coach Steve Spurrier said the runner pulled himself before the game.
The new coach’s diagnosis: He’s fine.
“I kept throwing little jabs at him during the week, saying, ‘It’s time to step it up.’ ” Elliott said during his first weekly call-in show since replacing Spurrier. “Brandon is a great football player and a great individual.”
The new head man also revealed that the team expects wide receiver Deebo Samuel back within the next week as he nurses a hamstring injury. Offensive lineman Alan Knott, who missed a few weeks with an ankle injury, is ready to go Saturday.
The new HBC
Elliott also said he hasn’t had much of a hand with the offensive line this week after the coaching change, and said the staff was unsure what it would have done if Travelle Wharton had not been there to take over that role.
Elliott walked into his first call-in show to the kind of ovation that probably would have been reserved for the former Head Ball Coach. Spurrier actually called into the show moments after his grandson Gavin threw his first touchdown pass in a junior varsity football game, adding a few words of encouragement to fans and Elliott. Offensive coordinator G.A. Mangus and Athletics Director Ray Tanner were also on hand.
Elliott talked about the challenge in the sudden change as well as the quick turnaround for the interview.
He had to wait in the football offices until well past 11 p.m. Monday, with a staffer checking in on him every so often. He finally got to interview and then found himself waiting a few minutes after midnight (Tanner said it was 12:02 a.m.) for the final call.
“I raced home and didn’t know what I was going to do,” Elliott said. “I said, we’ve just got to sit here and wait for a little while. … (When the call came), I was like, ‘Hush, hush, hush.’ It was kind of like when coach Spurrier called me in December to take the job here.
“He shared his message to me, and right away I said, ‘Coach Tanner, I’d love to.’ ”
Walk once more
Elliott also reiterated the request that former South Carolina lettermen join the team for the Gamecock Walk on Saturday. That starts around 1:45 p.m. in Gamecock Park.
Back end alignments
Co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke shed light on the exact arrangement of the rotation between the duo of Jordan Diggs and D.J. Smith at strong safety.
“We’ll start Jordan, but they’re going to have a rotation by series, and they know that,” Hoke said.
The coach said the staff is looking for more consistency at the position, and really across the secondary. Injured cornerback Chris Lammons is moving well and back in the rotation, according to Hoke, but he’s not starting ahead of Al Harris Jr. or Rico McWilliams.
Although the program saw large-scale upheaval early in the week with Spurrier stepping down, Hoke said he hasn’t seen much of a shift in the feel and tone of practice. He added there wasn’t much of an issue in terms of focus.
“I’m sure it was tough early,” Hoke said. “But the last few days have been terrific days of practice. They seem locked in, got their jaw set and ready to go.”
Hoke admitted he had not seen the resignation coming but said his role won’t change and praised how Elliott has taken over.
As for the game
Hoke said Vanderbilt is the sort of team that understands what it’s doing on offense and will try to out-formation a defense.
The key there is getting an opponent out of alignment. He called Commodores tailback Ralph Webb a “good back. When you watch him run the football, you’re very impressed with him.”
Red Cross report
Players who were injured or wore yellow jerseys were: QB Lorenzo Nunez (shoulder), LB Sherrod Pittman (leg), SS Antoine Wilder (leg), WR Christian Owens (left foot), WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring), TE Connor Redmond (back), QB Gage Pucci (knee) and C Cody Waldrop (ankle). WR Shaq Davidson (knee) and WR Jerad Washington (left leg) are out for the season.
David Cloninger contributed to this report
Gamecocks vs. Commodores
Who: South Carolina (2-4, 0-4 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-3)
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Line: USC by 2 1/2