COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's head ball coach will be the ol' secondary coach this week at practice.
Steve Spurrier said Sunday he'll work with defensive backs to prepare for Kentucky this Saturday. The banged-up Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) squandered nearly all of an 18-point lead and escaped UCF with a 28-25 victory Saturday.
Spurrier said he'll help make sure No. 13 South Carolina's safeties and cornerbacks keep the ball in front of them and don't allow the big plays they did against the Knights. UCF rallied back on Blake Bortles' 73-yard touchdown pass to Rannell Hall and a 79-yard throw to Breshad Perriman that led to a Hall's 7-yard scoring catch.
Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy winner as Florida's quarterback in 1966, says he'll teach the players how to break on a passer's throws. The Gamecocks have struggled to close out games in recent weeks. They held a four-touchdown lead on Vanderbilt and saw that dwindle to 35-25 on Sept. 14. This time, South Carolina had built up a 28-10 lead at UCF before the breakdowns.
``We had some good plays, but we had some careless plays that almost cost us,'' Spurrier said.
The secondary wasn't Spurrier's only concern after the UCF game. Starting quarterback Connor Shaw sprained his right, throwing shoulder and will be out two to three weeks. Backup tailback Brandon Wilds dislocated an elbow and could be out up to a month.
Dylan Thompson, who completed 15 of 32 passes for 261 yards, will take over for an injured Shaw as he did a season ago. Spurrier said Brendan Nosovitch will back up Thompson and walk-on Perry Orth would be third on the depth chart.
Spurrier said freshman David Williams would move alongside Shon Carson as backup to Mike Davis. Davis ran for 167 yards and touchdowns of 53, 13 and 13 yards as the Gamecocks built a sizeable second-half lead.
Thompson had filled in strongly as a starter other times, particularly in a 27-17 victory at Clemson last November. While Thompson's more of a thrower than a runner, Spurrier doesn't believe it will affect the Gamecocks' offensive play going forward.
``I believe we can still hand the ball off to Mike Davis,'' he said.
Bortles finished with 358 yards passing, the second time this season the Gamecocks have surrendered more than 300 yards through the air. Aaron Murray passed for 309 yards in Georgia's 41-30 victory over South Carolina earlier this month.
``I guess this is the first time our offense is ranked ahead of our defense in the conference in a long time,'' Spurrier said. ``But our defense has played well, except for some of the big plays.''
Spurrier said after the Georgia game that there would be some changes on the defense, which is led by All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The Gamecocks lost five seniors in their linebacker and safety spots from a year ago, including NFL players D.J. Swearinger and Devonte Holloman. Opponents have so far played away from South Carolina's 6-foot-6, 274-pound pass-rushing star.
Clowney acknowledged Saturday the Gamecocks aren't the same defense they were the past two seasons because of personnel losses.
``That's what we fail to realize,'' he said. ``We don't have those great linebackers like that.''
That's shown on the scoreboard. The Gamecocks have given up 25 points a game, a touchdown more than the 18 they allowed a year ago when Clowney was a pass-rushing terror who had 13 1/2 sacks on the way to SEC defensive player of the year honors.
Spurrier said Clowney had a stomach bug this week that required an IV on Friday. Still, Clowney was upset at himself for missing two sacks he believes he should've made. Clowney finished with two tackles as UCF again took him out of the action much of the game.
Spurrier thinks that if South Carolina's last line of defense tightens up, it'll give Clowney and the others up front more opportunies to end drives with big plays and turnovers. He hopes that starts this week against Kentucky (1-3, 0-1) at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
``Obviously, we have some issues that we haven't gotten fixed yet,'' Spurrier said. ``We've got some work to do.''