Coach's Corner: Jim Carlen on LSU Game

As former South Carolina Coach Jim Carlen shares his thoughts here on each week's game, he wants Carolina fans to know one thing: "I love Carolina. I want Carolina to do so well I can hardly stand it. I don't want to be critical, I want to be helpful." This week Carlen looks at the game with LSU, focusing primarily on the play of freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia and that of the offensive line.

South Carolina played defending national champions LSU close, but didn't close the deal in a 24-17 loss on Saturday. Coach Jim Carlen was there at Williams-Brice stadium watching, and here are his thoughts that he shared with publisher Doug Jolley about the game:

On Stephen Garcia, who started his first game against the Bayou Bengals as a redshirt freshman: I thought Garcia played extremely well for the first time he ever started a game, and playing LSU is not like playing high schools in Florida. He's come a long way. Garcia looks like the real thing to me. He proved tough. Someone asked if I saw how many times he got sacked, and I said, "He's running for his life." The first time he's ever started, he's out there playing with the physical team that LSU is? The pressure of those kids blitzing him? I applaud him. I bet he's sore today.

Spurrier has done a good job with the quarterback situation he has had since he's been here. Steve can coach three quarterbacks at the same time, when no one else can do that, that's really a talent. Garcia is coming on now. I think Garcia is a team leader, he's a cheerleader like Tim Tebow at Florida, he jumps in the crowd and wants them to cheer. I think the players respect that. It's a show of togetherness, let's all be in this thing together, excited when we make a good play, and if we make a bad play, we have to make up for it the next play. He made some key runs, made some strong throws, and he'll get better as he goes along.

Overall play of the game: LSU is the most physical team we've played. The difference was, LSU was more physical than us. The first half, we hung in there pretty good, in the second half, they just got with the program. Our punter (Spencer Lanning) was exceptional; he's kicking the ball well. Their punter was terrible. The missed field goal again is not like Ryan Succop, he normally doesn't miss. If you break it down, our receivers continue to get better.

On the offensive line: The issue now is – are our offensive linemen good enough? Either they're not good enough athletically, or they're being asked to do things they can't do. I think the offensive line gets overwhelmed when they get a blitz. If your quarterback is the only one who can run the ball, you're going to blitz the quarterback, and that's what they did. They brought seven or eight people and that's more than we could handle, and then he's scrambling back there. Garcia did a good job if he ever got outside of containment, like he did early in the game. Later they made him stay inside.

I think the offensive line is the problem they've got to solve, and they'll solve it. George Rogers was a great back and won the Heisman, but he needed good blockers to do it. Our offensive line and our two tight ends when they were there were very, very good. I'm not knocking what they have now, but when you play a physical team like LSU, the offensive line better be pretty good.

You can play freshmen wide receivers; you can't play freshman offensive linemen. AJ Green is tearing it up as a true freshman for Georgia. You call around the country and see how many true freshmen offensive linemen are tearing it up. There's none. They have to learn, it takes patience. I would recruit an awful lot of offensive linemen.

On his perspective of coaching the offensive line: The hardest place to coach in football in my opinion is the offensive line. My perspective, and I was an option coach, mind you: When you coach the offensive line, if you're going to run the ball some, you don't split tight ends out. You play with two tight ends, which gives you a seven man front. That keeps people from penetrating and getting to your quarterback or your runner. When I came to South Carolina, I inherited some pretty good players from Paul Dietzel. Jeff Grantz – they haven't replaced him yet.

On running backs: Our running backs are not making any headway. The real concern is the running game. I have always contended that in order to have a really good football team, you've got to have running game. The running game is based on blocking. Some running backs can make yardage without good blocking, but there's very few of them. Our running game was unbelievable how few yards they gained. I worried about losing Cory Boyd, because I thought he was a premier running back.

On defense: The defensive unit played well, but LSU kept hammering them. Jasper Brinkley in the last two or three games has finally come away from worrying about his knee injury and he's making plays. I thought our defense played well, I think they finally got tired. Our defensive coach Ellis Johnson makes a difference. He has the players playing extremely well.

On the recruits at the game and overall recruiting: I think the crowd showed the recruits there a tremendous environment.

You always talk to the kids first about the educational opportunity. Then you talk to prospects about opportunity. You don't think kids have things figured out? When they see the running backs struggle and they're a running back, they see opportunity. The key to getting recruits to come here is Steve Spurrier.

Running back recruiting – I'd be looking for a slasher. I'd be looking for someone who can run a pitch sweep so I don't always have my quarterback outside. I'd try to find someone who can run a zone inside, running in small spaces. Bobby Wallace, he's not going to knock anybody down form LSU, but he's a slasher, he runs in there. I'd recruit me a couple or three Cory Boyds. If I were South Carolina, #1 I'd be looking for a premier running back or two that I could plan on playing as a freshman, who would be mature enough to do so. Next I'd be looking for some linemen.

Coach Carlen had a message for the Gamecock Nation, on fans leaving early: I'd stay to the finish. I don't care how far you are behind, or how bad the fair traffic is going to be. Our kids need support!

Next week the Gamecocks have an off week, so Coach Carlen will too. The following week Coach Carlen will be in Texas at the Texas Tech - Texas game, where he will be honored as he is inducted into their Hall of Fame. He will probably have to watch the USC game against Tennessee on a recording after he gets back, so his column may be later in the week that week.

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