Spurrier Speaks

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said his team should be in good shape for tonight's game against Ole Miss in Columbia.

"Our team has had a few injuries, but we're very healthy coming into this game," he said on the SEC Teleconference Wednesday.

He said Ole Miss, 2-0 overall and playing its SEC opener tonight, has followed the lead of its coaches and put together a nice run.

"We're looking forward to playing an Ole Miss team that's in the top-5 in the country," said Spurrier, whose Gamecocks beat the Rebels 31-24 in Oxford last season. "Houston Nutt and his guys have done an excellent job last year and this year, and we're looking forward to a big ballgame."

Spurrier was asked if he knew the real Ole Miss after watching the Rebels' first two games, a 45-14 win at Memphis and a 52-6 victory in Oxford against Southeastern Louisiana.

"Sometimes we all sort of play at times to the level of our opponent, and other times you put them away," Spurrier said. "Even though Ole Miss may not have come out and clobbered their opponents right away, they've easily won. We know all the players they've got. We know Jevan Snead is one of the best quarterbacks, one of the best passers in the country. They've got good receivers, and their defense is very good. They've only lost one game in a year, something like that. They're on a winning streak, and they know what it takes to win. We'll have to play well to have a chance at them tomorrow night."

Spurrier, his team 2-1 overall and 0-1 in SEC play, has been pleased that his offense has gotten better since its season-opening 7-3 win at North Carolina State. But he's looking for more.

"We've made a little bit (of offensive progress)," he said. "We're still a long way off. We're still not very good on third downs and our pass protection sometimes is not very good. We got some running yards last week against Florida Atlantic, but they're not an SEC type team on defense. They're a good team, but they're not the type defense we'll see here (Thursday night)."

One aspect of the team's positive offensive play lately has been the performance of quarterback Stephen Garcia.

"He's made a lot of progress since last year," Spurrier said. "With all the snaps and repetition he's gotten through the summer and preseason and every week of practice, he should be getting more knowledgeable about what it takes. He's got a ways to go, but he has made progress. If he continues to make good progress, he can be an outstanding player."

The 6-foot-2, 219 pound sophomore is completing 63 percent of his passes and is averaging 228 yards per game through the air, accounting for three touchdowns that route. On the ground, Garcia is USC's third-leading rusher through three games with 76 net yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.

Spurrier had high praise indeed for Garcia in one area, given the long list of outstanding signal-callers he's been around.

"He can scramble and come out of the pocket when the protection breaks down probably as well as any quarterback I've ever coached," Spurrier said. "Now we've got to get him to make a big play when he comes out of the pocket. He's very capable of avoiding the rush, and nowadays the defenses are so good, it's very important to have a quarterback who can do that."

Spurrier said his offensive line has done well but needs to keep progressing.

"They've done OK," he said. "We're not sitting around here bragging about them yet. Some players have performed pretty well. We need for some of them to play a little faster, a little meaner. Seems like we get shoved around a little more than we wish we would. We've got some big linemen, and we're trying to encourage them to play a little meaner up front."

Ole Miss leads the series with South Carolina 8-6. This is the last game between the two schools in football for four years, with the SEC rotating schedule moving the Gamecocks off the Rebels' slate after tonight's affair.

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