Coach's Corner: Jim Carlen on Kentucky Game

Jim Carlen was successful everywhere he went as a football coach, winning big at West Virginia and Texas Tech before coming to Columbia, where he won 45 games as the head coach of South Carolina from 1975 to 1981. He shares his coach's perspective of last week's USC game with Kentucky in a chat with GamecockAnthem.com publisher Doug Jolley.

Running backs: Cory Boyd – that's the missing link for the offense. I'm not knocking (Mike) Davis, but Boyd was an exceptional college running back – not an All-American, but he knew how to run. I have not seen our running backs make a big play. Our line of scrimmage, you can't pass block and knock everybody down and look like Florida did against LSU. One of those kids (running backs) has got to jump up and grab a hold of it. Bobby Wallace looks like he has the quickness to get to the hole. What's missing with Carolina is they can't make short yardage, and people are shutting them down.

Quarterbacks: Steve Spurrier – he can rotate quarterbacks – I could never do that, and I applaud him. What Steve Spurrier is adept at is he can find at least two quarterbacks that he can alternate that are good enough to beat you. Spurrier did that at Florida. He (benched) a kid that was All-American, and both quarterbacks ended up playing pro football. That's a talent within itself. He's brought Stephen Garcia up, and now Chris Smelley is out. I think Saturday Smelley, who played so well the previous Saturday, got depressed. People say that if he's (not successful) throwing the ball, then let him run the ball. But he couldn't effectively run the ball. It's not his fault; it's just part of the makeup.

Garcia, the other quarterback, is very much like Jeff Grantz. He doesn't necessarily look good throwing, but he throws good. And he runs good, but you don't realize it until he's making a big run. I'm hoping he realizes the importance he has to Carolina's football team, because Steve is going the full mile (in relationship to keeping him on the team after the disciplinary problems). He's got to correct him, and also keep him. If there is a coach in America who can handle having two quarterbacks playing, one against the other, Steve Spurrier knows how to do that. Garcia, he's just now finally had a chance.

Wide receivers: Spurrier Jr. is doing a great job with the receivers. They're making some plays. I'm not saying they're All-Americans, yet. With McKinley back, he's always a factor, he gets open. He messes with the other team's head because he improvises so well.

Kicking game: Ryan Succop is as good as we have ever had. I'm so impressed with him. I understand about the four missed field goals when you told me about the abdominal strain. He's a really good one, that youngster's too good an athlete to miss those. Succop is an All-American kicker. I had a couple of good kickers. Fleetwood was an exceptional kicker, he was cold blooded. Succop has such a strong, accurate leg, he wouldn't mind kicking a 70 yard field goal.

Tight ends and O-line: They're being well-coached on learning how to catch a ball in the crowd. I don't believe the tight ends, the tackles, and the guards and the centers - I don't think the runner can run behind them. If they're going to be a complete football team, they're going to have to pull all at once. They're going to have to get where they can run the football for short yardage. If the tight ends don't block, you have a short field. When you go from center to tackle, it's not very wide. When you go to tight end, it gives you a little (more). They have to put a lot of people in there to stop you.

Coaching strategy: What Spurrier does is he knows what he is trying to defeat. Most coaches just run plays. But he studies. He studies if someone is playing man to man coverage, then he sits down and figures out where their weak coverage man is. He determines which quarterback is the best at what he needs done, and he is the best in the business at that.

I didn't do that with Jeff Grantz and Ronnie Bass. Bass had a knee injury before I got there; and so I redshirted him, and I really didn't have a second quarterback. What I did was I protected Grantz. He wanted to run! He had a real good offensive line. We could control the ball. People asked why we didn't throw longer passes, and I told them, 'You score too fast.' 'What do you mean you score too fast?' My defensive players played as hard as they could play, but we didn't inherit a real good defense. With our offense, I controlled the ball, so our defense didn't have to be on the field.

Defense: The Carolina defense is unbelievable. Ellis Johnson is as good a defensive coach as there is in college football. Jasper Brinkley is getting better and better. I think he may be coming back to his normal playing condition after being hurt last year. His defensive backs are tackling better. His defensive linemen are solid.

What did he take away from the Florida – LSU game that Spurrier can take and use in preparation for playing LSU this Saturday? Florida has a quarterback in Tim Tebow that we don't have. They have running backs that we don't have. Tebow is something else. He is humiliated that he didn't make the point against Mississippi that cost them the game. In an age where players are all about themselves, the thing that impresses me about Tebow is he is sincere. He said, "So I won the Heisman. These guys helped me win the Heisman. I want to win the national championship. I resent LSU beating us (in 2007)." That youngster is a team type player. I don't think the coach has to say much except, "Easy son, don't get hurt."

LSU has strength. Their quarterback is not bad, but he's just good enough. LSU is playing two or three of them. I don't believe even Spurrier could sort through them. They're at a level where you've got to have a kid who can play. I'm not sure that LSU's quarterback(s) can go out on a foreign field and do well. Their running backs look pretty good, their line is good. Their coach Les Miles is a good fundamental coach, and he stays the course. They kept coming back (against Florida). The quickness of Florida and their quarterback is what won it for Florida.

On Clemson:(Carlen's interview took place on Sunday before the dismissal of Tommy Bowden) I expected Clemson to walk away with the ACC. They were previously a basketball conference, and they brought in Florida State, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech for football. They're not as good overall football programs as they were before they joined the ACC. The SEC is still by far the best football conference. They've got Tommy, and the people are screaming at him. He can't do anything right (in their eyes). Spiller can fly, and he and Davis complement each other. I liked Cullen Harper last year. Clemson fans get a little bit overzealous.

Danny Ford is one of my dearest friends; but you put Danny Ford coaching Clemson now, compared to when he was there, he didn't have to play anybody except Maryland and North Carolina. The rest of them weren't very good football schools back then. How'd he do at Arkansas in the SEC? I pull hard for Clemson when they're not playing us; but then there is nobody who wants to beat them more than when they are playing us. Missing Spiller really hurt Clemson against Wake Forest. I want Carolina to win so badly. I wanted Clemson to be undefeated so when we beat them, we (would have) beat an undefeated team, the champion of the ACC. That does nothing but help the state of South Carolina.


Stay tuned next Monday for Coach Carlen's take on the Gamecocks' matchup against the LSU Bayou Bengals.


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