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Injuries hamper USC defense

Ellis Johnson was asked after Monday's practice about Melvin Ingram, a defensive tackle who was absent from practice.

Johnson had hardly bothered to ask anyone about Ingram, who was probably at his grandmother's funeral. Johnson, USC's assistant head coach for defense, had too many other injuries to worry about.

"We've got so many missing, I didn't miss him. I'm serious," Johnson said.

The many injuries may turn out to be little reason for concern. But there were a lot of players in yellow jerseys on Monday.

Two starters from Saturday, safety Chris Culliver (shoulder) and spur Antonio Allen (slight concussion), sat out practice. Defensive tackle Nate Pepper (knee), who has a chance to return after missing the Florida Atlantic game, also had a setback Sunday.

"All of them are kind of wait-and-see," Johnson said. "We're getting an opinion from the trainer, but there's no guarantee on any of them."

Coach Steve Spurrier was more optimistic, saying Culliver and Allen should be "fine."

Johnson said Pepper was ahead of schedule until Sunday and is now "iffy" for Thursday.

The special teams also has an issue. Reserve receiver Stephen Flint, the holder on place-kicks, had his arm in a sling because of an infection, according to Spurrier. But the coach said Flint should be OK for Thursday.

Another night game. USC's game against South Carolina State on Oct. 3 will kick off on ESPN Classic at 7 p.m., it was announced Monday. That means the Gamecocks are playing at night for at least their first five games. None of the remaining game times have been determined.

Giles honored. Tailback Jarvis Giles' 11 carries against Florida Atlantic earned him the SEC freshman of the week award.

Giles gained 113 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown run, despite being the third tailback to see action Saturday. He became the first Gamecock to rush for 100 yards since Mike Davis in last year's opener, and he is the first freshman to do so since Taylor Rank in 2006.

Defending the WildReb. Houston Nutt, who popularized the Wildcat formation at Arkansas two years ago, is running it at Mississippi and has now diversified it. The Rebels have been going out of different alignments.

"It makes you line up and be alert every time," Johnson said. "You make a mistake against a slow team, you chase 'em down for a 10-yard gain. These guys, boy, if they hit it at the wrong time, you've got a 60-yarder."

Johnson said the USC scout team is using freshman receivers to mimic the Ole Miss players that will receive the snap, principally Dexter McCluster.

Nixing an angle. Spurrier shrugged off a question about going against Mississippi defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who was on Spurrier's USC staff for three years.

"Not really," Spurrier said when asked if he was looking forward to it. "They play their defense. We play our offense. The players will decide the outcome."

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