COLUMBIA - South Carolina escaped the first two weeks of preseason camp mainly injury-free but lost a key clog to a much-improved offensive line when junior Mike Matulis suffered a severely sprain left knee injury during Saturday's scrimmage in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The session was closed to fans and media but once the media was allowed into the stadium, Matulis was on the training table with his knee in a brace.
"Mike Matulis sprained his knee fairly severely," Steve Spurrier said. "They'll wait and check it out and let us know how severe that was. We're hoping it's not as severe as it appeared. Other than that, I think everybody got out healthy."
There will be an MRI scheduled for later to determine the extent of the injury.
If Matulis is expected to miss sufficient time, the Gamecocks will have to shake up a starting offensive line that is expected to be the strength of the team. After the injury, Cody Waldrop moved over from center to right guard and Clayton Stadnik was the center on the first team. Those two were battling it out for the starting center spot but it might not be an issue any longer.
Will Sport, Mason Zandi and Na'Ty Rogers also could factor into the rotation.
Matulis is no stranger to the injury report. He made five starts as as a true freshman and earned Freshman All-American honors from the Sporting News. But he missed considerable amount of time in 2012 with a shoulder injury that finally ended his season. Last year, he redshirted due to another shoulder injury.
"We understand how hard he worked to get back to where he is today," offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said about Matulis during the first week of camp. "He's brought a level of toughness to our group."
Despite the injury, the offense had a better showing than the week before. Brandon Wilds had five carries for 43 yards on an opening drive that saw the first-team offense score quickly against the first-team defense. That was a reversal from a week ago when the offense had trouble moving the ball and was held to one net yard on the ground.
David Williams added 36 yards on eight attempts and Shon Carson added 17 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
"We ran the ball. We came out and ran it, ran it, ran it," Spurrier said. "Our D-line didn't play near like they played the first scrimmage, or our linebackers. For us to be successful we know we have to run the ball."
Dylan Thompson was sharp in his limited work. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 65 yards.
"He's ready to play," Spurrier said of Thompson. "We've got to keep him healthy but he's ready to have a big year I believe."
There also might be a new leader for the back-up quarterback position. Perry Orth had a second solid scrimmage and Spurrier said if the season were starting now, he would be the first one off the bench if necessary. It was believed Connor Mitch held that position until after Saturday's scrimmage.
Orth was 3-of-6 passing for 73 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd. The three incompletions were drops according to Spurrier. Mitch was 7 of 11 for 68 yards with an interception.
"Perry had an excellent day," Spurrier said. "He threw the ball very well, stayed in the pocket, got rid of it, avoided sacks. If we had to put somebody in the there today, there's a good chance he would probably be in there. But we'll let them practice all through the week. He and Connor Mitch will keep fighting for it."
The offense finished with 110 yards on the ground and 254 yards passing.
The defense recorded two interceptions - a Mitch pass deflected off of cornerback Sidney Rhodes into the arms of defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth, and D.J. Smith picked a pass from Michael Scarnecchia.
The defensive backs were plagued by several holding an pass interference calls last week but most of that disappeared in the second and final scrimmage of camp.
"I thought we made some plays. I feel like we got better," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "They had some rush yards in the first series. We didn't give up too many deep balls. I think we had one penalty back there so that was better than last Saturday."
PASSING: Perry Orth 3-6-0-73, 1 TD; Connor Mitch 7-11-1-68; Dylan Thompson 6-8-0-65; Michael Scarnecchia 8-15-1-48. TOTALS: 24-40-2-254, 1 TD.
Brandon Wilds 5-43, 1 TD; David Williams 8-36; Shon Carson 3-17, 1 TD; Darius Paulk 1-17; Mike Davis 3-15; Devin Potter 2-3; Michael Scarnecchia 2-(-8); Connor Mitch 5-(-13). TOTALS: 29-110, 2 TD.
Deebo Samuel 3-32; Brandon Wilds 3-25; Pharoh Cooper 2-41; Damiere Byrd 2-38, 1 TD; Matrick Belton 2-22; Jerell Adams 2-13; Rod Talley 2-11; David Williams 2-10; K.J. Brent 1-35; Drew Owens 1-15; Shon Carson 1-9; Terry Googer 1-5; Kane Whitehurst 1-3; Darius Paulk 1-(-5). TOTALS: 24-254, 1 TD.
Brandon Wilds 2-yard run (Elliott Fry kick)
Shon Carson 3-yard run (Landon Ard kick)
Damiere Byrd 20-yard pass from Perry Orth (Elliott Fry kick)
Elliott Fry 48-yard field goal