Gamecocks continue UGA prep

The No. 24 South Carolina football team returned to the practice fields Wednesday night to continue preparing for the nationally-televised SEC opener with the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs Saturday afternoon. Following practice, quarterback coach GA Mangus and running back coach Jay Graham met to discuss the upcoming game.

"It's a fast game," Mangus said of the difference between the Southern Miss defense and Bulldog defense. "These guys have a fast, talented defense and the speed of the game will increase from last Thursday."

Gamecock starter Stephen Garcia didn't put up gigantic numbers in season opener against the Golden Eagles, but he ran an effective offense. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 193 yards.

"He had a good game," Mangus said of Garcia. "It wasn't the big flamboyant stats - I wish we would have hit that long one with Alshon and put it a little more on a line. But his goals and things that we talk about all the time - getting that passing percentage up (70%) and not taking sacks (0) - so that's improvement. I thought he looked poised and comfortable, but now it's time to follow that up with the same consistent performance all year long. I think he had a good practice today and that's what we expect and what he expects so hopefully we'll see that all year long."

Garcia may have had an even better day running with the football. He carried the ball 5 times for 38 yards, and lowered his head to score 2 touchdowns. Mangus prefers for him not to lower his head, but was happy with the end result both times.

"That's a big head he's got, ya know," Mangus laughed. "That safety for Southern Miss found out pretty good, and then the second time I think Stephen found out pretty good cause I think he got a double whammy. That big head doesn't go against two people quite as well as it does one. But we talk about it all the time. It was a nice play he made on the first touchdown to give us a boost and get us going."

Perhaps Garcia's most important stats were the goose eggs he had in the sack and interception category. After taking numerous amounts of sacks and throwing 10 interceptions last season, Mangus was happy with those two statistics Thursday night.

"That was what I harped on a year ago," Mangus said. "Don't turn the ball over compared to two years ago when there was a bunch of turnovers and interceptions. The sacks was the big off season deal this year. If we can put those two together this year then I think we have a chance to have a big year."

A lot has been made about Georgia's transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Mangus says that there really isn't that big of a difference between the two when it comes to reading the blitz from the quarterback view.

"A 3-4 is a 3-4 and a 4-3 is a 4-3," Mangus said. "Everybody's running the same type blitzes out of 3 down and 4 down. We've studied it like we study every opponent so we'll be ready to handle their blitzes come Saturday. So far we've done well with that, but there's gonna be some things they pull out too."

Mangus does expect to see a lot of blitzes from the Bulldogs.

"I expect everybody to come after us," Mangus said. "We didn't handle it very well last year at times. Southern Miss came after us and blitzed a bunch and we handled it so that was a pretty good show of progress from bowl game to the first game. I thought we handled the blitz much better, got the ball out of our hands quicker and got to some certain plays that works against certain blitzes. Hopefully we get to some of those also this Saturday."

Outside of the receivers, the deepest position on the team is running back. With Brian Maddox, Kenny Miles, and Jarvis Giles returning along with the addition of the top prospect in the country a year ago in Marcus Lattimore, running back coach Jay Graham has no shortage of legs to get out there on the field. Graham seems to be most impressed with the leadership role his senior running back Maddox has shown.

"He's doing everything," Graham said of Maddox. "He's a guy that's a leader of our group and he cares about the group. He's going to do whatever job it takes to win the game."

When the depth chart for the Georgia game was released it showed that Maddox had moved from the tailback position to the fullback position. Despite being listed as the starter at fullback, expect to see him at both positions throughout the course of the game.

"He's doing both," Graham said. "He's a guy that's big enough and strong enough and has enough understanding of the offense to do both. So we're gonna try and mix it up a little bit. He'll still do a lot of the tailback stuff also."

Graham was happy with the performance of all his guys, especially Marcus Lattimore.

"They all did well," Graham said. "Marcus got the brunt of the carries and he did some good things and he's still feeling his way through this thing. For a first game - and for being a freshman - he really did a good job. I like the tough yards he got at times and that's one of the tough things for a young back to get through. He's certainly gonna have to do that this week."

Graham was also happy with what he saw out of last year's starter, Miles.

"Kenny got in there and he broke a 10-yard run and did some good things," Graham said. "Kenny was a guy in fall camp that missed some days because of his hamstring so it was good to see him in a game."

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