College Sports

Changes abound on Gamecocks' defense

COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier's keeping mum on his choice for starting quarterback for at least another day. The other starting positions continue to rotate.

South Carolina began switching defensive assignments Wednesday, a day after two offensive changes were made. Brandon Isaac should start at free safety against No. 11 Georgia on Saturday after starting at strong safety last week. Darian Stewart will slide into the strong safety spot and put another of last week's starters, Stoney Woodson, on the substitute list.

"When I played year before last, I had a banged-up shoulder," said Isaac, who turned in six tackles (one for loss) and two broken-up passes against Louisiana-Lafayette. "I just wanted to go out and establish myself that I could play."

The secondary continues to switch after Spurrier said Emanuel Cook will be out for at least another week recovering from appendicitis. The two corner spots seem locked in with Captain Munnerlyn and Carlos Thomas but Isaac, Woodson, Stewart and Chris Hampton are battling for the other two spots.

Saturday may also feature the return of Dustin Lindsey to the starting lineup. Lindsey, who flunked out of school in 2006 but re-earned his scholarship, could replace Rodney Paulk at strongside linebacker.

The move came as a bit of a surprise, since Lindsey tore his MCL in the spring game and later battled academic issues. He cleared the academic hurdle but didn't practice at all in preseason camp.

Lindsey was the Gamecocks' third-leading tackler in 2005. His addition gives more depth to the linebacking corps, which took a hit last week when Jasper Brinkley sprained his ankle and had to sit out a series.

Brinkley is OK and should start at middle linebacker. His backup last week, Vandaral Shackleford, was originally benched in favor of freshman Melvin Ingram, but Ingram sprained his left ankle Wednesday and put Shackleford back in the spot. Casper Brinkley is expected to start at weakside linebacker.

Spurrier said he'd announce the starting QB today. It's expected to be senior Blake Mitchell, who was listed first on the depth chart.

• THE OTHER LINDSEY: Dustin's twin, Jordin Lindsey, is still trying to clear his academic hurdles with the NCAA. Spurrier said last week he expected to get Jordin back in time for the ULL game but the decision wasn't passed and Jordin sat out.

Jordin was listed as the backup to freshman Travian Robertson at defensive end last week but wasn't on the depth chart this week. Robertson should be backed up by senior Ryan Brown this week.

• SOLVED THAT PROBLEM: Spurrier said last week he hoped to play nine to 10 offensive linemen against ULL, hoping to find the right mix before Georgia. That plan went south when two linemen were suddenly unavailable.

Right guard James Thompson was suspended for violating university policy before the game and was replaced by Lemuel Jeanpierre. Jeanpierre was demoted in favor of Kevin Young this week until Young hurt his ankle and Jeanpierre re-took over the slot.

The Gamecocks also lost backup right tackle Hutch Eckerson when one of Eckerson's grandparents died. Eckerson has returned to the team and is back in his usual spot.

USC played Jeanpierre, Jamon Meredith, Garrett Anderson, Web Brown, Justin Sorensen and Gurminder Thind last week and should do the same this week. Young was the only new name on the depth chart, although Eckerson could see some time.

• ON THE MEND: Cook and Thompson are definitely out this week and are joined by tailback Bobby Wallace (fractured collarbone). Linebacker Yvan Banag sprained his right knee and is doubtful.

Backup quarterback Chris Smelley suffered a slight shoulder sprain but could play this week. Linebacker Cody Wells strained his right leg and is probable. Young and Ingram are questionable.

• LINE OF THE WEEK: Spurrier said the game tape of ULL was mostly negative but there were some positives. He singled out backup QB Tommy Beecher in particular.

"Tommy Beecher played well," Spurrier said. "He did hit their safety in the facemask two times in a row. But I guess that's why they play defense.

"They say they can't catch at all."

Spurrier was referring to USC's first possession of the second half against the Ragin' Cajuns, when the Gamecocks were facing a third-and-11 from ULL's 36-yard-line. Safety Derik Keyes dropped two consecutive would-be interceptions when he spied Beecher staying too long on one receiver.

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