Published September 26, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. – With all of the foot injuries that have hit No. 12 South Carolina it has been difficult at times for defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward to prepare for undefeated UCF.
All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is playing with bone spurs in his right foot, an injury he's had since high school. The Gamecocks other defensive end, Chaz Sutton, has a mid-foot sprain that routinely flare up.
"We've had a lot of foot injuries this year, that's more than normal," Ward said.
And that's meant balancing practice with rest, something Ward and his staff will likely have to do with both linemen the remainder of the season. The two spent much of South Carolina's bye week getting treatment and not irritating their injuries so they'll be full-speed when the 12th-ranked Gamecocks (2-1) take on the Knights (3-0) on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
"You always want to develop continuity with the same 11 guys who are starters practicing," Ward said. "It's just something we're going to have to deal with."
And it's just not South Carolina's defensive ends.
Tackle Kelcy Quarles has missed practice last week with neck sprain and has been in and out of games due to several bumps and bruises. Starting linebacker Cedrick Cooper is expected back from shoulder problems suffered in training camp while fellow starter Kadetrix Marcus didn't play against Georgia two games back because of a shoulder injury. Starting cornerback Victor Hampton has been bothered by foot problems, too.
Steve Spurrier expects everyone to play.
"All of our other minor injuries will be all right. It's going to take everybody playing their best if we're going to have a chance to beat Central Florida," he said.
South Carolina defensive line coach Deke Adams said Clowney and Sutton have worked out well this week. He thought Quarles was also moving strongly and expected a solid showing from his line.
That hasn't always been the case this year. The Gamecocks gave up 536 yards and 41 points in a loss at Georgia on Sept. 7. A week later, Vanderbilt managed 25 points on the defense after South Carolina led 28-0.
Things were so bad in Athens that Adams and linebackers coach Kirk Botkin got in a face-to-face shouting match on the sidelines as the Gamecocks struggled. Spurrier said the assistants settled their issues and understand a repeat can't happen.
Adams believes things improved against Vanderbilt and the unit is regaining its swagger from a year ago when it was ranked 11th best overall nationally.
"I don't know if we lost it, I just think we didn't play our best game against Georgia," said Adams, in his first season coming over from North Carolina. "Hopefully, we'll get back to where we want to be and I guess what everybody's expecting."
UCF is 3-0 for the first time since 1988, comes off a 34-31 victory at Penn State in its last game and has also had a bye week to focus in on the Gamecocks.
Knights offensive lineman Chris Martin says he's happy for his chance to block one of the country's best in Clowney.
"It's too exciting. This is what you live for. It's what you play college football for, for games like this," Martin said. "Me personally, going against the No. 1 NFL prospect. It doesn't get any better than that."
UCF's offense features quarterback Blake Bortles, who's thrown for 816 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
"He's a veteran quarterback. They have a veteran front. They'll give us their best," said Adams, the Gamecocks assistant. "I've been up against those guys a number of times. I know how hard they play and know what type of atmosphere will be down there. It will be a big challenge for us."
Sutton, the Gamecocks senior end, believes the rest last week helped ease the injuries and get them focused on stopping UCF even if he doesn't think he'll be fully healed by kickoff.
"It's going to always have stress on it, so as long as it's getting better than it was when I was starting out, I'll be OK," Sutton said. "As far as the UCF game, I hope its 100 percent, but I know and the doctors and trainers know it's not going to be 100 percent by then."
Associated Press writer Kyle Hightower from Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report.