Coach's Corner: Arky Win, Florida Challenge

Coach Jim Carlen and his wife Meredith joined a rowdy bunch of Gamecock fans at the Carolina Wings down at Litchfield Beach to watch the Gamecocks whoop the Arkansas Razorbacks. He was upbeat as he shared his thoughts about the game in his weekly chat with Doug Jolley. He also talked about the challenge of beating Florida this weekend, and the challenges of recruiting against Florida and Georgia.

Coach Carlen laughed as he told me about his prediction for the Arkansas game: "I predicted us to win by four touchdowns, I know that's crazy, but I did. Arkansas has a problem. Arkansas lost a lot when they lost Houston Nutt to Ole Miss. They've lost a whole lot of really good football players."

Position in the SEC: Arkansas is no longer in our league as a team. I think we have moved up; I think we are the third team in the SEC East, passing Tennessee, and Tennessee has to fight Kentucky and Vanderbilt for that fourth position.

Defense: I thought our defense was exceptional again. I don't know how they do it, but in every game, they find an unusual way to score. They pick up a fumble up off the ground, or a linebacker jumps sky high and intercepts their pass.

Offense: I thought it went well. Not many coaches call their own plays these days. Spurrier not only calls his own plays, he alternates quarterbacks. Steve calls plays by alternating the quarterbacks, talking to the quarterback while the other boy is in the field, telling him exactly what to do. I've got to ask him, ‘What do you do if the quarterback on the field gains 35 yards, and the play you just called, there is not enough space to run on?' He's the only coach I've ever known who alternated quarterbacks successfully. I'm not second guessing somebody who has that kind of success doing it that way. In pro football, they did it with an offensive guard. Cleveland did that for years; the guard would run in with the play and tell it to the quarterback.

On this week's opponent Florida: If someone were going to ask me to pick the #1 team in the country, I'd think of my former school Texas Tech, who beat Texas who was #1. They're a very good football team. But I'd have to say that Florida is #1. I think they're the best football team in the country, due to foot speed. They have a great quarterback; you don't have to run him in and out of the game. If you're willing to take a chance on that quarterback, he may run the score up on you. He is bigger than a lot of linebackers and might beat them. He isn't bigger than South Carolina's. If you have to limit him to keep him from getting injured, then it curtails the offense a little bit. I noticed in the Ole Miss game they lost, he couldn't make a yard on a quarterback sneak. It drove him nuts.

Florida has so much foot speed. Their running backs on the counter dive when they run it up the middle, those backs aren't big, but they hit the line of scrimmage so quick, they're past the defensive line and the linebackers before they can straighten out.

USC Defense vs. UF offense: I think Ellis Johnson does a real good job matching up against each opponent's offensive strengths. I'm not sure that we have talent enough, speed enough, and quickness enough, to accomplish what they do. You can coach, and coach, and coach a youngster what to do, but if that kid on the other side is quicker and more active, it is tough to offset that. We are better coached. Charlie Strong used to be our defensive coach. I think he's an exceptional coach, but he's up against Steve Spurrier. Coach Spurrier won at Florida, but he won with players. Florida probably has more quick kids than anybody else in the country year in and year out. It doesn't matter who is coaching, they win big.

LSU out-physicalled us. What was the score between Florida and LSU? What was the score between Florida and Georgia? 30 point wins. Those are big rivalries. I think they're probably two touchdowns better than us. I know that will make some South Carolina fans mad. Foot speed, a quarterback who won the Heisman as a sophomore. It comes down to the players.

In the two games coming up, I think Florida is better than us, I think we're better than Clemson, based on our defense and our kicker Ryan Succop. He and Mark Fleetwood are as good of kickers as we have ever had.

What will it take for USC to beat Florida: The defense has to play without making mistakes. What they do is catch you making a mistake, and they cut you. LSU is not in a league with Florida. LSU is probably more physical than Florida, but with the foot speed Florida has, defensive people have a hard time reading all they have to read.

The quarterback needs to get better and the running backs need to get more consistent. The Carolina offense needs to help out the defense and keep the Florida offense off the field as much as possible. They did it Steve's first year, running the ball, and they won. You really have to have a knack to call plays one play ahead.

One member had a question for Coach Carlen about a comment he made about Florida and Georgia having recruiting advantages over South Carolina. Here is his answer:

The number of good players in Florida and Georgia give them a great advantage, and then they come in and steal some of the best players in South Carolina (references AJ Green). The sheer number of players playing high school football in Florida and Georgia gives you a better chance of finding a lot of good players.

Tradition helps, but only to a point. If you got every good football player in the state of South Carolina, you're still better than Clemson, who is a good football program. Miami recruits nationally, but Florida and Florida State have been two of the consistently best programs in the nation every year recruiting almost all of their players right out of Florida.

At Georgia, they get most of their players out of Georgia, and then they get over here in South Carolina. I used to work hard to keep them the heck out.

Spurrier won a national championship at Florida. When are we going to win a national championship? Players win games, coaches help win games. South Carolina is improved. The coaching is better. The facilities are better. But there is still a numbers game. The numbers of players down there are overwhelming.

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