Ten days from its season opener at Vanderbilt, the South Carolina football team got some bad news Monday when it learned that two players will be out indefinitely with injuries.
Shon Carson, a redshirt freshman reserve running back, underwent surgery Monday to fix a left wrist injury suffered during Friday’s practice. Akeem Auguste, a fifth-year senior starting cornerback, had a procedure Sunday after injuring a muscle in his right thigh during Saturday’s scrimmage. He will be reevaluated in four to five weeks.
USC’s top two running backs are already set — junior Marcus Lattimore and fifth-year senior Kenny Miles. Carson competed during preseason practices for the No. 3 spot with sophomore Brandon Wilds and true freshman Mike Davis. But USC coach Steve Spurrier said after last Wednesday’s scrimmage that Wilds would be out for another week or two with a sprained ankle.
Running back was one of USC’s deepest position groups, and though both Lattimore and Miles are healthy, backfield depth is now something of a problem for the Gamecocks.
The injuries to Wilds and Carson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year’s second game, increase the possibility that Davis will not redshirt. He was the highest-ranked recruit in USC’s freshman class, No. 63 overall by Rivals.com, and is the younger brother of former Clemson tailback James Davis.
“I’m learning the system very well,” Davis said after Saturday’s scrimmage, in which he had three carries for 17 yards. “There are a lot of things you can learn from a Heisman (Trophy) candidate and guy like Marcus Lattimore. He tells me what to do, what things to look out for.”
Auguste had dealt with a groin injury for much of the preseason. He missed all of last season with a foot injury, after starting in 2009 and 2010, and is essentially repeating his senior season in 2012. Unfortunately for Auguste, the injury bug bit him again during Saturday’s scrimmage, leaving USC to lean on backup cornerbacks, junior Jimmy Legree and redshirt freshman Ahmad Christian.
“They ran a corner route and he tried to turn real quick and he felt like he tweaked his groin, so we took him out,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said after the scrimmage. “Hopefully, it’s just a minor setback. But if it’s longer, then Jimmy has got to step up. Ahmad has got to step up. We’ll be fine. If we had to play tomorrow, Jimmy would be starting at corner. I’ve got total confidence that he’ll be ready.”
USC already lost one reserve corner this month when sophomore Cadarious Sanders decided to transfer. But Legree and Christian were getting most of the first-string reps when Auguste was out with the groin injury anyway.
Legree was a reserve corner as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and began 2011 as the starting free safety, while D.J. Swearinger was the strong safety. But after the first two games, DeVonte Holloman became the strong safety, Swearinger moved to free safety and Legree didn’t start for the rest of the season. Legree returned to corner in the spring.
Entering next Thursday night’s opener against Vanderbilt and its capable senior quarterback, Jordan Rodgers, the Gamecocks are ranked ninth in the nation — the same spot they finished last season. That was their first ever top 10 final ranking, and this is the first ever top 10 preseason ranking.
Lattimore is anxious to get back into game action after a long rehab stint of his injured knee.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve prepared for anybody, so I’m real excited about it,” said Lattimore of the upcoming opener at Vanderbilt. “I’m not thinking about (the knee) anymore, that’s the main thing. I’m just going out there trying to be myself. I just block it out and remember how I worked for those nine months and knowing that I’m strong enough to be able to take a hit or make that cut. I’m just relying on my faith in God and all the hard work I put into my leg to get it back to full strength.”
Christian returned to practice on Monday night. He practiced in a yellow “no contact” jersey.
The Gamecocks will return to the practice fields on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. (Media - Please note the time!)