Freshman defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has nine tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss and one quarterback hurry in the first five games of his career. Just like the rest of the USC defense, the Greenwood, S.C., native is trying to bounce back from the loss to Auburn.
"When you lose, you get kind of a down feeling, but Coach Spurrier told us we needed to regroup and come back," Quarles said. "Defensive-wise, we just need to keep playing hard and get rid of some missed assignments. We're still the same team. We just have to step up our game.
"We'll be ready Saturday. I think it will be a big turnaround and a big treat for the fans. Kentucky beat us last year. I know we've had slumps (in the past) where the team goes downhill. But we're not going to do that. This is a whole different team. We're going to go out against Kentucky and playing our butts off."
By his own admission, Quarles struggled in his college debut against East Carolina on Sept. 3. But starting with the Georgia game, he's picked up the intensity and his production on the field has improved. Quarles recalls that once he became comfortable with the surroundings and trappings of major college football, he has settled down.
"I feel like I'm in high school again in a sense with the way my energy level has turned up," Quarles said. "We talk about the Hair on Fire Award. That just gets me jacked up. I want to play hard every game. When Coach Lawing recruited me, he told me he wanted me to bring the same emotion and intensity to this team. I'm playing my heart out. I looked at my performance before and I knew I could do much better."
Although Melvin Ingram is questionable for Saturday's game, the senior has already established a high bar for Quarles and the other young defensive linemen to jump over.
"I'm trying to catch up with him, to tell you the truth," Quarles said. "You can't play football without emotion and intensity. Melvin is every bit of that and more. Every time I look at him, I tell him 'don't forget about me when you go to the league.'"
Quarles looks for USC to bounce back against the Wildcats at home on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky carries a three-game losing streak into the game and in winless in two SEC starts.
"We're not going to go down. It's a whole different team," Quarles insisted. "We're going to go out against Kentucky and play our butts off. It's going to be a great show."
DEPTH CHART FOR KENTUCKY GAME: The depth chart for Saturday's home game against Kentucky was released Tuesday morning. The significant changes on the offensive side include quarterback, of course, where Connor Shaw is slated to make his second career start. The left tackle spot is unsettled with Kyle Nunn, Rokevious Watkins and Mike Matulis all listed as possibilities to start. Nick Jones is listed as the clear-cut first teamer at one of the outside WR spots.
WR - Alshon Jeffery (Smith, Scruggs)
WR - Ace Sanders (Ellington OR Byrd)
WR - Nick Jones (Barnes OR Moore)
LT - Kyle Nunn OR Rokevious Watkins OR Mike Matulis
LG - A.J. Cann (Harris)
CT - T.J. Johnson (Ford)
RG - Terrence Campbell (Patrick)
RT - Rokevious Watkins OR Cody Gibson
TE - Justice Cunningham (Anderson)
QB - Connor Shaw (Garcia)
FB - Dalton Wilson (Coffee)
TB - Marcus Lattimore (Baker OR Wilds).
Defensively, there were no changes on the depth chart heading into the Auburn game. But this week, there are some differences. First, Brison Williams is now listed as the backup strong safety behind DeVonte Holloman, while Corey Addison has been moved to spur linebacker. He is listed third there behind Antonio Allen and Damario Jeffery.
DE - Devin Taylor (Sutton, McKnight)
DT - Travian Robertson (Jerideau)
DT - Aldrick Fordham (Quarles)
DE - Melvin Ingram (Clowney)
MLB - Shaq Wilson (Paulk, Gilchrist)
WLB - Reginald Bowens (Smith)
SPR - Antonio Allen (Jeffery, Addison)
CB - Stephon Gilmore (Hampton)
SS - DeVonte Holloman (Williams, Golightly)
FS - D.J. Swearinger (Legree, Marcus)
CB - Marty Markett (Whitlock)
GILMORE READY FOR KENTUCKY: Stephon Gilmore was part of the USC secondary that was burned in the second half of last year's loss to Kentucky in Lexington. As a result, he knows you can't take anything for granted in the SEC.
"You can't overlook any team in the SEC," Gilmore said Monday night. "All the teams are good. Kentucky is just our next opponent and we have to bring our 'A' game. We have to come into every game and play our hardest."
Like the rest of his teammates, Gilmore is trying to put the loss to Auburn behind him.
"Coach just told us that he knows we can play better, to put the (Auburn) game behind us and take our frustration out on Kentucky," Gilmore said after Monday night's practice. "We can't be down. We know we lost the last game, and we need to try to correct the things we didn't do well and go from there."
JOKER! JOKER! JOKER!: Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips knows his struggling offensive line will have its hands full on Saturday trying to contain a USC defensive front featuring the top two sack artists in the SEC: Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (4.0). The Gamecocks lead the SEC in sacks (13), while Kentucky has allowed the most sacks (21) through five games. Mismatch?
"If freshman could come out, Clowney would probably be the No. 1 pick," Phillips said Monday. "Ingram is one of the bigger athletes in the league. Just watching a couple of clips of Clowney, he is very athletic. A running back tried to go cut (block) him and he hurdled him and caused a fumble. He is so long and athletic and powerful. Ingram is all over the place. He's faking punts. He's played inside, which tells you how powerful he is and now he's playing on the outside, which tells you how athletic he is."
-- The USC-Kentucky game is one of five SEC matchups on Saturday. The complete SEC schedule for Oct. 8:
Mississippi State at UAB, noon (Fox Sports Network)
Kentucky at South Carolina, 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network)
Florida at LSU, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Auburn at Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Vanderbilt at Alabama, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
OPEN: Ole Miss.
-- Here is ESPN.com's quick primer of the USC-Kentucky game: "South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has promised offensive changes for his team. . .Stephen Garcia has been awful the past two games and his mistakes finally caught up with the Gamecocks in their loss to Auburn. Kentucky's offense still doesn't have much of a pulse and it won't help that South Carolina's defense has played very well these past two weeks."
-- SEC teams have scored 18 defensive touchdowns this season with USC scoring the most (4). Vanderbilt has three and Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State have scored two each. Nine of the 12 conference teams have scored a defensive touchdown thus far.
-- In The HOT and NOT Dept: ESPN.com tabbed the Kentucky offense as NOT: "The only two FBS teams ranked lower than Kentucky in total offense are Florida Atlantic and Kent State. That's not the kind of company you want to be keeping. The Wildcats are averaging 255.6 yards in total offense and have been limited to nine touchdowns in five games. In their 35-7 loss to LSU last Saturday, they managed just 155 yards and only had 59 through three quarters."
-- ESPN.com's SEC Blogger Chris Low kept USC at No. 5 in his weekly Conference Power poll: "You could see it coming with the Gamecocks, who had been skating by and playing just well enough to win. It caught up with them Saturday, that and an offense that has gone belly-up. The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1) lost 16-13 to Auburn at home and are going to lose again if they don't figure out something at quarterback. It sounds like fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia will be benched, as Steve Spurrier said changes are coming."
-- The SEC has announced the times and television information for the games on Oct. 15:
USC at Mississippi State, 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network)
LSU at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Alabama at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Florida at Auburn, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Georgia at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. (Fox Sports Network).
(All Times Eastern)
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