Notebook: Ball security in mind for USC returners

Quarles, Matulis doubtful for Saturday's game

jkendall@thestate.comOctober 24, 2012 

University of South Carolina tight ends and special teams coach Joe Robinson works with players during practice.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

As Joe Robinson stood on the sideline, trying to overcome one special teams’ gaffe after another Saturday against Florida, a thought crossed his mind.

“Is that what hell is like?” South Carolina’s special teams coordinator said. “I am not sure.”

It seemed close against the Gators. Two Gamecock kick returners – Ace Sanders and Damiere Byrd – fumbled, Florida gained 100 yards in the teams’ punt exchanges and South Carolina averaged almost 20 yards fewer per kickoff than the Gators due to big return after big return by Florida.

“We just have to play the next snap,” Robinson said. “If we stand on the sidelines and we think, ‘Boy this is really something and everything is going wrong,’ that is probably not very good. All we can do is play the next snap and try to play better.”

The Gamecocks have worked on securing the football when they run this week, but “we worked on ball security before they happened, too,” Robinson said. Robinson blamed himself for letting some sloppy ball security go unaltered when the team’s returners were making big plays earlier in the season.

“When they made some plays earlier in the year, the ball was loose, and that’s our fault for not getting that corrected and not getting the ball tighter,” he said. “There are fundamentals of ball security that we teach, and they were not followed. We were carrying it loose.”

Coach Steve Spurrier is not blaming Robinson, though.

“Joe Robinson is as good a special teams coach as I have ever been around,” he said.

The task does not get easier for South Carolina this week, particularly the kickoff coverage team. Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson leads the SEC in kickoff returns (34.8 yards per return).

“It looks like only a fool would kick it to that dude, I can tell you that, and you may be looking at a fool, I don’t know,” Robinson said. “We’ll see what we can do to mix it up, but it certainly would be insane just to hand it to that guy over and over.”

The Gamecocks rank 12th or lower in the SEC in punting, kickoff returns and kickoff coverage.

Injury update

Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (shoulder) and offensive tackle Mike Matulis (shoulder) are doubtful for Saturday’s game, Spurrier said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference.

Quarles, who has 30 tackles, including six for loss, started the first seven games of the year but did not play last week. Matulis started last week at left tackle but was replaced early in the game.

Redshirt freshman running back Shon Carson, who has not played this year due to a wrist injury, had a second surgery recently to remove pins, running backs coach Everette Sands said. Carson should have full flexibility back in about three weeks, Sands said. He is not expected to return this season.

Sophomore Brandon Wilds has recovered from a preseason ankle sprain but remains on track to redshirt.

"Brandon could go right now, but he's missed so much of the season we're going to hold him off," Sands said.

True freshman Kendric Salley, who had ACL surgery in December, is running but has not been cleared to practice, Sands said.

Practice report

The Gamecocks practice for two hours Wednesday evening.

“We had a pretty good practice today,” Spurrier said. “We know the fans are going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready to play the best we can this week. We haven’t played very well lately but we are looking forward to the opportunity.”

Eager to help

When 316-pound defensive tackle Byron Jerideau heard Spurrier say he was considering a complete overhaul of the team’s special teams personnel, his first thought was, “How can I help the team?”

“Coach talked about putting people on different special teams so if he needs me to cover kicks, I’ll do it,” Jerideau said with a laugh.

Quotable

“We’ve just got to keep playing as well as we can, get our confidence up a little bit that we’re a good team. But we’re not a very good team if we don’t play well. We’re going to try to coach better, also. I’m not sure if I’ve coached as well as I have earlier, so I’m going to try to coach better this week.” - Spurrier

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