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USC notes: DT depth chart expects boost

South Carolina senior linebacker No. 40 Eric Norwood, South Carolina senior strong safety No. 24 Darian Stewart and South Carolina senior defensive tackle No. 95 Nathan Pepper celebrate a Norwood sack during the second quarter of their game against N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 3, 2009.
South Carolina senior linebacker No. 40 Eric Norwood, South Carolina senior strong safety No. 24 Darian Stewart and South Carolina senior defensive tackle No. 95 Nathan Pepper celebrate a Norwood sack during the second quarter of their game against N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 3, 2009. The State

South Carolina is getting at least one starting defensive tackle back this week. It could still get the other one too.

Senior Nathan Pepper, who missed the Florida Atlantic game with a knee injury, said he felt “a lot better” and thinks he may be able to play.

“We’re still evaluating,” said Pepper, who wore a white practice jersey on Sunday. “I’ve gotta keep working out and try to get myself ready to play. In the next few days we’ll be able to tell.”

Junior Ladi Ajiboye is set to play his first game after sitting out the first three games on a suspension. The Gamecocks started in a three-man front against Florida Atlantic, a lineup they used for much of the game. Travian Robertson and Melvin Ingram got most of the action at defensive tackle.

Shoulder issues. Coach Steve Spurrier played down concerns about the team’s shoulder pads, after Ellis Johnson, the team’s assistant head coach for defense, cited them as a possible reason for an uptick in shoulder injuries.

Players have a choice of two different types of pads, according to Spurrier.

“Every now and then our guys are getting hit underneath. I don’t know if it’s the padding or something. We’ll look into it. It’s not that big a deal,” Spurrier said. “We need to look into it and make sure we’re covering the front part of the shoulders.”

Kickoff woes. Freshman Adam Yates will still get the chance to kick off, despite being pulled after struggling on Saturday. Special teams coach Shane Beamer said Yates “needs to be the guy,” citing his power. Spencer Lanning, who replaced Yates, also has the punt and place-kicking duties.

“You need a guy that can kick the ball down there in the end zone, and Yates gives us the best chance to do that,” Beamer said. “When he kicked the ball where he was supposed to, we had good coverage. When we didn’t, we gave up long returns. It’s not rocket science.”

Quitting while ahead. Receiver Moe Brown owns a 50-yards-per-rush average after his end-around on the opening play of Saturday’s game. He joked about not wanting another carry this season so he could keep up the gaudy average.

“I was looking at that,” Brown said, laughing. “I don’t know anybody in the history of South Carolina that had 50 yards per carry average. So I might want to keep that in the tank for awhile. That’d be nice. That’d put my name up there right beside Eric Norwood, wouldn’t it?”

Extra points. Spurrier said he tried to get catches for more receivers in the waning moments against Florida Atlantic. His son Scottie Spurrier got one, but Stephen Flint, inserted in the game for that purpose, lined up too tight and didn’t get open. “We don’t have too many games around here where we can get the walk-on guys and guys who just earned a scholarship a chance to catch the ball. That’s an opportunity to do it, so we’ll try to do it when we can,” Spurrier said. . . . . Beamer said he might use freshman tailback Bryce Sherman more as a kick returner. Sherman had one return at Georgia for 19 yards.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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