COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s defense didn’t have a perfect performance Saturday at Arkansas. As pleased as Steve Spurrier was with the group’s improvement, one play early in the blowout remained bothersome.
It came on Arkansas’ first possession, ending in its lone touchdown. Before the Razorbacks could take the lead Saturday, they faced third-and-8 in their own territory. It’s the type of situation any good defense has to win. Get off the field, get the ball back to the offense.
Instead, a 20-yard pass continued Arkansas’ drive.
“We’re still trying to correct some things,” Spurrier said Tuesday, referencing the defense. “We didn’t do very well last week on that first third-and-(8) that Arkansas converted. They only sent three guys out and covered with seven. Our little linebacker, I think, should’ve made the play, but he was looking somewhere else when the ball went right over his head. So there’s a lot of areas we can get better.
“Arkansas sort of did what UCF did. They put two guys to block both our defensive ends. They blocked seven guys on that play and sent three (receivers) out. You should be able to cover three guys in a big zone that we were in. So there’s a lot of room for improvement, a lot of room that our defensive team can get better.”
Still, it was by far the Gamecocks’ best defensive effort of the season. It coincided with mass personnel changes, especially in the secondary.
Spur Sharrod Golightly said the message coaches sent with the changes to the depth chart was clear.
“Just accountability. Just be ready,” Golightly said. “We’re trying to make ourselves as deep of a team as possible. Just be sure everybody’s ready to play when their number’s called.”
Spurrier noticed the lack of hype surrounding South Carolina’s return to the top 10 this week.
The Gamecocks are still ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, but they cracked the top 10 at No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Coaches Poll is part of the formula for the BCS rankings, which will be released this week for the first time this season.
Spurrier said he found it “interesting” so many “media people” overlooked the Gamecocks’ return to the top 10.
“Guess what, we’re back in the top 10. No big deal,” Spurrier said. “I like that. Hopefully, we’re going to try and stay there. I don’t know how many weeks in the history of the school we’ve been in the top 10, but we’ve got another one anyway. But quietly we jumped back in there, I thought it was kind of neat.”
Compared to the rest of the SEC East, South Carolina has remained remarkably healthy this fall. But the season is at its midway point, and the Gamecocks are not impervious to the toll football takes on the body.
Freshman linebacker Skai Moore suffered a concussion on the final play against Arkansas, but Spurrier said he will likely be ready to play at Tennessee. Same for freshman safety Chez Elder, who also had a concussion at Arkansas but was listed atop the depth chart this week. Neither practiced Monday night.
Spurrier is unsure whether center Cody Waldrop will return from a sprained ankle this week. If he does return, Waldrop could play at guard in place of Ronald Patrick, who had a high ankle sprain against Arkansas. Spurrier said Patrick is wearing a walking boot. He’ll be evaluated Wednesday or Thursday, but his status this week is “doubtful.”
“But overall we’re very healthy at this time and hopefully we can put together one of our best games of the season,” Spurrier said.
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