COLUMBIA — Amid the flurry of lineup changes expected this week at South Carolina, at least one won’t be tied to a lack of performance in Saturday night’s rout at the hands of No. 7 Georgia.
True freshman Zack Bailey from Summerville will make his first start this coming weekend after center Alan Knott was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain suffered in the second quarter of the 52-20 loss to the Bulldogs. Bailey took over snapping duties for the remainder of the game, and will do so again in Saturday’s noon contest against Central Florida at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Zack had one or two low ones, but overall (did) pretty good for the first time. Yeah, pretty good for the first time,” head coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “He’ll get all the snaps in practice this week, and he should be ready to go.”
Knott is expected to be out several weeks, Spurrier added. Starting tailback Brandon Wilds suffered bruised ribs against the Bulldogs, and Spurrier said his status for the Central Florida game won’t be known until later in the week.
But most of the pain USC felt was inflicted by Georgia, which rolled up 576 yards of offense behind quarterback Greyson Lambert, who set an NCAA record by completing 96 percent (24 of 25) of his pass attempts. The struggles on defense, and the difficulty the offense had in trying to keep pace, will have Spurrier and his staff examining potential lineup changes this week.
“Certainly, we hope to fix it,” he said. “We’ve got to change a few players. We’ve got to coach better. I’ve got to do a better job, the assistants have got to get their guys to play better. And if you can’t get them to play a little bit better, you’ve got to try the next guy. We’re at the stage where you’ve got to try the next guy some more, and go from there.”
That could extend to the quarterback position as well. Former walk-on Perry Orth started the game, but rotated with true freshman Lorenzo Nunez, who led the Gamecocks in rushing. The two signal-callers combined to complete 10 of 22 attempts for 84 yards with one interception, although both scored rushing touchdowns.
“Certainly we’ll get both of them ready to play, and see how the game takes place,” Spurrier said. “Lorenzo did a lot of good things in there running the ball. Got to let him throw it, too, though. He can’t just be a runner quarterback. We’ll try to give him a little bit bigger game plan. Perry didn’t have a lot of chances. He struggled, as we know. But we’ll have both of them ready to go, and see how the game plays out.”
The issues on offense placed more pressure on a defense which forced Georgia to punt just twice, struggled to get any pressure on Lambert, and brought back unpleasant memories of the unit which finished next to last in the SEC a season ago.
“We’ve got to force some punts, hopefully, in the first half this week, and get in the ballgame,” Spurrier said. “Offensively, I wish we were quite as strong as we were last year with (quarterback) Dylan (Thompson) and all those other receivers. We’re probably not quite as strong offensively. Hopefully we can improve, though, and turn into a good offense and a pretty good defense. But we’ve got some work to do.”
On a more positive note, Spurrier said quarterback Connor Mitch is “getting a little bit better” after suffering an infected hip bruise which required hospitalization, but remains at least three weeks away due to his separated throwing shoulder suffered against Kentucky. And Central Florida comes to Columbia at 0-3 after falling Saturday to Football Championship Subdivision squad Furman.
That’s small consolation, though, for a team which stands 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since 2008, has four ranked opponents remaining on its schedule, and is still clearly trying to find itself.
“I wish we had more leadership-type guys,” Spurrier said. “But what we have to do is find out who our best players are. That’s what we’ve got to keep trying to do. I think our attitude will be OK, will be fine this week. ... We’ve got to keep grinding, keep finding out who our best players are, and let them go play.”