Spurrier hoping USC can "put it all together"

On Wednesday afternoon the Gamecocks continued preparations for Saturday's game against Louisiana State. There is growing excitement for the game among fans that see the game as a good chance to grab national headlines by knocking off the defending national champions. Meanwhile, Steve Spurrier is doing his best to make sure the team does not get caught up in the hype.

"I want [the fans] excited, but we're just trying to play our best," he said. "We haven't played our best all year, especially offensively. Defensively we've had some very good games, but we're just trying to put it all together. We think the potential is there."

The defense has bailed out the offense more than a few times this season. Freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia will make his first start this week, and he is charged with providing a spark for the offense. All eyes are on him during practice, but Spurrier is trying to remind Garcia he does not have to do it on his own.

"He looked okay [at practice]," said Spurrier. "He wasn't near perfect or anything, but he was decent today. Both the quarterbacks and receivers were decent today, but we've got to block [the defense], got to run the ball a bit, play defense, special teams, take care of it a lot better than we've been doing."

South Carolina is tied for tenth in the SEC in turnover margin, at a dismal minus seven. Garcia has only thrown one interception in his limited playing time, and he will be expected to continue to protect the ball.

"The turnover margin has been pretty sorry, but the defense has played well [to make up for it]," said Spurrier. "We hadn't been as bad offensively as a lot of those other guys. We've still made more first downs than any team in the conference and our third down percentage and time of possession is pretty good. We just don't have any big plays and we don't score a whole bunch."

As he tries to figure out a way to jump start the running game, Spurrier was asked which running backs have performed well in practice this week.

"Eric Baker," he said. "He's run very hard in practice, and Mike Davis has done well, too. We need to get those two out there carrying it."

Brian Maddox will probably not be asked to do much. Maddox suffered a sprained knee in practice Monday, and sat out practice. Taylor Rank, who started the season opener but now plays only on special teams, will not contribute either. He will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury.

There was one other injury note from practice Wednesday. Spurrier was wearing a brace on his right knee. Always proud of his fitness and good health, Spurrier initially complained that there was nothing wrong when a reporter asked about the brace, but later conceded that he has occasional pain in the knee due to a series of injuries that began when he was a sophomore at Florida.

"I'm kicking an extra point in spring practice," he recalled, "and I come down and a big fat lineman named Steamboat Scales falls into it. He got stumbled up and ran right into it."

"That's the knee of a 21-year old," he said, pointing to his left knee. Then pointing to his right knee, which has undergone four separate surgeries, he added, "This is a 90-year old one right here. […] Sometimes when I wear long pants on the golf course I wear this [brace] underneath. If you wear it with shorts, everyone says, ‘What's wrong with your knee?'"

King feeling more comfortable on o-line

Jarriel King was a defensive lineman for most of his football career, until the day he stepped foot on USC's campus in August. By the second game, he was the starting left tackle on offense, and by the fourth game he was a team captain. Still, he felt like a defensive lineman trying to play offense. It took about half a season, but now the sophomore says that has changed.

"I'm a whole lot more comfortable," King said. "I've got the fact that I'm not a defensive end out of my head, got the terminology down. I feel like a left tackle now. I've put on the weight, [but] I've still got my athleticism. I was 290 coming in here. I'm 308 now. I've never been this big, and I don't have any fat."

What if the coaches asked King to move over to defense?

"If I had a shot to do it, I'd do it in a heartbeat," he smiled.

King loves to hit, and he has said several times that he misses being able to unload on an opponent. That is why he would go back to defense. Offensively, if he wants to hit, his best opportunity comes in the run game. So far this season, King, along with the rest of the offensive line, has not done enough to create a successful running game.

"I think everything starts with us at the line," said King. "I really think that this week we need to challenge ourselves to get more than 100 yards rushing. We've got the size, we've got the strength, we've got the speed, we just need to put our minds to it."

Asked to expand on that thought, King stated emphatically that the offensive line has to develop a mean streak.

"Run blocking is aggressive," he said. "Unless you've got a really great running back who can do it all on his own, he needs a line. The only thing missing is attitude, just that attitude that goes outside of football that I'm not going to get my a-- kicked, I'm going to be the one doing it."

As a pass blocking unit, the offensive line has done much better, King included. However, that has come primarily with Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley at quarterback. While both are capable of running out of the pocket, they prefer to stay in the pocket. Stephen Garcia, on the other hand, prefers to use his mobility to make plays. That creates a different challenge for the offensive line, which has to be aware that Garcia may not drop straight back in the pocket.

"I like pass blocking for him," said King. "I love Stephen. One thing I love to do for him, is when he breaks out and starts running, I can get out there and lead block. It's better because he's more mobile. I know if I get a little bit of pressure on my side, I don't have to worry about him standing right there, he'll move around in the pocket. We have to work harder because the defender's moving toward where he's going so of course we've got to move more."

King added that he appreciates the skills of all Carolina's quarterbacks, but said Garcia brings something special to the huddle.

"He's got an attitude, especially when he's running the ball," said King. "I see that in practice and especially in the games. In practice he looks like he's trying to get it mentally, but in the game he looks like he's running the show. I like that. The quarterback is supposed to be the field general. He didn't come in [against Kentucky] like, ‘I'm a replacement.' He came in like he already owned [the huddle]. I respect that and I'll work for that. He practices different than he plays. He plays way better. It's not surprising; I expect that out of him."

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