Spurrier looking for more out of quarterbacks

If Carolina was looking for some way to ratchet up interest in an otherwise unexciting game against UAB this weekend, Steve Spurrier has provided the stimulation. After Monday's practice he declared every position on offense open for competition. He reiterated that during his Tuesday press conference, and promised that Stephen Garcia will get his much anticipated chance at running the offense.


"I know people want to see Stephen Garcia, and the only way to find out what he can do is to let him go play," said Spurrier. "We're definitely planning on using him a bunch and maybe starting him. We'll see how it goes the next two or three practices."

Garcia is charged with igniting a struggling offense that has averaged just over 20 points per game, next to last in the SEC. The Gamecocks' woes are the result of two problems. Carolina has struggled mightily in the redzone, netting just eight touchdowns in 14 attempts. They have also struggled to hit the big play down the field that would lead to easy touchdowns.

"The consensus is the offense is struggling, and for me it is struggling," Spurrier said. "Football is not real complicated. If they play way back, you've got to throw it in front of them. If they play tight, you'd better be able to throw it over their head or you're in for a long day. It really hasn't changed much from the sandlot ball we used to all play."

Down the field passing is where Garcia comes in. Spurrier praised Chris Smelley for his efficient play, saying Smelley has played "pretty well at times." That is not good enough for a Steve Spurrier offense, though, and Spurrier told Smelley, "at some point you've got to play great."

"When it's there and it's open and you've got time, you've got to hit that guy," Spurrier continued. "His short passes were very good the other day. I just wish he could hit the big opportunities when they're there, and right now we're not even throwing them. He should get better, but he hasn't gotten there yet. He hasn't gotten where we hoped he would be, and that's why we're going to play Stephen."

It has been suggested that Smelley lacks the arm strength to throw the deep ball, but Spurrier is not buying that rationale. The problem he sees is mental, not physical. Smelley is not going through his progressions the way the coaches would like, instead locking on one receiver and missing the other options.

"We're trying to get him to think all the way through every play," Spurrier said. "Sometimes I just think he makes up his mind, ‘I'm going to throw to this guy,' regardless of what the coverage is. He's not playing the play out. Sometimes he doesn't start with the plan of looking for the deep ball first and working your way down. Sometimes he works the under guy first, so he never sees the deeper guy. After three years I expect him to see those deeper guys a lot better."

Will Garcia see those deep receivers better? Nobody, including Spurrier, knows. He said several times on Tuesday he does not know what to expect from the redshirt freshman, but it is time to find out. Asked if Garcia is better at looking for the deep receiver, Spurrier laughed.

"He looks for that every time, unfortunately," he said. "We've got to find out in the heat of battle if he's just going to toss it down there."

UAB would seem to be a good team to do some experimenting against. The Blazers are giving up nearly 35 points per game this year, almost 180 yards rushing, and 315 yards per game passing. The game has all the makings of a blowout, but anyone who follows the Gamecocks knows better than to declare the game a rout.

"I'm sure they're going to come in here and give us fits, just like every other school seems to do," Spurrier said. "We thought we were going to roll against Wofford. Whether or not we can, we've got to find out. Wofford played tough. I really admired the way their guys played. We're trying to play like Wofford around here. If we can do that we'll have a better chance than we have right now."


Notes:

- Left tackle Jarriel King was taken to the hospital Tuesday morning with a heart "flutter". King takes medication that prevents the condition, and it was unclear why the medication did not work. "He will probably miss practice [Tuesday], but he is expected to return tomorrow if everything goes according to plan," said Spurrier.

- Brian Maddox was listed as the starting running back on the depth chart released Tuesday, ahead of Eric Baker. However, Spurrier stated that a final decision will not be made until Thursday as to which player will start in place of suspended Mike Davis. Both could be using the game to audition for more playing time once Davis returns. "They needed to get in there anyway, and if one plays better than the other, he'll start getting more playing time," Spurrier said.

- Wide receiver Kenny McKinley and linebacker Rodney Paulk are the only players expected to miss the game due to injury. In addition to Davis, Jordin Lindsey, Heath Batchelor, and Chris Hail are suspended for the game.


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