Gamecocks continue preparations for Wofford
Wofford has some level of notoriety even among BCS teams as the squad that beat Appalachian State last year, the same team that won the national championship and registered a historic upset at Michigan. However, Steve Spurrier has not had to bring up that Michigan loss to get his team ready for an FCS (Formerly I-AA) opponent this week.
"We've always had tremendous respect for Wofford, Furman, SC State," he said. "We were very fortunate to beat Wofford two years ago. They easily could have won that game. I think we're a better team than we were two years ago. We don't have a lot of wins to show for it, so we're expecting a difficult game, one that goes down to the wire."
Although Carolina scored just 27 points against Wofford in that game, the bigger concern was that the defense gave up 20 points, and struggled to contain the Terriers' rushing attack. The coaches, being coaches, are always worried about the upcoming game, but there is some genuine concern about how the players will respond when they take the field. The biggest asset may be coordinator Ellis Johnson, who was the head coach at Wofford's Southern Conference rival The Citadel from 2001-2003.
"He and the defensive coaches are watching a lot of tape, and of course Coach Johnson has seen it at The Citadel," Spurrier said of the preparation. "He's coached against these guys before. I think you just have to really assign somebody to all the running backs and the quarterback, of course. You've got four potential ball carriers, and maybe even five at times. It's a lot of guys going in all different directions that makes it a very good offense if you know how to do it. They certainly know how to do it."
Even with the concern, Spurrier was optimistic, raving about the work done by Johnson and the rest of the defensive coaches.
"We're playing the best defensively in the four years I've been here," he said. "Unfortunately the offense hasn't been very good yet, but hopefully it'll catch up."
Wide receiver Kenny McKinley remains out for the Wofford game, and there is no timetable for his return. However, tight end Weslye Saunders returned to practice after missing time with a strained back, and will play on Saturday.
The coaches will be experimenting with working in some new players this weekend. Spurrier wants to see running backs Brian Maddox and Eric Baker get some playing time, although there is not a pecking order between the two.
"I'm not sure who Coach [Robert] Gillespie wants to run in there second, but we plan on getting both of them some carries this week," said Spurrier.
The coaches will also continue the seemingly never-ending search for the best offensive line unit, primarily for the running game. They are not making any desperation moves yet, although Spurrier joked he may have to open up his options soon. When asked if there were any run blocking specialists on the team, he smiled.
"I haven't found them yet," he said. "I'm looking for them, though."
Anderson: Offensive line focused on executing better
Against a very talented Georgia defense, Carolina's offensive line had its best showing of the year in pass protection, giving up just two sacks. The flip side, however, was that the Gamecocks mustered just 18 yards rushing on 16 carries. That sort of unbalanced offense will not win many games, a fact that is not lost on center Garrett Anderson.
"We've just got to keep working on it," he said. "We know what we did wrong and we know what we've got to improve on."
In an effort to get more push up front, Jamon Meredith will slide over to guard to make room for Jarriel King at tackle. Anderson believes that change will help the line by getting more talent on the field, but he said the main problem is not talent, but something else.
"Execution," said Anderson. "I don't think any word defines it better than that. We have the ability to do it, but we're not executing at the same time. We've got to make sure we do that. In every game, when a play goes wrong, there's just one person who didn't execute on that play. If we can fix that, it's going to be a heck of a play. It's everyone doing their job."
After starting the season with three BCS opponents, the Gamecocks enter the light part of their schedule. Wofford this week and UAB next week are not expected to pose much of a challenge, allowing Carolina to get some kinks worked out. When a reporter began to ask Anderson what a blowout win over Wofford would mean, Anderson cut him off.
"We might have had that concept two years ago, but we almost lost the game," he reminded the reporter. "We've got to go into this game [knowing] they're going to give us 100%. On paper we might look better, but knowing it's never the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog, they're going to come at us 100% and we've got to be prepared for that. We had a very good team that year, and we should have played a lot better."
Most of the focus with Wofford is on their impressive wingbone offense, which is producing over 400 rushing yards a game. Being on the offense, Anderson does not see much of the Terriers' offensive unit. Instead, he is concerned about the unusual looks he will see from the defense. He added that the different looks will be a benefit in the long term.
"This is a very big game for them, and it's the same for us," he said. "They run a different defense than we normally see, they run a 3-4. It raises some problems just because it's something different, something new. I think that every week is a good week to figure out what we need to do. We go in every Sunday and Monday to watch film and figure out what we can do and what we need to fix. I think we've got a good chance this week of fixing those problems and making sure we can get the offense right."
Anderson refused to put the game in the win column already, but he did talk about the importance of evening Carolina's record at 2-2 and starting some positive momentum.
"I know we're 1-2, which is never a good scenario," he said, "but we still have nine more games to prove that we're a good team. We have a good opportunity to get on a roll and get something going here. If we prove we're a good team and play the way we can play, it can still be a good year. We have the ability to [win]. We have the ability to be a really good team. We really do, and we're not executing the way we need to. If we can do that, we'll prove that we're a capable team. Until we do that, we're 1-2."
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