USC is getting ready to face the SEC’s top-ranked passing offense and No. 1 passer.
If there was a game the Gamecocks could have used their starting free safety, this Arkansas game certainly qualifies.
But Steve Spurrier was right to bench Chris Culliver this week before Culliver’s attitude problem festered into something more detrimental that could disrupt the Gamecocks’ locker room during this key, three-game stretch to close the regular season.
Culliver walked out of Monday night’s practice after an argument with an assistant coach, according to sources.
Lorenzo Ward, Culliver’s position coach, told 1400 The Team on Wednesday that Culliver would not accept a move from safety to corner, and responded with a poor attitude. Ward said Culliver’s shoulder injury made him a better fit at corner, where there is less hitting required.
Culliver apparently re-injured his left shoulder warming up for the Tennessee game, in which he whiffed on several tackles and appeared to give minimal effort on some plays.
Spurrier need only look back to last year to see how a couple of individuals can destroy team chemistry. Strong safety Emanuel Cook mailed it in academically the second half of the season after deciding he’d go pro early, and was ineligible for the Outback Bowl.
Spurrier also thought a couple of other underclassmen had one foot out the door – and not just the NFL prospects. Remember that two quarterbacks who started games last season transferred with eligibility remaining.
Culliver has given no indication he plans to leave early, but he has always marched to his own drum beat. He was suspended for the first half of last year’s Florida game after taking a swing at an Arkansas player near the end of the Gamecocks’ win in Columbia.
After the Alabama game this year, Culliver stood in front of a microphone and questioned the defensive scheme Ellis Johnson employed late in the game.
Culliver is a good athlete who usually plays hard. And the Gamecocks are better with him in the lineup.
But Spurrier sent a message this week that no individual is above the team. Whether that message reaches Culliver remains to be seen.