Bobby Johnson announced in his press conference yesterday that John Cole broke his hand against Rice, didn't say anything to coaches, and kept on playing. Not quite as impressive as Ryan Hamilton playing in Baton Rouge with one of his pec muscles torn off the bone, but still pretty stout.
Except that John was trying to catch the ball with his body — you know, because his hand was broken — and he dropped a pass when it bounced off his chest. I appreciate the warrior mentality, and he did have a season-high seven receptions, but sheez, when you're having trouble catching the ball with two non-broken hands, you might want to consider removing yourself from the game when you do break one of them.
Besides, true freshman Collin Ashley looks like a clone of Cole and made a huge catch over the middle, hanging onto the ball after getting leveled by a defender who was running at full tilt. Ashley's my bet to start in Cole's place on Saturday. Cole may play this week with a cast but, as Johnson says, "it's asking a lot for a wide receiver to play with a broken hand."
As for Cole's 31-yard touchdown off a reverse, we're not going to miss his rushing skills if he doesn't get on the field against Ole Miss. There's no way he gains more than a couple yards on that play against the Rebel defense. Those guys are loaded up front and fast on the corners. Rice was not.
Speaking of injuries:
• Sean Richardson looked like he'd recovered against his leg injury against Rice, except that he tore a tendon in his thumb. Johnson thinks he can play with a cast on Saturday.
• Jamie Graham still hasn't been cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Miss State.
• Steven Stone isn't ready to go this week. He can run in a straight line but he can't cut or push off on his foot yet.
• T.J. Greenstone has a sore knee, but a pack of wild boar hogs couldn't keep him off the field.
• Zac Stacy hasn't recovered from his ankle injury, and is missing a lot of practice time this week. “He’s just not the same player right now," Johnson said.
When asked if he's ever had this many injuries this early in the season, Johnson said, "Not even close."
The defense continues to play remarkably well considering all the losses. We've played four games and given up only six touchdowns, and just one passing touchdown. Trice has stepped back into his old safety position, allowing Stokes to step back into his old starting position at strongside linebacker. No problem.
The offense remains the big question. Larry Smith ranks 110th in the nation and last in the SEC in passing efficiency. (I mention this so Charlie Goro's growing fan club can have a reason to comment.) In order to pass, we've got to be able to establish the run, but South Carolina had no success running the ball against Ole Miss last Thursday.
On the bright side, Jared Hawkins looked good on Saturday and brings a fresh set of legs, leadership and some strong inside running. And Udom Umoh continues to improve and looks like the closest thing we've got right now to a big-play receiver.
Think we can beat Ole Miss?