COLUMBIA — Tight end Kiel Pollard said he’d love to do it if asked. Center Chandler Farrell proudly declared that he was an offensive lineman and also playing defense.
Yeah, that’s not happening.
Many options were being considered for South Carolina’s regular-season finale Saturday with its defensive depth rocked by injury, but the actual changes were rather small.
“A.J. Turner is going to rep at nickel (defensive back) for us this week,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “A.J. is a guy who’s on special teams, a guy who instinctively is able to make plays and field blocks and is a good tackler and a good space player, and has the ability to be a good man coverage guy. He is a good athlete and we will give him some opportunities to play on the defensive side of the ball this week.”
Moving one of the Gamecocks’ four running backs to defense and having receiver Shi Smith continue to rep at corner are the only changes USC will make for Akron. The depth isn’t great, but it’s OK, and Muschamp feels they’ll have enough bodies to get through the game.
Then comes a lot of downtime for exams, graduation, holidays and rest. The Gamecocks will set their bowl practice schedule once they find out where they’re going (announcement is Sunday evening) but the main objective is to get as healthy as possible.
For the Akron game? They're not destitute enough to start plugging in Farrell at nose tackle and Pollard at linebacker.
“Jabari Ellis has played in only one game so he can be up for this week. And you look at Javon (Kinlaw) inside and Kobe (Smith) inside, Josh (Belk), Ricky (Sandidge), (Kingsley Enagbare) is going to play more end in this game, Buck in this game,” Muschamp said, ticking off the names of his defensive linemen. “Shameik (Blackshear) and Griffin Gentry played a good bit Saturday night (at Clemson). Brad Johnson did a nice job Saturday night. We've got plenty of guys to go around and we've got some depth at the position.”
Jaycee Horn missed the Clemson game with a left ankle injury and was still wearing a boot this week. He could play against Akron, while R.J. Roderick should be fine as well.
The Gamecocks were severely wounded against the Tigers, at one point playing six freshmen at once. Belk, Sandidge, Roderick, Ernest Jones, Rosendo Louis and Israel Mukuamu were out there. Nothing against their talent and what they will become, but they wouldn’t have been on the field if they didn’t have to be.
“I feel like they continue to progress each game, and they’re getting better every game,” Smith said. “That’s what I’ve seen.”
It’s why Muschamp said he didn’t need too many borrowed bodies this week. He just needed enough to get by.
“A.J. has been kidding with me for three years about playing defense,” he said. “It’s nothing that he has not done at running back. It’s just that there’s an opportunity, a possibility, for him to move over and certainly help us this week. We’ll see how it goes moving forward.”