While Clemson tries to determine if freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson can play against South Carolina, the Gamecocks are trying to prepare for any contingency.
“You have to be concerned with Watson because he can run the football. Not that they won’t run it with (Cole) Stoudt, but they run it a lot more with Watson playing quarterback,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “We will prepare just like we have done in the past for an athletic quarterback and one who is not so athletic.”
Watson, who has started four games, has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,197 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns. He suffered a sprained knee in a 28-6 loss to Georgia Tech on Nov. 15 and did not play against Georgia State last week. Stoudt has thrown six touchdowns and nine interceptions in seven starts and has rushed for 100 yards.
“It could (change preparations) a little bit. You wonder if they’re going to run him as much as they did before his injuries,” head coach Steve Spurrier said. “But again, we’ve got to come to the ballpark and be prepared for their offense. And whichever one goes out there, try to stop the run and then stop the pass.”
Watson is “something special,” Gamecocks linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said. “They are a good football team either way, but he’s a special cat.”
Junior wide receiver Shaq Roland, who did not play against South Carolina, will play “a little bit more” this week, Spurrier said.
“He and Damiere Byrd are probably going to rotate at one of the split end positions, and hopefully get him ready to go,” Spurrier said. “Yeah, we’ve had some players who have not had real good games. Man, why are you doing that, or not holding onto the ball, all kind of stuff. We need to get a lot sharper if we’re going to have a chance up there.”
Spurrier expects a bounce-back performance from junior running back Mike Davis as well. Davis fumbled on two of his first three touches against South Alabama.
“Mike Davis is back,” Spurrier said. “He got off to a rough start the last game, but he's back. He's ready to go this week.”
Back to Cornerback
Brison Williams will move back to cornerback to start Saturday’s game after starting the last two weeks at safety, Ward said. The move is necessary because of the concussion that will keep cornerback Rico McWilliams out this week. Ward expects freshman Chris Lammons to start at the opposite cornerback spot.
“Rico is a physical DB and Clemson has some big physical receivers, especially (Mike Williams) so you’d like to have him out there, but unfortunately things happen,” Ward said.
Spurrier only saw television highlights of South Carolina’s brawl against Clemson 10 years ago, but that was enough.
“It was a bad scene for both schools,” said Spurrier, who was announced as the Gamecocks next head coach the following week. “The game the next year, we all shook hands before the game and I think really put it to rest. But yeah, there’s no place for that kind of stuff. That was a bad day for our state, and I don’t think either team has come close to anybody throwing a punch since then.”
Today’s Gamecock players can’t imagine a game ending like that one did in 2004, several said Tuesday.
“I think the teams are a lot better now,” quarterback Dylan Thompson said. “You kind of have that respect for each other. We respect those guys. They respect us.”
Sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper did not practice Monday and was limited Tuesday but “should be OK by Saturday,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier also announced Tuesday that junior offensive lineman Mike Matulis will not return this season. Matulis, who was expected to start at right guard this year, suffered a severe knee sprain in a preseason scrimmage. He tried to return in October but wasn’t able to recover.
“He going to have surgery in the offseason, and he's going to try to fix up that knee, and he wants to come back and play another year,” Spurrier said.