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No. 13 South Carolina, Spurrier poised for history

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No. 13 South Carolina, Spurrier poised for history

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier could earn himself another statue if his 13th-ranked Gamecocks defeat No. 12 Clemson this weekend.

South Carolina (9-2) could pull off its fourth-straight victory in the rivalry, something the Gamecocks have accomplished once in the series that was first played in 1896. Spurrier can also become the program's all-time wins leader with 65 victories, surpassing Rex Enright's mark he tied a week ago.

``I hadn't thought about that too much lately, really,'' Spurrier said Tuesday. ``Us against them is big enough to talk about, probably.''

Spurrier has joined Paul ``Bear'' Bryant, as the only coaches to hold such marks at two Southeastern Conference schools. Bryant is the career leader at Alabama and Kentucky.

``Those are one of those where when your coaching days are over you look back and say, `What was his record?''' Spurrier said. ``At the moment, I don't think it's that big a deal. The bigness of this game is who wins between us and them.''

With another series win over Clemson (10-1), the Gamecocks will match the feat only accomplished from 1951-54. And it would certainly mean Spurrier's name would replace Enright's on the outside of the spiral ramp at Williams-Brice Stadium, where such achievements are honored.

It took some work to gain control of the rivalry since Spurrier replaced Lou Holtz after the 2004 season. Clemson had won seven of eight before Spurrier's arrival and the head ball coach lost three of his first four matchups with the Tigers.

The past three years, it's been all Gamecocks - and by decisive margins. South Carolina won 34-17 in 2009, 29-7 in its last visit to Clemson and 34-13 last year.

Spurrier believes the turnaround is a result of improved players, better coaches and mistake-free play.

``All that kind of stuff,'' Spurrier said. ``Every year, you try your best to beat everybody you play. It works out that we've played well the last three years.''

The Tigers are playing well offensively. They've averaged more than 535 yards and 44 points a game this season. They've surpassed 700 yards of offense in two of their past three games, including a 754-yard effort to beat North Carolina State, 62-48, last Saturday.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is seventh national in total offense at 348 yards a game and leads the nation in point responsibility. He's thrown 33 touchdowns and rushed for eight more.

Spurrier knows a thing or two about offense and is very impressed.

``If they could have held on down there at Florida State that game, we'd be talking about these guys playing for the national championship,'' he said. ``Tajh Boyd would be up for the Heisman Trophy.''

The difference in Clemson's stretch run, coach Dabo Swinney said is Boyd's growth. He's better at managing the system, improved his running skills and maneuverability and makes fewer mistakes than other seasons.

``I don't know of a quarterback in the country playing better than Tajh Boyd,'' Swinney said. ``I can't imagine a player who means more to his team than this guy.''

The Gamecocks chances could hinge on a couple of lingering injuries. Quarterback Connor Shaw, who accounted for 317 yards in last year's game, won't practice much this week with a recurring foot problem. The injury could have kept him out of last week's game against Wofford had Shaw told the coaches how much it hurt.

``He kept saying he was alright and he'd finish out,'' Spurrier said.

Star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, already dealing with a foot problem, had an MRI that uncovered a bruise beneath a kneecap. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward expected Clowney, third in SEC sacks, back in the lineup after missing the Wofford game.

If it's a rivalry week, count on a zinger from Spurrier. This time, the head ball coach played off Swinney's rant following last year's defeat that ``Carolina is in Chapel Hill and USC is in California. The university in this state, always has been, always will be -- Clemson.''

Spurrier said Tuesday those words didn't bother him much.

``I guess Dabo, I found out he loves Southern California and the University of North Carolina,'' Spurrier cracked. ``That's the only thing I know about him.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.