Spurrier Eases Criticism of Offense

Following Wednesday night's scrimmage, the Gamecocks hit the practice fields again on Thursday afternoon for a light workout. After strongly criticizing his offense's efforts in the scrimmage, Steve Spurrier revised his analysis somewhat on Thursday. Read inside for a full report.


After watching film of the scrimmage, Spurrier decided that maybe things were not as bad as they seemed the night before.

"I watched [film] today, and it wasn't as bad as I'd thought," he said. "They're usually not as bad as you think, and sometimes they're not as good as you think. Our tight ends and backs caught almost all the passes last night."

Spurrier went on to say that the offensive inconsistencies had more to do with good defense than bad offense.

"Our defense did a good job of playing some good solid zones and forcing us to throw underneath a lot," he said. "The defense had a good night dropping in their zones."

He was not ready to let the offensive line completely off the hook, however. Spurrier still says the line must make a lot of improvement, but he sees the talent to make it work.

"We've got the players here," he said. "These guys are very similar to the guys we had at Florida. In fact, these guys are probably stronger than what we had when we were winning SEC [championships] all the time. Our guys are physically just as good. We're just not playing very well, and hopefully it is just [lacking] repetition. The guys who can learn from their mistakes are the guys who end up playing."

Spurrier added that he sees the exact same problem with the group of freshmen wide receivers.

"Somebody besides Kenny [McKinley] has got to catch passes," he said. "We're working these guys. It's all new for them. They are trying hard, and that's good. Matt Clements, Dion Lecorn, Jason Barnes and Chris Culliver are trying hard. It's a lot to learn, but we've got two weeks to learn it. Hopefully a couple of them will really be ready to play."

Spurrier was asked what he has been most pleased with this fall, and he initially declined to answer. After thinking for a moment, he decided there were two players he has been especially pleased with.

"Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher are pretty doggone good at doing what they're doing right now," he said. "They are ready to play. If Blake [Mitchell] goes bad, which I don't expect him to do, they are ready to play. If he gets hurt, I have confidence that Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley can both go in there and play very well."


Anderson Believes O-line Is Making Strides

Following the scrimmage Wednesday night, Spurrier had harsh words for the offensive line. He said that the line has to improve in all aspects, including things that seem as basic as going right or left. Although Spurrier softened those words on Thursday, the fact remains that the last two years have seen the offensive line struggle early in the season before rounding into shape for the stretch run. Sophomore guard Garrett Anderson knows the line is struggling now, but he is confident they can right the ship sooner rather than later.

Anderson knows the offensive line shoulders the blame for the slow start last year, and they are determined not to have a repeat performance. With two SEC games in the first four weeks, the Gamecocks' SEC Championship hopes could be over before they start if the offense cannot find a rhythm.

"We really had a lot of games that we should have won if the offensive line had stepped up [last season]," Anderson said. "I know [offensive line Coach John] Hunt said that if we had had a better offensive line and if we were more prepared we'd have had a better chance at beating Georgia. If our offensive line comes together like we are supposed to and we are able to, we will have a lot better year and a lot better start."



Sophomore lineman Garrett Anderson believes this year's offensive line will get off to a better start than a year ago.


Part of coming together for the offensive line means gelling as a unit. More than any other position on the field, an offensive lineman's success is dependent on the guy lined up beside him. When projected starter James Thompson was suspended for the first four games last year, it forced coaches to come up with makeshift lineups that remained in flux for the first two months of the season. So far this fall, the same five players have practiced with the first team almost every night. Anderson thinks the familiarity is the first step toward improving, and, like Spurrier, he believes the talent is there.

"I know that one thing a lot of good programs have is a solid offensive line that has been working together for 2-3 years," he explained. "You start to see what the guy next to you does, what his tendencies are, how he plays. You get to know what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are. You know what to do in a situation. We need to know that we are a good offensive line. A lot of the guys in there are really good. We've got to get better, we've got to work, and we've got to be able to pick up the things that the defense is throwing at us."

The unity the group shows on the field can also be seen off the field. The entire offensive line made it a point to work hard over the summer to prepare for the season. Spurrier praised them for their work ethic, and Anderson says it is easier because they all like each other.

"We all love each other out there, and we're all really good friends," he said. "We're a real tight group, and it helps to know the guy next to you. You care for the guy and you've got to make sure that if he's getting beat up, you're right there to help him out and you can make sure the whole offensive line is doing good."

Not long ago, the Gamecocks could barely find 10 players to make up separate lines for the spring game. Now there are 17 linemen fighting for playing time. The increase in bodies is not only good for depth, but it makes everyone better.

"There is a lot of competition," Anderson said. "That pushes the guy in front of you and the guy behind you to get better and work for that spot."

When Anderson was asked what part of his game he feels the biggest push to improve, he gave a surprising answer. He did not mention his footwork, his strength, or his knowledge of the playbook. Instead he gave a more introspective answer, saying that sometimes he has to remind himself that he is good enough to be an elite player.

"My confidence is the biggest thing," he said. "I know the coaches believe in me. I think that I understand why they put me in there. My confidence is something I've got to improve on. I've got to know that I can take on the guys that are out there. That's something that I've been working on, and it's something I'm getting."


Notes:

- Jordin Lindsey is still waiting for a ruling on his eligibility.

- Jasper Brinkley twisted an ankle during the scrimmage Wednesday night. He scrimmaged briefly after the injury, but will be held out for the next 2-3 days.

- Rodney Paulk (shoulder)/Captain Munnerlyn (arm) and Taylor Rank (shoulder) returned to practice.

- Spurrier said the scrimmage Saturday will likely start at 4:30, not 5:00 as he said earlier. He added that players' performances in the scrimmage will go a long way to determining who will play this year, who will redshirt, and who will work on the scout team.


To discuss this article, visit The Cockpit, our free forum, or The Golden Spur, our premium forum.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories