Talk about a meaty practice report. In our final word before Saturday’s pregame about who will, won’t or might play against Georgia, we learned that not only has Vic Hampton lost his punt return job simply because his return style makes him too susceptible to injury but that he won’t start Saturday because he has missed so much practice time this week due to injury. For the record, I expect Hampton to play early and often against the Bulldogs.
What we didn’t get was much of an update on Cody Waldrop, which is probably the more important roster question. Waldrop, a redshirt freshman, has been groomed for the starting center job since T.J. Johnson graduated and played well against North Carolina. If he can’t play due to a foot injury, redshirt freshman Clayton Stadnik is expected to get the call, although true freshman Alan Knott also might get a shot.
So, what do we know about Stadnik and Knott? Stadnik, 6-3, 281 pounds, was recruited along with his brother Brock out of Greensboro, N.C. While Brock Stadnik was a PARADE All-American and four-star recruit, Clayton was less heralded, ranked a three- or two-star recruit by the major recruiting services. Clayton Stadnik missed some time during camp due to a concussion, which gave Knott some practice snaps that might come in very handy this week. Knott, a Georgia native, was a three-star recruit.
Whoever plays center for South Carolina will be facing 6-3, 299-pound senior nose tackle Garrison Smith, a team leader but not a high-profile SEC defensive lineman. The bigger challenge for Stadnik or Knott if they have to play will be the noise in Sanford Stadium and communicating with their line mates in difficult circumstances. Are they ready for such a big moment? The Gamecocks are hoping they don’t have to find out.
The South Carolina-Georgia game clearly is the marquee SEC matchup of the weekend but don’t sleep on Florida-Miami. Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson is a beast and will test what appears to be another salty Gators defense. It’s on at noon so watch and scout Florida before the Gamecocks kick off.
ESPN’s Jesse Palmer points out what we talked about in our chats this week. If Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray hits a screen to Todd Gurley and an inside “scramble play” to Michael Bennett, the Bulldogs beat Clemson and Saturday’s game has a much different complexion. Watch the screens Saturday from Georgia. They’ll throw a half dozen is my guess.
First-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahn celebrated his first win at Waffle House, which seems a very SEC thing to do to me.