Starting QB to be named in pre-game

The Gamecocks practiced Thursday evening for the final time before facing off against Arkansas Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. The big news of the day was the Steve Spurrier has changed his mind about how he will decide who will start at quarterback when Carolina takes the field.


"Here's what we're going to do about who starts: Coach Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech said he was going to watch warm-ups tonight before they play Maryland and determine which quarterback goes out there first," Spurrier explained. "So that's what we're going to do. We're going to watch warm-ups Saturday afternoon and then put that one out there first. They're both going to play, so it doesn't matter who goes out there first."

That move may come as a surprise to many after Stephen Garcia played so well in his first two starts. However, Spurrier remains uncomfortable with Garcia's grasp of the playbook and his ability to make quick decisions. With his extra experience, Chris Smelly has a much better grasp of the playbook, but he lacks Garcia's athleticism.

"Chris is so much mentally better than Stephen," said Spurrier. "I think everybody knows that, but on the other side Stephen can make some plays occasionally. We really think to maximize our team we need to play both of them. That's what we're trying to do the best way we can."

Spurrier went on to criticize the entire South Carolina offense, which has failed to live up to his lofty expectations.

"Our offense has stunk, and we all know it stinks," he said. "It's not all the quarterbacks, and it's not all the o-line, it's a combination of everybody that's made us look the way we have. Hopefully we can play some offense this week."

The Gamecocks will be shorthanded on the offensive line, though. With Heath Batchelor suspended and Lemuel Jeanpierre injured, there is not much depth at guard. Sometime starter Jamon Meredith continues to be hobbled by an ankle injury, meaning Kevin Young, who has missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, will be the third guard.

"Kevin is going to suit up," Spurrier said. "If one of those guards is not blocking very well, we might as well put Kevin in. [Jamon is] out here. He's still gimping around a little bit."

While the offense has struggled, the defense has excelled. Ranked third nationally, this week Ellis Johnson's defense will face an Arkansas offense that does not have impressive stats, but it does have the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week in quarterback Casey Dick and the SEC's leading rusher Michael Smith. Carolina has successfully held Charles Scott and Knowshon Moreno, the second and third leading rushers, in check this season, but Smith prevents a different challenge.

"I don't compare him to them," said Johnson. "It's a whole different style of running game and a whole different style of offense. It's not one of those things you can rep on. They get him out in the open field and do some things out of the one back set that make it a whole different type of running game."

LSU and Georgia both use a more pro-style rushing attack, with a fullback and most of the runs between the tackles. The Razorbacks use a variation of the spread, which creates a different set of problems for defenses.

"They get you spread out and hit some things in there where you can't play with seven men in the box," Johnson explained. "It makes it just as tough as stopping a big running back when you can get all those people in the box."

Prior to this season, Smith was little known outside of Fayetteville. That tends to happen when you play the same position as a couple of first round draft picks, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. McFadden and Jones are among the most physically talented running backs to ever play in the SEC, but Smith is not too far behind them talent-wise.

"He's probably the quickest back we've played," Johnson said. "When he gets top end he's no faster than some we've played, but he's explosive, and in the first two or three steps he's full speed."


Munnerlyn ready for Razorbacks

The Gamecocks were embarrassed defensively by Arkansas last year. McFadden rushed for 321 yards and Jones ran for another 165 yards as the Razorbacks score 48 points. That performance has not been forgotten by the Carolina defense, particularly cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

"I think the guys know we got embarrassed defensive-wise," he said. "That was the worst game I've ever seen us play around here. It is in the back of our minds and hopefully we can play well this weekend."

This year's defense is considerably better than last year's unit, leading the SEC in total defense. Still, Munnerlyn is not resting on his laurels heading into the game.

"We're playing pretty good football, but I feel like there's still room for improvement," Munnerlyn said. "We want to get better."

Munnerlyn injured his foot against Tennessee, but said he is fine this week. Still, he has had a disappointing season statistically, and has yet to pick off a pass this year. That fact has been in the back of his mind recently. He has been looking forward this game against the pass-happy Razorbacks after consecutive games against run-first LSU and Tennessee.

"They throw the ball a lot," said Munnerlyn. "I haven't gotten one all year, so maybe I can get an interception. That's my type of football."

Still, Arkansas does have Smith, and Munnerlyn was quick to remind reporters that Smith is the SEC's leading rusher. Munnerlyn joked about how glad he is not to face McFadden and Jones, but said Smith is not much relief.

"He's quick," said Munnerlyn. "He's a hard runner and he works hard, and he's fast too. He's kind of small, but he's got a little Barry Sanders in him."

The loss to Arkansas was perhaps the most embarrassing part of the season-ending swoon that kept Carolina from playing in a bowl game. A week after the Gamecocks reached bowl eligibility this season, Munnerlyn said there is a distinct change in how the players have responded this year compared to last.

"Last year, we looked at it, we were 6-1, and we had big dreams," he recalled. "We just came out here lackadaisical and didn't get anything done. This year we came out here getting ready for Arkansas, and we're ready to get to a good bowl. We're working our butts off."


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