South Carolina's week of preparation for a make-or-break showdown with Florida has gone from bad to worse.
A day after Marcus Lattimore failed to practice and Steve Spurrier said struggling backup Kenny Miles would start in his place, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward confirmed that sophomore defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has been suspended for throwing a punch in the Gamecocks' loss to LSU and would not make the trip to Gainesville.
Per the Charleston Post and Courier, Quarles was likely to miss the game anyway due to a sprained shoulder, but has been officially suspended by the team.
Quarles will likely be replaced in the lineup by fellow sophomore J.T. Surratt. Surratt has seven tackles, two for loss, in limited action this season.
But unless Surratt is poised for a true breakout game, the Gamecocks are likely to miss Quarles' presence. Quarles has already racked up an impressive 30 tackles, six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, putting him in contention for year-end All-SEC consideration.
The punch responsible for his absence was thrown on LSU's first offensive possession, when Quarles clashed with LSU lineman P.J. Lonergan. But Spurrier sounded like he wasn't in a particularly punitive mood on the SEC teleconference this week.
"I guess you'd call it a punch -- I've seen a lot bigger punches," he said.
But whether the suspension is one legitimately designed to punish Quarles or one of convenience regarding a player who would miss the game anyway, the end result is the same: The Gamecocks will not have one of their best defenders available Saturday. There is some good news in that Lattimore and the rest of a banged-up list of Gamecocks did practice Thursday, but whether that news can outweigh the bad at this point is a matter of conjecture.
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