TAMPA, Fla. — With one day left before Tuesday’s Outback Bowl against Michigan, South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward still doesn’t know about the Wolverines’ quarterback plan, and won’t until the game kicks off at 1 p.m.
Will the Wolverines stick with Devin Gardner and use Denard Robinson as a running back/wide receiver, as they have in the past two games? Will they be able to rely on Robinson’s arm, which has been hampered since Oct. 27 by a sore elbow?
Everybody outside of Michigan’s locker room must wait for answers to those questions. But media members didn’t have to wait long Sunday for Ward’s answer when he was asked how much USC’s defensive preparation has been impacted by the quarterback uncertainty.
“Not all,” Ward said. “We don’t care. They’re both athletic. They both can run the football. They both can throw the football. To us, it’s the same guy.”
But the extra time to prepare for a bowl game against a team with an unclear quarterback identity surely helped USC, no? “For what we do on defense, it’s irrelevant,” Ward said. “We play against a running quarterback every day in Connor Shaw. We know that any time you’ve got a quarterback that can run the football, you have to make sure you dedicate enough people to the box to stop the run, so that’s something that we practice against every day.”
Thompson getting attention
Shaw and Dylan Thompson will play for USC. Much like Gardner, Thompson had late-season success. He led the Gamecocks to a win over Clemson that resulted in more people in his hometown, Boiling Springs, approaching him for autographs.
“I think it’s been crazy, probably honestly a little too much,” he said. “It just used to be like, ‘Hey, Dylan.’ And now it’s like they want to talk about the Clemson game. It’s all right.”
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus is more than happy to have two quarterbacks who people recognize for their success.
“It’s nice to have a couple guys now that can go in there and play,” Mangus said. “That hadn’t been the case over the last few years where two guys have proven that they’re ready to go play and capable of helping us win football games.”
Sutton aiming for big year in 2013
USC’s defensive line, the strength of its entire team, will lose end Devin Taylor and tackle Byron Jerideau, as well as backup end Aldrick Fordham, who plays in USC’s “rabbits” package (four ends on the field at once in pass rush situations).
Backup end Chaz Sutton, who also plays in the rabbits package, will be a fifth-year senior next season and will likely start opposite Jadeveon Clowney. Sutton has seven tackles for loss and five sacks this season. Before it, he had 4˝ tackles for loss and one sack.
“I think I had a solid year, but I think I could have done some things better, a lot of missed opportunities,” he said. “I’m hoping next year I can come back and make those plays instead of missing them. It’s a big opportunity (with Taylor leaving), big shoes to fill. But I’m ready.”