COLUMBIA — Five different players took snaps from center in South Carolina’s season-opening victory over North Carolina, but true freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez wasn’t one of them.
Yet the dual-threat quarterback remains in the mix to potentially play in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. SEC opener against Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium, according to head coach Steve Spurrier.
“He gets a lot of snaps in practice, and again, there’s a chance he’ll be out there this week,” Spurrier said Tuesday.
Perry Orth took over in the second and fourth quarters of the 17-13 victory over the Tar Heels while starting quarterback Connor Mitch was receiving treatment for a hip pointer, and receiver Pharoh Cooper and tailbacks Brandon Wilds and David Williams also took direct snaps from center. Spurrier has said since preseason camp that he had a package of plays for Nunez, who passed for 800 yards and rushed for nearly 1,200 as a senior at his Atlanta-area high school.
But against UNC, “we didn’t play hardly as many players as we planned or hoped to play, because it was an extremely close game all the way,” Spurrier said.
“Sometimes you wish you might play Davidson, or somebody like that where everybody gets to play, all the guys get to catch a pass, run with it, everybody’s happy. You get in a tough game against a quality opponent, you don’t get to play all your players who’ve been practicing, busting their tails for a month, all preseason. So I hope we can play more players. I know it’s going to be a tough game this week, but hopefully at some point we can get more guys on the field for one or two plays.”
Although three interceptions and four sacks against UNC were laudable statistics for a defense which struggled in those areas last season, co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke wants to see the Gamecocks shore up their gap assignments in run defense. Tailback Elijah Hood gained 138 yards on the ground for the Tar Heels.
“We need to get better. There were plays out there that we left that we need to improve on in our run fits, and they understand that. Very obviously, we were happy to win. We were happy with the takeaways. But we need to play better,” Hoke said after practice Tuesday.
“I thought we would fit the run better. We worked on it a lot, so I thought we would be better, a little more consistent. We have to trust our keys. We didn’t trust our keys all the time.”
Kentucky allowed 247 rushing yards in its opening-week win over Louisiana-Lafayette, which rallied from 23 points down to tie in the fourth quarter. USC rushed for 254 yards against North Carolina. “It’s very important for us to get settled in and get things cleaned up,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said. “We certainly can’t give up big runs. That’s how they won the game last week.”
Kentucky has lost 22 straight true road games dating back to a 23-16 victory in Louisville to open the 2010 season. The Wildcats are 1-24 in their last 25 game away from Commonwealth Stadium, the exception being a neutral-site victory over Western Kentucky in Nashville in 2011.
As part of the debut of Spring Brooks Plaza, a statute of 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers will be unveiled outside Williams-Brice Stadium at 4 p.m. Saturday. “I think we’re all very happy the statue of George is going up,” said Spurrier, who has his own statue at Florida. “Hopefully, we’ll have another player some year get one up there.”
Cornerback Chris Lammons (ribs) and defensive tackle Dante Sawyer (hamstring) were among those who did not practice Tuesday. Tailback Brandon Wilds (shoulder) practiced but was held out of contact.
— David Caraviello