Hey folks, P&C Gamecocks beat writer Ryan Wood here. South Carolina is returning from its bye week Saturday when it travels to Central Florida for a noon kickoff on ABC. It'll be Steve Spurrier's lone trip into the Sunshine State this season. To chat about Saturday's game, or anything else on your mind, send a question my way.
Lots of talk this week about why South Carolina would want to schedule a game at Central Florida. To some, seems like flirting with danger. Steve Spurrier said Tuesday it's a chance to take his team's "football show" on the road. I suppose it'll help with recruiting, playing in the state of Florida. Of course, that probably hinges on a good performance, which won't be easy. Not with the history UCF has at stake.
Obviously, Bruce Ellington filled in at punt returner last game with Hampton out, leaving Shon Carson to return kicks. That didn't work too well, with Caron fumbling a kickoff in the fourth quarter. Hampton's back at PR this week, with Ellington at KR. Going forward, that's what the coaches prefer.
Good question. It's always hard for a heavily favored team to play up to snuff in the early games. There's something about nighttime football that gets the adrenaline pumping a little more. There has been no change to the practice schedule this week, so nothing major in terms of preparation. It'll be something to keep an eye on early Saturday.
For now, I'm going to attribute it to small sample size. Just three games, and the mistakes make USC's special teams look much worse than it otherwise would. If those mistakes continue, you have to look at personnel. Spurrier said it himself after the Vanderbilt game, saying USC had to find "better players" on special teams. They hope the changes in the return game will make a difference Saturday. If not, there'll probably be more changes.
Nothing in terms of itinerary. Team will most likely fly to Orlando tomorrow. May get a walkthrough before Saturday.
I'll take Carolina. It's a trickier game than most think. Early Saturday, HUGE game for UCF, USC is gonna get the best shot from a very good team. The Gamecocks have said all the right things this week, but they'll have to prove it Saturday.
Blake Bortles, for sure. Bortles is probably the second-best quarterback in the AAC, behind Louisville's Tedd Bridgewater. He's a gamer, a good dual-threat guy that could give USC's defense trouble. I'll also be watching the matchup between UCF left tackle Torrian Wilson and Jadeveon Clowney.
Something like that is different for each person. Depends on pain threshold, and things like that. For Clowney, I don't think there's any question it's affected his explosiveness. As far as shots, I have no idea. Never had to go through bone spurs when I played in high school. Don't know anybody who did.
Gripe, vent, ponder anything you want. And, believe me, you're not alone. Plenty of media types (I'm raising my hand) bummed out by the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. SEC works with media outlets each week to choose which networks carry which games. Priority goes to CBS, ESPN for the best games. Not surprisingly, USC vs. Kentucky wasn't high on that list.
A leave? Not sure I know what you mean.
Good question. We won't know how much of an impact Cooper's impact has until Saturday, but it gives Lorenzo Ward more options. Cooper worked at both the Mike and Will this week, and he could be used at either linebacker position Saturday.
I think it's natural to get conservative with a big lead. I don't think that was the problem against Vanderbilt. It was self-inflicted mistakes.
I'm going to bite my tongue on the O'Leary resume reference. .... (still biting) .... OK. O'Leary has made a major difference at UCF. He's pulled up the quality of that program since taking the job there in 2004. I'm afraid I don't know the inner workings, since I don't cover that program. But, I think it's very impressive how he's made the most out of his second chance following the Notre Dame fiasco.
Probably about the same. He's moved around a ton. He'll continue to move around a ton. Can't allow the offensive line to target all its resources against him. Unpredictability makes it difficult.
Haven't seen practice, so can't say if there's any breakout receivers in the passing game. Also hard to believe USC will get more receivers involved Saturday than they did against Vanderbilt, when it completed a pass to nine different receivers. (Ten, if you include Dylan Thompson.) At that rate, you'd have to start tossing passes to Ronald Patrick and Brandon Shell.
USC really doesn't need to get more receivers involved. It needs to keep doing what it's been doing. Through three games, Gamecocks have three WRs with more than 100 receiving yards on the season. At this point last year, it had none.
It's a really hard thing to do with the current culture of college football. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense makes it imperative you line up quickly the first time. It doesn't leave much time to adjust after the offense gets set. So, in short, I doubt it.
Hasn't been a significant issue. Shaw spoke with the media almost 10 minutes Tuesday, and back spasms didn't come up once. Shaw did say he feels much more healthy than last season, and it's showed in his play.
He is, but he's not alone. Victor Hampton and Chaz Sutton have the ear of their teammates, too. Kelcy Quarles has some good leadership. Most of it comes from the defensive line, where USC is most experienced.
Until USC proves it can stop it with no problem, it expects every team will run an uptempo offense against its defense. UCF will be no different.
That's a good place to end today's chat. Thanks to all who participated this afternoon. I'll be back again next week. Before I go, a quick plug: I'll have a long-form story on USC running back Mike Davis in Friday's edition of The Post and Courier. Make sure you buy a paper, or check online. Until next time, care care everyone.