COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s football team has a number of players on the mend, and not just from Thursday night’s season-opening victory over North Carolina.
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday that USC has lost junior offensive lineman Cody Waldrop to a broken ankle suffered in practice Saturday. Several other starters — including quarterback Connor Mitch and running back Brandon Wilds — are “wait and see,” Spurrier said, due to injuries suffered in the 17-13 victory over the Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
But the most serious injury was that suffered by Waldrop, a second-team center who missed much of last season with a knee problem. He became the second USC player to break a bone in practice after true freshman receiver Jerad Washington, who was injured the final week of preseason camp and will likely be redshirted this season.
Waldrop “fell into his ankle in a drill, cracked a bone in his ankle,” Spurrier said. “He’s going to be out quite a while, might could be back late this season. Very disappointed (to see him) get hut in practice. There are enough chances in the real game to get hurt. We’re trying to evaluate what we’re doing out there on the practice field.”
Mitch, a redshirt sophomore who made his first career start against the Tar Heels, suffered a hip pointer when he was hit rushing the ball in the second quarter Thursday. Mitch has not practiced, but USC’s trainers believe “he should be OK,” for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. home opener against Kentucky, Spurrier said.
Perry Orth, South Carolina’s backup quarterback, played in the second and fourth quarters of the North Carolina game as Mitch received treatment. True freshman Zack Bailey of Summerville, a guard who saw his first action in a college game Thursday night, had also been working as the third-team center behind starter Alan Knott and Waldrop.
Wilds suffered the shoulder injury on a play where he was hit and fumbled the ball, which Gamecocks tight end Jerell Adams recovered. Wilds’ injury could open the door to more playing time for Shon Carson, USC’s third-team tailback, whose 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Thursday proved the winning score.
“He may get in there earlier this week,” Spurrier said of Carson. Wilds “could be a little iffy. So Shon and David (Williams) could be the first two this coming week. That depends on how Brandon recuperates between now and Saturday.”
Also ailing are receivers Deebo Samuel and Terry Googer, who are suffering from a hamstring strain and a thigh bruise, respectively. Add their names to a banged-up wideout corps which is already without Christian and redshirt freshman Shaq Davidson, who will miss the season after tearing a ligament in his knee. Wilds was USC’s leading receiver in the opener.
“We’re worried about trying to get somebody open and throwing the ball successfully. We didn’t do that very successfully the other night,” Spurrier said. “We had a few plays that hit like you draw them up, but not many. And then late, we didn’t attempt too many passes. ... It was a tough night for us offensively.”
Kentucky comes to Williams-Brice Stadium looking for its first SEC victory since stunning the Gamecocks 45-38 last season in Lexington. The Wildcats had lost six straight before opening the season Saturday with a 40-33 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, in a game they led by 23 points before the Cajuns rallied to tie it. Kentucky won the game on a touchdown with 57 seconds left.
“Kentucky looked awfully good the first half of that game,” Spurrier said. “They were up about 33-10 going to the fourth quarter. ... Give Kentucky credit, they marched down and got the touchdown to win the game. Kentucky looks awfully good. Their athletes are fast, good, and their quarterback’s played a bunch. They’re a real solid team.”