HOOVER, Ala. -- The leader of South Carolina’s defense nearly did not make it to Columbia.
All-SEC linebacker Eric Norwood said he was denied admission to USC three times before the university accepted his appeal. The Georgia native has made the most of his opportunity: Norwood has a 2.9 GPA, has made the Dean’s list several times and is scheduled to graduate in December after 3 ½ years with a degree in criminal justice.
Norwood said he had a 1.6 GPA at North Cobb High that he pulled up to around a 2.0. While several teams, including Georgia, backed off Norwood because of his academics, he is grateful that USC stuck with him.
He credits a better approach and USC’s academic support system for his turnaround.
''Just applying myself. That’s the main thing,'' Norwood said Friday at SEC Media Days. ''High school I used to walk around the halls, and that kind of stuff. But now we've got a great academic support staff. With Raymond Harrison and his staff up there. They help me out a lot.
''Now I'm able to believe if I didn't have football I’d still be able to succeed in college.''
Suspensions forthcoming - Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye and offensive lineman Kyle Nunn would be suspended for multiple games, although their suspensions have not been finalized.
''We’ll let you know next week or so. It’s not anything final, yet,'' Spurrier said. ''But they’ll miss some games, yeah.''
Ajiboye was suspended for spring practice after being arrested in February and charged with simple possession of marijuana. He received a conditional discharge in April that would clear the charge from his record if he passes three drug tests and avoids any drug-related arrests over a six-month period.
Spurrier did not disclose the reason for Nunn’s suspension.
Spurrier also said cornerback C.C. Whitlock would be suspended for ''one or two'' games. Whitlock was recently reinstated after being cleared of a trespassing charge that stemmed from a May incident at a nightclub near his hometown of Chester.
Whitlock, who needs to finish with all As and Bs in summer school to be academically eligible, has been suspended twice this year.
Make the call - Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. was the principal play-caller last year, but Spurrier has not finalized his plan for this season. Spurrier will remain the offensive coordinator in addition to his head-coaching duties, but said the play calling could be a group effort.
New quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was a head coach at a Division III school in Pennsylvania, while first-year offensive line coach Eric Wolford called a few plays during spring scrimmages.
The Gamecocks were third in the SEC in passing offense (222.5 yards) last year, but ranked last in the conference and 112th among 119 FBS teams in rushing offense (94.1 yards).
Double trouble - Spurrier is sticking with his plan to use a pair of defensive starters -- cornerback Stephon Gilmore and end Cliff Matthews -- on offense. Gilmore was the starting quarterback on South Pointe’s undefeated, state championship team last year, while Matthews was a standout tight end at Cheraw.
''A lot of people think Cliff Matthews’ ultimate position in the NFL may be tight end,'' Spurrier said. ''He’s a tough kid, can run all day. He’s about 260. That’s probably about as heavy as he can get.''
The final word - Spurrier conceded he was probably a little arrogant when he was winning big at Florida. He has become more humble at USC.
''I think when you’re 7-6, like I am now, you don’t have much to say,'' he said.
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.