Georgia natives on USC’s roster are eager for a visit home

jkendall@thestate.comSeptember 2, 2013 

  • Gamecocks at Bulldogs

    WHO: South Carolina at Georgia

    WHERE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

    WHEN: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

    TV: ESPN

    RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5

    LINE: Georgia by 3

With 11 seconds remaining and holding a 17-point lead over North Carolina on Thursday night, Steve Spurrier threw, or at least tried to throw, a bomb to freshman wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.

Spurrier’s explanation after the game was he wanted Cooper to get a catch against his home-state team. Spurrier and No. 6 South Carolina (1-0) won’t have to force it to find a hometown kid this week when they visit No. 5 Georgia (0-1). The Gamecocks have 25 scholarship players, 29 percent of their NCAA-maximum 85 scholarships, from the Peach State.

“I have already had guys calling me and telling me they are going to beat us,” said starting tailback Mike Davis, a Lithonia, Ga., native.

For Davis, the return home is special. After winning South Carolina’s starting tailback job in fall camp, the sophomore rushed for 115 yards against North Carolina in the opener. Even before that, though, he has been thinking about this week’s game.

“I love Georgia,” Davis said. “It’s very important for me to represent Atlanta.”

Davis, who came to South Carolina from talent-rich Stephenson High, frequently posts messages about his hometown on Twitter (“Just putting on for Atlanta the grind don’t stop,” he tweeted July 25.) and has a large Atlanta Braves’ script “A” tattooed on his right arm.

“I look at it as a great decision for me to come here and represent Atlanta outside of Georgia,” Davis said. “There are a lot of players from UGA that I know, and I am going to have a lot of family in the stands for that game.”

Davis will line up Saturday behind fellow Georgia native and Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw, who has a chance to finish his career 4-0 against his home-state team.

“I think all our guys are looking forward to going to Athens and having another shot at them,” Shaw said. “We were fortunate the past two years to beat them.”

Shaw led South Carolina to a 35-7 victory against Georgia in his only previous start against the Bulldogs, completing six passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 14 times for 78 yards and another score last season.

Shaw and Davis probably will be the only offensive starters against the Bulldogs this year, although tight end Rory Anderson, a regular who missed the North Carolina game due to a hamstring injury, could return.

It is on defense where most of the Georgia contributors play for South Carolina. The Gamecocks are expected to start five defenders who came east to play their college football — defensive end Chaz Sutton (Savannah), safety T.J. Gurley (Cairo), safety Brison Williams (Warner Robins), linebacker Marcquis Roberts (Powder Springs) and spur Sharrod Golightly (Decatur). Reserves Chaz Elder (safety, Union City), T.J. Holloman (linebacker, Stone Mountain), Darius English (defensive end, Powder Springs) and Mason Harris (Fort Oglethorpe) also are expected to play.

“We have a lot of guys from Georgia, so we know the importance of this game,” Shaw said. “We had a lot of guys from North Carolina who were amped up for (last week’s) game, and I don’t think it’ll be any different next week.”

Davis won’t try to control those emotions, he said. Instead, he’ll hope they are a positive when he steps on the field at Sanford Stadium.

“I am showing all my emotions,” he said. “It’s a hometown game. I can’t wait.”

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