Spurrier talks possible lineup changes
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Freshman Lorenzo Nunez could start at quarterback for South Carolina Saturday when the Gamecocks square off with UCF at noon in a matchup between two struggling teams at Williams-Brice Stadium.
He might not be the only freshman handling the ball every play.
Summerville product Zack Bailey, the No. 1 prospect from the Palmetto State for the 2015 recruiting cycle, should also make his first career start at center against the Knights in the wake of Alan Knott's high ankle sprain suffered in the first half of Saturday night's loss at Georgia.
If that happens, the Gamecocks would have a true freshman center snapping the ball to a true freshman quarterback at the outset of a game - and possibly for the entire 60 minutes - for the first time in recent memory.
Knott should be sidelined several weeks because of his injury, Steve Spurrier said, opening the door for the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Bailey to make his first career start in front of the home fans on Saturday.
Bailey did not appear to have any major issues arising from snapping the ball, Spurrier said Sunday during his weekly teleconference, and "overall did pretty well for the first time."
Bailey should get most of the practice reps this week as USC prepares for UCF, Spurrier added, which should help him.
While the personnel change at center occurred out of necessity due to injury, additional lineup changes could come about through lack of performance, Spurrier said Sunday.
"We just haven't played extremely well," Spurrier said. "We have to play better and try some different players, some of whom haven't played all that well. We'll try to put the best team on the field to help us win the game this week."
The most intriguing question, of course, is whether Spurrier pulls the trigger and anoints Nunez as the starter over Orth on Saturday. Nunez led USC with 76 rushing yards and completed 4-of-5 passes for 18 yards in the Georgia loss and was clearly USC's most productive offensive player.
"When we got way behind, it was pretty much let Lorenzo run the ball and try to move it as well as we could," Spurrier said.
We return home to Williams-Brice next Saturday, Sept. 26 to take on UCF at Noon. #Gamecocks #BounceBack- Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) September 20, 2015
Regardless of who starts, Spurrier suggested both would play when USC attempts to snap a two-game losing streak against UCF.
"We'll certainly get both of them ready to play and see how the game unfolds," Spurrier said. "Lorenzo did a lot of good things in there running the ball. But we have to let him throw it too. He just can't be a running quarterback. We'll try to give him a little bigger game plan."
Playing mostly in the first half, Orth was 6-of-17 passing for 66 yards in the loss to Georgia. He played sparingly the rest of the way (1 pass attempt) after throwing an interception early in the third quarter that Georgia quickly converted into a touchdown for a 38-13 lead.
"Perry didn't have a lot of chances," Spurrier said. "He struggled. We didn't get a lot of guys open. They played tight coverages in their zones. So, it was a struggle. We'll have both of them ready to go and see how the game plays out."
[rl]Walk-on WR Matrick Belton led USC is receptions with four on Saturday. Only Belton and Deebo Samuel had more than two receptions.
"We're not quite as strong as we were last season (offensively) with Dylan and all those receivers," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, we can improve and turn into a good offense and a pretty good defense. But we've got some work to do. We'll try our best to put a decent team out there for our fans.
"I wish we had a few more leadership-type guys. What we have to do is keep trying to find out who our best players are. The last couple of weeks haven't gone our way. But we just have to keep grinding and try to find out who our best players are and let them play."
USC faces a UCF team Saturday seemingly far below the talented Knights team that lost just one game two years ago - a 28-25 loss to USC - and played in a major bowl game. UCF fell to 0-3 as a result of Saturday's 16-15 frustrating home loss to Furman in Orlando. They also dropped a 1-point decision to FIU in the season opener.
By this point, former UCF quarterback and 1st-round NFL draft pick Blake Bortles is a distant memory for the Knights.
Saturday's noon kickoff is a matchup between two teams desperately striving to get back on track with one win between them.
"Furman hit a couple of big plays, but other than that, the UCF defense stopped them pretty good," Spurrier said. "They have some big, strong guys at linebacker. We just have to play better than how we've been playing, or we're always going to be in trouble. UCF is a good team that hasn't played all that well, but they are certainly capable."
Helmet sticker to honor former @SEC commissioner Mike Slive & help raise awareness for prostate cancer. #Gamecocks pic.twitter.com/NgZ19CRVfE- Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) September 19, 2015
Nonetheless, the Gamecocks defense is struggling to such an extent right now that even stopping a UCF offense averaging 12.0 points per game could prove surprisingly challenging.
USC forced just two punts by Georgia as the Bulldogs' offense registered seven touchdowns and a field goal in 11 possessions, meaning USC stopped the Bulldogs just three times all night.
"We're struggling on defense, as everybody knows," Spurrier said. "We have to stop some people. We have to force some punts. We're struggling on offense a bit also. We certainly made Georgia look awfully good. Time will tell when we play out the schedule. Georgia looks like a very good team with a chance for a very good year."
Are USC's problems fixable on the fly since the 2015 season has reached the quarter pole with key SEC matchups against Missouri, LSU, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M looming on the horizon in October.
"Certainly, we hope to fix it," Spurrier said. "We have to change a few players and we have to coach better. I have to do a better job and our assistants have to get their guys to play better. If you can't do that, you try the next guy.
"We're at the stage where we have to try the next guy some more and go from there. That's both offense and defense. We'll announce later in the week who is starting (vs. UCF)."
[rl]-- Running back Brandon Wilds suffered bruised ribs at Georgia and his status for the UCF game will not be known until later in the week, Spurrier said. The injuries to Knott and Wilds were the only significant physical setbacks from Saturday's game, Spurrier said.
-- Spurrier lauded the performance of USC's special teams on Saturday. Elliott Fry was 2-of-2 on field goals and Sean Kelly punted effectively five times, averaging 40.8 yards per punt and landing two kicks inside the 20-yard line. In addition, Pharoh Cooper returned a punt 14 yards and Shon Carson snapped off a 51-yard kickoff return.
-- Spurrier said Connor Mitch is "getting a little bit better," but should be sidelined for least another two to three weeks. The infection/bleeding resulting from the hip pointer is "much better and under control," he said.
-- Spurrier said the officials talked to both teams when things got chippy and "their guys and our guys were talking too much." Defensive tackle Abu Lamin was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he shoved a Georgia player in the fourth quarter, a penalty that moved the ball from the SC 34 to the SC 19. "We'll handle him this week," Spurrier said.
-- ESPN.com's SEC bowl projections following Week 3's results do not include the Gamecocks.
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