COLUMBIA — He may not start Saturday against Central Florida, but Perry Orth expects to play.
Orth started last weekend’s loss at No. 7 Georgia, in which he rotated snaps with true freshman Lorenzo Nunez, who will start Saturday’s noon contest against the Knights. Although he isn’t sure exactly when or how much, Orth said he’s been told he’ll get into the game at some point.
“Whenever (quarterbacks) coach (G.A.) Mangus and (head) coach (Steve) Spurrier throw me in there is when I’ll get my chance,” he said following Wednesday’s practice. “Hopefully, I’ll be ready to roll.”
Orth completed 6-of-17 attempts for 66 yards and an interception in the 52-20 loss, and also ran for a four-yard touchdown. Orth “did not play all that poorly last week,” Spurrier said. “Basically, Georgia had an excellent pass rush and excellent coverage. When all that happens, it’s tough for any quarterback to do well.”
Nunez, who led USC with 76 rushing yards, will become the first true freshman to start behind center for the Gamecocks since Mikal Goodman started against Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Tennessee in Lou Holtz’s winless 1999 campaign.
“I’m happy for Lorenzo, obviously. He’s an awesome dude,” Orth said. “He’s going to get his chance just like I got my chance, and we’ll go from there. But it’s nice knowing they still have confidence in me, knowing that I’m going to play. They haven’t turned their backs on me or anything.”
Slot receiver Pharoh Cooper is carrying the ball more often out of the backfield, including five rushes last week at Georgia. “That’s a quick way to get it in his hands without too many issues,” said receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr.
Cooper touched the ball seven times against the Bulldogs — five of them on designed rushes. With the quarterback position in flux, coaches are looking for more methods of getting the ball to their All-SEC candidate.
“We’re certainly going to find as many ways as we can to do that, but it’s not like we come out on Saturday morning and say, ‘Let’s put this play in the middle of the game.’ So we’ve got all that stuff in,” Spurrier Jr. said. “But as much as we can get it in his hands, well try to do that.”
Cooper had 69 catches for 1,136 yards last year. Through three games this season, he has 13 catches for 151 yards.
With Brandon Wilds questionable due to bruised ribs, running backs coach Everette Sands said Shon Carson will start against UCF, with David Williams second and Rod Talley third. “It’s not that (David) is playing bad, I have high expectations for him,” Sands said. “I expect him to be more productive. He needs to relax and play. Just go out and play.”
Spurrier Jr. hopes to redshirt true freshman receivers Jalen Christian and Christian Owens. “They’re right on that bubble,” he said, “but if we could redshirt both of them, I’d like to.” That will likely hinge on whether a receiver corps which has already lost Shaq Davidson and Jerad Washington suffers any further injuries.
Terry Googer has taken over one starting receiver spot along with Cooper and Deebo Samuel, Spurrier Jr. said. And true freshman D.J. Neal could see more action after making his first career catch at Georgia. “D.J. Neal is going to get a chance to play a little bit more,” Spurrier Jr. added. “He played pretty well. We have to keep getting him better every day.”
Jamari Smith, who came to USC as a running back, was converted to cornerback, and then switched to receiver a few weeks ago after Davidson and Washington went down, has been moved back to cornerback and will wear No. 22.