Notebook: Spurrier optimistic on Watkins' health

Spurrier says offense 'headed in the right direction'

jkendall@thestate.comOctober 9, 2011 

University of South Carolina's Rokevious Watkins cools off on the sidelines during the Garnet and Black Spring football game at William-Brice Stadium.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

Steve Spurrier is hopeful Rokevious Watkins will return from the “slight” concussion he suffered in Saturday’s win over Kentucky in time to play Mississippi State this week.

If Watkins does not, South Carolina will be starting two freshmen – Cody Gibson and Mike Matulis – at offensive tackle against the Bulldogs.

“I’ve done it before, long time ago though,” Spurrier said, “but hopefully Rokevious should be ready to play by this coming Saturday, I would think.”

After surviving the first quarter of the season mostly injury free, the No. 13 Gamecocks are starting to see their training room fill up. Watkins, starting cornerback Marty Markett and reserve safety Corey Addison all suffered concussions against the Wildcats. All of them are “slight” and all three could be available this week, Spurrier said.

Backup running back Eric Baker (ankle sprain) is not so fortunate. He will be out “a while,” Spurrier said Sunday. If Baker can’t play and junior Kenny Miles remained sidelined by his sprained wrist, South Carolina will have just two healthy scholarship running backs in Marcus Lattimore and Brandon Wilds.

Tight end Justice Cunningham suffered a slight calf injury but is expected to be back at practice by midweek, Spurrier said. There is no update on the status of senior left tackle Kyle Nunn, who has missed the last two games with a back injury that Spurrier previously said could keep him out the rest of the season.

STILL WORKING

After re-watching his team’s 639-yard, 54-point offensive outburst against Kentucky, Spurrier was disappointed there weren’t more yards and points.

“It certainly wasn’t anywhere close to what we want offensively,” he said. “We believe we are headed in the right direction, but there were a lot of bad plays here and there we can try to get rid of. It wasn’t a real smooth performance by any means.”

The Gamecocks’ pass blocking is a particular concern, he said.

“We have to do some better coaching in thoes areas and make sure we are protecting our quarterbacks better, but overall it was a win and we’re trying to get better and go get a win against Mississippi State.”

BIG AND LITTLE

South Carolina’s 288 rushing yards and 32 first downs were both game highs under Spurrier.

The South Carolina defense has given up 2.75 yards per play in the last three games.

PICK SIX, OR 12

The Gamecocks intercepted four passes Saturday, giving them 12 for the season, two more than they had in all of 2010. South Carolina entered the season with the goal of intercepting 30 passes.

“Yeah, we can do it,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had one interception against the Wildcats.

Senior C.C. Whitlock also had one interception, giving him three for the season to tie Antonio Allen for the team lead. Freshman cornerback Vic Hampton got his first career interception.

LINEBACKER REVIVAL

After a quiet first five games, the linebackers led the way against Kentucky. South Carolina’s top four tacklers were linebackers with Quin Smith’s six topping the list. Rodney Paulk (five), Shaq Wilson (4) and Reginald Bowens 3, to tie with Jadeveon Clowney) followed Smith.

“I think they played better,” assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said. “That is one position where we have kind of linebacker by committee.”

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