We are getting ready for another Eastern Division game, Kentucky. I was just thinking back that most every game we have had with them since I've been here is close except for last year. Last year we seemed to get ahead and our defense really, really stopped them. I don't know if they had 100 yards or so, but we generally have close games with Kentucky. They are struggling a bit right now. Hopefully they will struggle one more week before they get it turned around. They are a team that is very capable. I think we are better than them, but if we don't play better than them, they can certainly beat us. The team that usually plays the best wins the game. It's a huge game for us being a division game and hopefully we can go up there and play without some of the errors we had last week. Sometimes, you hopefully learn by your mistakes. To think that game started off last week, we fumbled on the 20-yard line, had an 80-yard run taken back by a penalty, had a third-and-goal at the 1 and couldn't score, so we had some bad stuff happen. But we got that big punt return by Ace, got us down to the 5- or 6-yard line and then the game turned in our favor. Sometimes in football bad stuff happens like that. Fortunately, we were able to overcome it last week, and hopefully we can continue doing that. But our team is on schedule. We're on schedule right now. We are very healthy. Our trainer, Clint Haggard, came in the other day and I said, 'Is everybody ready who was ready last week?' and he said, 'Yeah.' Everybody was fine. A player like Brandon Wilds, who played extremely well last year, if there is a chance to redshirt him, we may do that. Unless somebody gets hurt, Brandon will have another year to play and he is all for that, which is something that maybe hasn't always happened around here. Players actually look forward to being redshirted. They like playing for the University of South Carolina. They like living here in Columbia, going to college here and so forth. That is a neat thing to have, guys (saying), 'I am OK with redshirting coach.' I think it's very much a positive. Other than that, we didn't play very well on the road our first game against Vandy, but again it was a tough game. We won a tough game. If we get into another close, tough game hopefully we will be able to play very well again. Other than that, looking forward to a ballgame. Any questions. Charlie?
We finally got an opportunity to return a kickoff. I think we were the only Division I team in the nation that had not had a kickoff return attempt. Bruce actually brought it from 4 or 5 yards deep and got a little bit of blocking there and then shook a guy or two. We are encouraging our blockers. I told them the other day, we were watching the tape, I said, 'When Ace and Bruce have the ball, they can run around a long time. They can dart around in some small areas and not get tackled so just keep blocking somebody.' It was interesting. I think the little quick screen we threw Bruce, Justice (Cunningham) came back and blocked a guy beautifully, way behind the line of scrimmage, he picked him off and Bruce went scampering on down through there, and then that guy just sort of jogged back and about 20 yards later made the tackle on Bruce. I said, 'Justice, look at that. A guy that you just blocked about five seconds ago ran into Bruce down the field there.' So hopefully we can get our guys to just keep playing, keep playing. Those guys can scoot around, like I said they can stay up for a long time. They are very capable return guys so hopefully we can keep blocking for them and making some plays. Joe Robinson, excellent special teams coach. I think the players really enjoy playing for coach Robinson and he does a super job. Special teams was a big part of the game last week, no question.
FINAL PLAY AT UK 2010?
The way it developed, it was a little bit underthrown. Two guys went up for it, it got deflected and their guy caught it, but that game two years ago, give Kentucky credit for having an excellent offensive play. I don't think we coached particularly well on offense or defense, and they did. Randy Sanders, their offensive coordinator, is an excellent offensive coach. Rick Minter, who was here at South Carolina, he is an excellent coach. Personnel wise they might be a little below some of the SEC teams, but they are a well coached bunch. But again, that was a throw to the end zone and if we had it to do over again, maybe we'd tell him to throw it high in the corner instead of throwing it in the end zone, but as it turned out, it did not cost us anything except the ball game. We came back and won the Eastern Division down in Florida so it wasn't a mighty blow to us as far as winning the division and having a chance to win the SEC. But again, they outplayed us. I think they were 9-of-12 on third downs, and some of them were third-and-15, third-and-10, third-and-12. That's going to happen this year. We have a little bit different scheme on those plays than we used to play.
