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Oct. 2, 2014

The South Carolina Gamecock football team spent Thursday afternoon at the Bluff Road practice fields.

The Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2 SEC) travel to Lexington, Ky, for another SEC Eastern Division matchup this week when they face the Kentucky Wildcats (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 4. The 7:30 p.m. ET game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Tom Hart and Matt Stinchcomb in the booth and Heather Mitts on the sidelines.

True freshman D.J. Smith will make his first start on Saturday, playing safety alongside T.J. Gurley, according to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “We’re going to start D.J. at the free safety spot,” said Ward. “We’re going to try to get a more physical guy. Chaz (Elder) did a good job of showing range, but I want a guy who’s going to go over there and make some contact when you get there.” The rest of the defensive starters are expected to be the same as last week.

Coach Ward has been pleased with how the team has responded this week following the loss to Missouri. “I think we practiced well,” said Ward. “I think the guys understand that the season’s not over, by no means. A lot of teams have to play a lot of games. We’ve played more SEC games than anybody in the conference so there will be some other teams that get some losses, so we’ve still got a lot to play for.”

Coach Ward has been frustrated by his unit’s inability to finish off a game. “It’s not about how we finished just (the Missouri) game, we didn’t finish the Vandy game. We’re not finishing, so that’s something we talked about this week. We also addressed starting fast. We don’t start fast. We’ve got to stop teams from scoring on the first drive. That’s been their focus this week.”

In evaluating his linebackers thus far, Ward felt that consistency has been the key issue. “All positions have been up-and-down,” noted Ward. “I think that now we are playing more cohesively and better as a team, the linebackers are starting to shine a little more. They should be, because they’re the guys that had the most experience coming back. But they’re still a young group.”

In other news, offensive guard Cody Waldrop did not practice on Thursday and is doubtful for Saturday.

The Gamecocks will have their usual Friday walk-thru at Williams-Brice Stadium on Friday afternoon before taking a late afternoon flight to Lexington.