1. All of college football knows of the gruesome injury suffered by Marcus Lattimore against Tennessee two weeks ago. Little is known, however, about the running backs who will try to fill the void left by Lattimore's absence. Talk a bit about about Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles if you will.
Brandon Wilds won't be playing. The plan is to redshirt him unless we suffer more injuries. We'll be going with Kenny Miles and Mike Davis. Miles as a senior who has seen his share of moments at Carolina. He actually started several games as a true freshman in 2009, but he fell behind on the depth chart when Lattimore arrived on campus. He's done well when Lattimore has been out, though. His biggest asset is his speed and fierce running style, but he lacks Lattimore's vision and ability to make good cutbacks. Miles has also gotten better catching the ball, which used to be a weak spot for him. Davis is a true freshman who was one of our prizes of the last recruiting cycle. He's the younger brother of former Clemson star James Davis. Although he's had some nice runs in mop-up duty, Davis hasn't played a lot of meaningful snaps so far this year. However, many Carolina fans believe that he's more talented than Miles, and I wouldn't be surprised if Davis gets a lot of carries this weekend, maybe more than Miles. Davis seems to have better vision and is more instinctive around contact. My only concern with him is that he's a true freshman and you have to worry about missed blocks and that sort of thing. In any event, neither of these guys is on Lattimore's level, but both are capable, all other things being equal.
2. Connor Shaw has taken a beating in his past two outings against Arkansas. Fortunately for Shaw, Arkansas no longer has the services of Jake Bequette. What does Carolina's offensive line look like in 2012?
Our line has been better in pass protection than run blocking. Shaw has generally had time to throw this year, even against solid defensive fronts. I would expect that we'll do OK against Arkansas in this regard, but we'll see. I've been burned before by this unit.
3. 2012 Marcus Lattimore or 2007 Darren McFadden. Both healthy. Who ya got, and why?
Ha, definitely a tough one. I still have nightmares about that 2007 game against Arkansas, especially that television shot of Cory Boyd being shocked over McFadden's late 80-yard run. I honestly think they're pretty equal in value, although for different reasons. McFadden is clearly more explosive, but Lattimore is more of a classic go-to guy who you rely on for tough yards and to bleed the clock late in the game. I would take Lattimore, though. Having such a committed in-state guy has had an intangible effect on our program.
4. What the hell is Sandstorm, and why does South Carolina love it so?
It's "just" some rave-style song, but its popularity among Carolina fans goes back to a distinct moment, this memorable win over a highly ranked Ole Miss team, one coached by a guy you know well. We've loved it ever since. You'd have to be there, I guess.
5. Clowney and Devin Taylor are truly terrifying forces, but at least Melvin Ingram is gone from Gamecocks' defensive line in 2012. How has the ridiculously talented defensive line met expectations this season?
I'd say it's met expectations. Clowney is and has played like one of the best players in the nation at any position. He's a true force, although he is struggling with a minor foot injury right now. Taylor hasn't blown me away this year, but he's still very solid. I've been pleasantly surprised by our tackle play. Kelcy Quarles was solid coming into the year, but I wasn't sure about our other starter, Byron Jerideau. Jerideau and backup J.T. Surratt have played well, though. These guys have been forces against the run. Clowney, by the way, is just as dangerous against the run as he is against the pass. I'm always shocked at how he's so fast that he can chase guys down from behind who run to the other side of the field.
6. Special teams have played a significant role in the outcome of the Hogs' last two games. Any chance the USC kicker will fail to convert two PATs and miss another short field goal? Because that would be great. How are the other aspects of the Gamecocks' special teams performing?
I doubt anything that pathetic actually happens, but our kicker, Adam Yates, is a bit of a mixed bag. He hasn't really been tested this season, and he's had a couple of "huh?" moments, although he's also made some nice kicks. Special teams more generally is a mixed bag for Carolina. Ace Sanders is a fantastic punt returner, but our punter is very average, and our kick coverage units are very poor.
7. How much longer is The OBC going to be coaching in Columbia? Because everyone in Arkansas is fixated on coaches and coaching searches, who would you want if 2012 turned out to he Spurrier's final season at South Carolina?
I doubt that he leaves after this year. He still seems to be very engaged with the challenge of winning an SEC Championship, and although this year's results have been somewhat disappointing after the promise of the Georgia win, Spurrier knows that he has us primed to continue to compete over the next few years. I doubt he would leave that behind, considering that he's yet to achieve his goals. If he were to win it one year, though, it wouldn't surprise me if he retired immediately. I think it's all about fulfilling those goals with Spurrier. As far a replacement, I really don't know. I haven't given it much thought, because I haven't seen it as being likely that Spurrier would leave. I would probably want us to go for a proven head coach like Gary Patterson, or maybe Charlie Strong if he continues to do well at Louisville. I'm skeptical of hiring coordinators. Obviously, Kirby Smart gets a lot of attention, but you just never know how that kind of thing will work out.
8. Obligatory food question. What does barbecue mean in South Carolina? Of course pulled pork is the vessel, but what kind of sauce should visitors to the Palmetto State expect?
Depends on the region. Columbia and the Midlands are known for the distinctive mustard-based sauce. You can find this at the places around Columbia. Other regions favor different styles. This should give you an idea.
I can tell you that we're all hoping that Saturday's best BBQ is smoked on the field of Williams-Brice Stadium.
9. Which song from Hootie and the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View best describes the action to play out Saturday morning in Williams-Brice Stadium? Finally, how about a score prediction to close?
Considering that we're still mourning over Lattimore's injury, most of the songs on the album are too upbeat for this contest. I'll go with "Let Her Cry" for that reason; it's about the closest thing to plaintive the album features. Also features some rays of hope, though, and I think Carolina wins this one--let's say 24-14.