Spurrier: Gamecocks not overlooking Wofford
"They're a very good team," Steve Spurrier said during his weekly Tuesday press conference. "They won their conference last year, [and] beat Appalachian State, the team that won the national championship last year at that level. They're a very good team. They know what they're doing: they run the ball extremely well. Obviously it will be a big challenge for our defensive team. Two years ago they stayed on the field and I think they had 72 plays to our 51. We were very fortunate to come out ahead in that game. We're expecting another tough battle, but we're looking forward to it to see if we can make some improvement as we go along and see if our offense can't play a lot better than how we've been playing."
In that game two seasons ago, the Gamecocks were unable to get into a rhythm on offense behind Syvelle Newton, who was making his first start at quarterback after lining up at wide receiver the week before. The defense struggled even more against Wofford's wingbone offense, and the Terriers were able to run the ball with ease. It took a fourth down stop at the end of the fourth quarter to secure the win. This season, that same wingbone offense is averaging over 400 yards rushing through two games, an amazing number at any level.
"Wofford's wingbone [is] a little bit like Navy and Georgia Tech," Spurrier said. "They've got a lot of formations and incorporate the option, so you have to account for all their runners as well as their quarterback. It's a different mindset altogether. It's a responsibility defense. We usually practice against each other on Tuesdays. Coach [Ellis] Johnson mentioned we probably need to spend all our time looking at the Wofford offense, so our scout team will get a little extra duty this week as far as showing the Wofford run plays and pass plays."
Wofford obviously does not have the same talent level the Gamecocks bring to the field, but according to Spurrier, they make up for their deficiencies with smart play and good fundamentals. The option attack makes defenses pay when there is a breakdown in assignments, so the Gamecocks know they must be very focused this week. A lack of focus could lead to a repeat of the last game versus Wofford, when the Terriers were up to the challenge, but Carolina was not.
"It's a challenge because of what they do offensively," said Spurrier. "Defensively they're not going to have the players that maybe Georgia had, but their players play extremely smart. It will be a challenge offensively because we haven't done that much offensively this year. [The players] know it's going to be a battle. They know how good Wofford is. I think we bounced back pretty well from the last game. Our guys practiced pretty well last night. Our guys are pretty resilient, I guess is the word, right now."
Spurrier said during his press conference that right now the offense is holding back the defense. The running game especially has been ineffective for much of the season. When asked why the offense has not been more productive, he joked, "We haven't had a consistent running attack or a consistent passing attack." Asked how he would try to improve the running game, Spurrier answered, "We're gonna try to block some guys."
Toward that end, Carolina will start its fourth offensive line combination in four games. Jarriel King will return at left tackle, where he started against Vanderbilt. Jamon Meredith, who started at left tackle against Georgia, will slide inside to left guard, where he is expected to take over for Lemuel Jeanpierre.
"Jarriel King is starting at left tackle and hopefully will start the rest of the year there," Spurrier said. "Our pass protection was actually better last week than the first two weeks."
The Gamecocks are mostly healthy entering the game. However, Carolina will again be without Kenny McKinley as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Tight end Weslye Saunders, who strained his back in the weight room, is likely to play. Mike Davis, who has to sit out one game for missing too many classes, will play against Wofford and then serve his suspension against UAB. Quarterback Tommy Beecher is still a question mark with his shoulder injury and intestinal illness, but he will be the third quarterback and is unlikely to play anyway, according to Spurrier.
"He's semi-healthy," he said. "I think he's a little healthier. We'll see how he goes this week. If we thought he was our best guy to go out there, we'd get him in. We'll see how he practices this week."
Despite the much publicized handing off of play-calling duties this offseason, Spurrier estimated he called about 75% of the plays against Georgia, and expects that to continue. He believes that the coach who spends the most time with the quarterbacks should call most of the plays. This week he is spending most of his time getting Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia ready to play.
"Chris Smelley is our starter, and Stephen Garcia is getting close to where he can maybe play a little bit more," said Spurrier. "Chris we think is our best quarterback right now. Hopefully he can make a few more plays here and there. He had a lot of good plays last week and a few plays he could have done better. We're still coaching him as hard as we can, and Stephen."
There are no set plans to get Garcia in the game against Wofford. Spurrier said that right now they are working on getting Garcia comfortable with the entire playbook and not a special package just for him. Garcia is not ready to push Smelley as a starter due to his lack of knowledge, but Spurrier said Garcia is "pretty close" to knowing what he is supposed to do on the field.
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