Corey played just about the whole game. Coach (Shawn) Elliott, if they are playing decent, he leaves them in there. He played pretty well. The run blocking was decent, could have been better at times. T.J. Johnson actually had one of his best games, we looked at the tape and figured out that maybe he deserved a little praise for having a solid, excellent game, and again his snaps in the shotgun (knocking on table) so far have really been good. That's crucial. I don't know if y'all watched Oklahoma lose to Kansas State. They get in the shotgun on the 1-yard line and it's just a little low snap and the guy dropped it and couldn't fall on it. K-State fell on it. They lost seven there and then their quarterback fumbled in the end zone and gave them another seven so those turnovers can cost you a ball game sometimes. That snap from center is very crucial.
He had a track record obviously doing it at LSU. In overall special teams, they led the conference I think in 2010 so I knew about him. The opportunity came up, he was at North Carolina actually last year, so he was available, and that's what he does. He does mainly all special teams. One of our graduate assistant coaches, Tommy Galt, spends most of the time with the tight ends. He's pretty much a full-time special teams coach. Everette Sands, Kirk Botkin, they also are very involved. Our graduate assistant coaches are very involved, too, coaching special teams. He gets a lot of help, but he is the mastermind behind the special teams here, that is for sure.
Well obviously the guys caught everything, too, but Connor throws a catchable ball, he really does. He doesn't throw a hard ball to catch. Up top, one of the guys said, 'He needs two completions to set some kind of SEC record. Do you want to leave him in there and let him throw a couple swing passes?' I said, 'No, let's get him out. He's played enough. We'll let Dylan sweep it up and go from there.' Connor, I don't think he's big on individual things like that. It'd be neat if it happens, but we will let it happen in the normal course of the game this week. I think I had some kind of streak in college, when I was a player, where I didn't have an interception for about seven or eight games, something like that. That was about the only streak I had. Of course, we didn't throw, well, but about 15 or 20. About what we're doing today actually, come to think of it, 15 to 20 passes a game.
EAST CATCHING UP WITH WEST?
Yeah, it looks like it has turned that way, with Florida undefeated, Georgia and us right there. Tennessee was there till they played Florida. We haven't played a team with a winning record, I think all of you know that so we don't know how good we are, just like a lot of teams don't know. We have played one-third of the season, and I think East Carolina is 2-2 maybe right now, but the other teams have losing records. It's early, it's early in the year. Obviously Arkansas struggled, which they didn't think would happen, but there are still Alabama, LSU over there, and Mississippi State undefeated. So that side is in good shape. I think they have three and we have three I think. Does that sound right?
He is practicing. He is going to try to do everything today according to the trainer and if he can practice all week he will be ready to play.
DEFENSIVE LINE FOCUS?
Well, the defensive line does, the defense is going to have to blitz to put pressure on the quarterbacks. That's pretty common for most teams. Certainly we believe that have as good a defensive line as anybody, especially Devin Taylor, Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, Chaz Sutton had a big game last week. So all those guys can really play. You hit first on the quarterback, then you got seven guys that can mess around and cover a lot of area and cover guys and so forth. So that's what we do, what most teams, Alabama, LSU, can get that pressure on that quarterback without blitzing. We haven't been a big blitz team. We'll run some little stuff here or there occasionally, but we just try to turn those guys loose and let them play.
OVERLOOKING UK FOR UGA?
I think the only reason the guys know who we play next week is we have it on our board. In the team meeting room, we have the entire schedule on there. No, I've just always believed what my former coach at Florida, Ray Graves, used to say - 'The coaches are ready to play, the players will be ready to play. So you make sure you coaches are ready to play this week, and your guys will follow suit.' So we're going to be ready for Kentucky. We know that upsets happen, and we know why they happen, usually when a team is not ready to play, simple as that. Then, we've not done that much yet. We've beaten the teams that we're supposed to beat. We know that the meat of the schedule is down the road, but this is a game this week that's one of 12, and we're going to try to play our best. We're going to try to play better than last week. Lot of areas we can improve.
CONCERN OF BEING HIGH-RANKED LIKE 2010 AT UK?
I wouldn't say that was the most impressive game this past week. This is a different team. Every team's different, every year's different. This is two years ago. We're talking about a game that we had under control. We were ready to play, but they completely out-played us the second half, out-coached us completely the second half. We ended up losing the game. But that game's history, just as our game with them last year's history, and the team that plays the best this week has the best chance of being the winner. So we're a one-game-at-a-time bunch, we try not to get behind us, get ahead of us, try to get better today, get better tomorrow, try to play the best we can every Saturday and move on.
SYMPATHY FOR NFL REPLACEMENT REFS?
I've watched a little bit of that, but you know, we've all had some sort of bad reffin' during our day. And we've had some good ones, too. For every one of those bad ones, the guy on the other side said, 'Maybe these replacement refs are pretty good.' I imagine Seattle said, 'Man these guys are pretty good!' So I guess it depends on what side you're on.
BAN OF TWITTER?
I guess cause I'm not smart enough to ban anything else. But that's a good point, maybe we should ban the other parts, too. We get a report usually on what it is. If it gets to be a problem, we'll start banning that also.
CHAZ SUTTON IMPROVEMENT?
I think coach Lawing just really challenged him a little bit in preseason. He said, 'Chaz, you got a lot of ability, but you're sort of standing around watching when you're out there. Turn it loose, go.' And Chaz started practicing a lot better, the last two, three weeks. And of course, Lawing, we're all alike in the fact that if you show us in practice you can play, you're going to get in the game. You show us you can really play in the game, you're going to get in there a lot more. So Chaz has certainly worked his way into a rotating situation there with Devin and Jadeveon. So he'll continue to play quite a bit.
Not that I know of. I didn't seem him wearing any extra padding. It's a small fracture that doctors say takes time to completely heal, but if he happened to get bonked on it, it may hurt a little bit right then, but he can't hurt it any worse. So it's not like he has a major injury here that would put him at risk, that was never the point. His play is cleared by the doctors and trainers as we all know. He's thrown the ball all last week, and he was fine. I told him, I said, 'You're ready to run, aren't you?' He said, 'Oh yeah, yeah, I'm ready to run.' It's not a case where he's limited. He's just, as we know, Connor can run with the ball. Shame that one was called back last week. I don't think I've ever had a quarterback go 80 yards in my coaching career. That's the first time ever, I'm pretty sure. But anyway, it was an unfortunate penalty that was called.
SPECIAL TEAMS IMPROVEMENT?
So far. I don't know how much we emphasize, in just that he just has a good scheme of things and the players are really hustling. If there's a starter that gets tired and wants to take himself out, then we learn first game there's one or two guys, it was a hot night at Vandy, and to get somebody else in there. So we felt like we know who those kinds of guys are, and get somebody else ready to go, all the time. We've got some nice walk-on kids really playing well. We got Sidney Rhodes. Sidney showed up last year, transferred in from Newberry or somewhere up there. He's one of the first guys down on kickoff coverage. He's got a chance to earn a scholarship, hopefully real soon. We have certain players like that that are really contributing. That's nice to see.
GURLEY PLAY LAST WEEK?
Yeah, T.J. was fine. He didn't have a whole bunch of opportunities back there. Missouri's sort of a short passing attack-type team. Of course, a lot of times, the balls didn't get out down there, and running-wise, their guys didn't break too many. When you're a safety, sometimes you don't get a lot of action, which is good, good for your defense, I guess. But he played well, he played well, he just didn't get a lot of opportunities. He didn't show up much, but he's a good player, T.J. Gurley. He's a good special-team player, also.
EXPLANATION ON MATULIS CLIP?
We can't talk about it. That's one of those deals you can't talk about, so we can't talk about it. Like a lot of deals in life, you just can't talk about it.
SANDERS RAISING GAME?
Ace Sanders? Yeah, Ace is quick. He's fast. He can get open. You look back and he and Bruce, they didn't get many balls thrown at them the other day. We're trying to figure out how to use more of our guys. We're still a work in progress on offense, trying to make sure we get the ball into our playmakers' hands. And Ace is a playmaker, we all know that, and so is Bruce, Bruce can run with it. We still want to run more than we throw. As we all know, statistically, the team that runs more than it throws wins at a lot higher percentage. So we'll try to do that, try to get the ball toward Bruce and Ace a little bit more.