Bowl report: Jeffery soaking up his final days

Botkin will have thin group of linebackers in the spring

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 27, 2012 

  • Outback Bowl WHO: USC (10-2) vs. Michigan (8-4) WHEN: 1 p.m., Jan. 1 WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. TV: ESPN RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5 LINE: South Carolina by 6

— With one game left in his college football career, South Carolina linebacker Damario Jeffery has one thing at the front of his mind. And it’s not Michigan.

“Just trying to have fun out here with the guys,” the senior reserve said. “It’s not even more about the game with me right now. It’s more about finish bonding with my team. I know that Tuesday we are going to go out there and ball out, but right now I just want to go out there and have as much fun with the boys as I can.”

Jeffery had fun following Thursday’s practice, which was the Gamecocks’ first here in preparation for the Wolverines in the Outback Bowl, mixing in impersonations of head coach Steve Spurrier and former defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson with a laughing media corps.

“Coach Spurrier is the man,” Jeffery said. “I think he found his mojo again. Before I couldn’t joke with him. Now I can joke with him. He laughs. He talks trash. Great coaches find a way to adapt to their players so he had to change to the way this team rocks. We like to joke and play around. He didn’t like it at first. He would always (say), ‘We have a bunch of gigglers. I don’t like gigglers.’ Now he’s a little giggler himself. You will see him out there laughing with us.”

Jeffery also compared playing for Johnson, who resigned as defensive coordinator last year to take the head coaching job at Southern Miss, to playing for Lorenzo Ward, Johnson’s replacement.

“Coach Johnson was more of the uptight, old-fashioned coach. ‘Be quiet, listen to me, this is how I want to do it,’” Jeffery said. “Coach Ward gives us more leeway. He’s more of a players’ coach. Coach Ward, we have more confidence going up to him and saying we don’t think this is going to work and he might throw it out. Coach Johnson would ask you the same thing and say anybody stand up if you don’t think this play is going to work and everybody would be like, ‘I’m not going to say nothing.’ ”

Jeffery has 22 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, this season.

Scarcity ahead

Linebackers coach Kirk Botkin has extra motivation this week to focus solely on Michigan and not think ahead to preparing his young players for next season. That’s because he has so few young players for next season.

The Gamecocks top four linebackers all are seniors playing their final games in the Outback Bowl, and the young depth took a big hit last week when freshman linebacker Cedrick Cooper suffered a torn ACL in practice. Cooper will be back in time for most or all of preseason practice but he will miss what was to be an important spring for him.

“We were hoping he was going to get a lot of reps this spring,” Botkin said. “It is going to be a thin spring for the linebacker. I’ve got my work cut out for me. We’re going to worry about Michigan and after that we are going to worry about the rest of the stuff.”

Freshmen Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman are the only natural linebackers on scholarship who will be on the team this spring.

Practice report

The Gamecocks looked during Thursday’s practice about how Spurrier expected them to look.

“It was a so-so practice this morning,” he said. “The guys acted like they hadn’t practiced in about five days. Hopefully, we can pick the pace up a little bit tomorrow and the next day as we get ready for the game.”

Quotable

“Sometimes I don’t run the (defensive) call. If I see an opening, I’ll make the play.” -- sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney

Practice sights, sounds

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