This is not what No. 22 South Carolina wanted going into their huge matchup with No. 2 Alabama tomorrow night (7:45 ET, ESPN).
First, starting cornerback Akeem Auguste was suspended for three games, starting with the Kentucky game last weekend.
According to Assistant Head Coach-Defense Ellis Johnson, the suspension is more appropriately defined as "indefinite." Not much info has been released on Auguste yet, but he is expected back for the Halloween matchup with Tennessee.
Then offensive lineman Heath Batchelor left the team yesterday, stating that football "was no longer fun for [him]." Batchelor was an occasional starter but had lost his spot to Jarriel King for this game.
Finally, today it was announced that running back Jarvis Giles will not be making the trip to Tuscaloosa for violating team rules. It is believed that his attendance in classes this week was poor.
To add to that, wide receiver Dion Lecorn and defensive end Byron McKnight are injured.
These absences could really hurt South Carolina tomorrow. The Gamecocks' biggest goal is to stop Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram from running all over them, and having McKnight to rotate in at D-line would have definitely helped there.
The Cocks would have loved to have Auguste, as he is one of the few defensive backs in the SEC capable of containing Julio Jones. Because of his suspension, Stephon Gilmore has moved over to the No. 1 spot, with C.C. Whitlock holding down the other side. Gilmore is only a true freshman but has shown that he is capable of being a shutdown corner.
Losing Batchelor could prove to be a big loss, as Alabama has a tenacious D-line, and members of South Carolina's O-line will probably need breaks.
Losing Lecorn hurts as well, as he provided another weapon for QB Stephen Garcia. Lecorn is not a starter but gets significant playing time.
Luckily for USC, Giles' absence will not hurt as much as it would have four weeks ago. Kenny Miles has established himself as USC's No. 1 running back, and Brian Maddox is a solid backup. However, Giles definitely would have seen playing time, and depth is always a good thing.
While these suspensions hurt, Steve Spurrier must be commended for upholding team policy and suspending the players. How many other teams—such as "serial violator" Alabama—would have suspended a player for missing classes before arguably the biggest game of the year?
The suspensions and injuries will hurt, but USC still has plenty of weapons and is capable of pulling off the upset.
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