Throughout the season, GamecockCentral.com will examine the five biggest individual matchups of the upcoming game. This week's opponent is Southern Miss.
TODAY: LB Martez Smith vs. RG Terrence Campbell
Steve Spurrier was joking when he said it.
"By the way, I wanted to ask you who you wanted to play at right guard this game," he asked a local scribe during his press conference on Tuesday. "Got any ideas?"
It's a pertinent question.
Thursday is crunch time for South Carolina's entire offensive line, not just right guard. The Gamecocks have depth at every position except for O-line, which featured three injuries/departures before preseason camp got into full swing.
The latest depth chart had Rokevious Watkins, who has never played a down, starting at right guard and backing up Garrett Chisolm at left guard. While Terrence Campbell has experience at right guard, a high ankle sprain in the last days of preseason camp (he has fully practiced over the past few days) and the looming specter of an NCAA investigation involving him (no official word yet) has cast his status in doubt.
Either way, it figures to be an intriguing first test for first-year O-line coach Shawn Elliott's crew. Southern Miss, which thinks its defense will be the strength of the team this year, will doubtless know about USC's thin stability and challenge it.
Martez Smith, step forward.
Smith has already been quoted in The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger as saying he had a dream where cornerback Deron Wilson intercepted a pass against USC, then pitched the ball to Smith to take to the end zone. The Golden Eagles' Sam linebacker, Smith was third on the team in tackles last year with 82, and helped contribute to the 88 team tackles for loss with 7.5.
Spurrier said on Tuesday that no team can just sit back and throw it 40 or 50 times per game anymore, due to the aggressive defenses. He wants to be able to mix running and passing on Thursday, helping show off a stable of tailbacks and a deep crop of wide receivers.
But none of those will be able to shine without good protection, which is what Smith wants to take advantage of and what USC fears. If Campbell can play, he may be playing on a healing ankle; if he can't, that's just one less player the Gamecocks will have.
"Yeah, we're thin in the O-line, very thin," Spurrier said. "We don't need any injuries up there, especially. Other places, we're in pretty good shape."
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