South Carolina assistant Ellis Johnson said anyone who describes Tennessee's run game as a bruising, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust attack is not giving the Volunteers enough credit.
While Tennessee boasts a veteran offensive line featuring four seniors and a physical tailback in Montario Hardesty, Johnson said first-year coach Lane Kiffin has a complex offense.
"You say, 'Well, it's just a game where you've got to line up and hit 'em in the mouth and they're going to grind that football,' " said Johnson, the assistant head coach for defense. "But they do a lot of things with formation movement that makes them a little bit different to prepare for."
Though the Vols rank seventh in the conference in rushing, Hardesty (102.9 rushing yards per game) is one of four SEC backs averaging 100 yards.
Johnson is considering putting one of his top tacklers closer to the line of scrimmage. Strong safety Darian Stewart practiced Thursday at his former position of spur, which includes more run and blitz responsibilities than safety.
Johnson said it likely would be a game-time decision whether to use Stewart at spur and freshman DeVonte Holloman at safety, or to stick with the platoon of Alonzo Winfield and Antonio Allen at spur.
Shades of Crimson? Tennessee's running attack has drawn comparisons to Alabama, which wore down USC in a 20-6 win two weeks ago behind a 246-yard rushing effort from Mark Ingram.
But USC defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye said the Gamecocks were not overpowered by the Crimson Tide offensive line but were slow reacting and filling gaps. The result was a highlight-filled night for Ingram, who finished with the highest single-game rushing total ever at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Ajiboye said he does not want another week where USC's defense is on ESPN's "SportsCenter" because of its inability to stop a back.
"I feel like we put (Ingram) on (the highlight shows)," Ajiboye said. "I feel like that was us giving him all that hype."
Injury report. Freshman receiver Alshon Jeffery returned to practice after missing Wednesday with an illness. "He's a lot better," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. "He ran around and he should be fine by Saturday night." ... Receiver D.L. Moore sat out with migraine headaches, but Spurrier said he should be OK by today. ... Defensive tackle Travian Robertson, who tore the ACL in his right knee against Mississippi, underwent successful surgery on Wednesday, according to team physician Jeff Guy.
The fame game. With two starts in the past three weeks, freshman tight end Justice Cunningham has received his share of publicity - a fact that likely made his father happy.
Dwayne Lawrence wanted his children to have unique names in case they became famous. Cunningham has a brother named Power and sisters Sincere, Promise and Niella.
"He always dreamed of seeing us in the paper, so he wanted to give us names that would look good," said Cunningham, an all-state selection last fall at Pageland Central.