Garcia leads offense in midweek scrimmage

Stephen Garcia battled inconsistency for most of the early preseason practices and scrimmages, and after Tuesday evening's workout, Coach Steve Spurrier proclaimed that he was hoping to see some progress from his starting quarterback. In Wednesday's scrimmage, the sophomore signal-caller stepped up and answered his coach's challenge, having by far his best performance of the preseason.


"(Garcia) looked better (tonight)," Spurrier said as he spoke with the media after the scrimmage. "He can still throw a lot of (the passes) better, but he did throw a lot of good (passes) tonight. He was much improved."

One of the more noticeable changes in the scrimmage was Garcia's decision making.

"We had some (receivers) open, and he threw it where he was supposed to for most of the evening," commented Spurrier.

On the evening, Garcia threw for 150 yards, completing 14 of his 16 pass attempts, one of which was for a touchdown. Maybe even more encouraging than those stats was the fact that Garcia was able to avoid throwing any interceptions during the scrimmage.

But the fifth-year head coach was quick to point out that one of the Gamecocks' best pass rushers was held out of the scrimmage, and could've been a reason why the passing game was so successful in the scrimmage.

"We took Cliff Matthews out of the game, so we were able to get off some passes. Right now we don't have anybody that can block (Matthews), so that's one reason (Garcia) was able to get (some of the passes) off."

Regardless of Matthews' absence, the offensive line had a solid evening, giving Garcia and the other quarterbacks time to sit in the pocket and find the open receivers.

"The protection was a lot better tonight," Spurrier said of the offensive line's play.

Other than Garcia, true freshman receiver DeMario Bennett was another player who had a standout performance in the scrimmage.

"DeMario Bennett had a big night," said Spurrier of the young receiver. "He really caught everything thrown at him."

Bennett finished the night with four receptions for 93 yards, one of which was a 43 yard bomb from Reid McCollum that went for a touchdown.

Running back Bryce Sherman, a redshirt freshman speedster, also earned the praise of Spurrier after leading the Gamecocks in rushing.

"Bryce Sherman is a good little football player, he really is," Spurrier said of the diminutive walk-on. "He's a tough kid who's got a chance to help us out this season."

With Eric Baker still recovering from injury and Brian Maddox nursing a bruised shoulder, the running responsibilities were split between Sherman, Jarvis Giles, and Kenny Miles. Sherman led the group with 11 carries for 76 yards on the night.


King thankful for Wolford, talks changes on line

Unlike many first-year linemen in the SEC, offensive tackle Jarriel King was able to earn a starting spot in his debut season with the USC program last fall. After a subpar performance as a unit last year, King believes the offensive line should be much improved in the upcoming season, thanks in large part to first year offensive line coach/running game coordinator, Eric Wolford.

With a zero tolerance approach regarding mistakes, Wolford has taken a new approach that King believes is greatly benefitting the offensive line play.

"I love it," the mammoth offensive tackle said of Wolford's willingness to replace a player who's underperforming at a moment's notice. "I've said over and over again I love playing for (Coach Wolford). He challenges (the offensive linemen) to get better every day, and I think it's been great for us."

King's burning desire to make not only himself but the offensive line better as a whole has pushed him to become the emotional leader of the unit for the second year in a row.

"I try to put my heart into everything we do out here and try to lead the other guys on the (offensive) line vocally as well as by example," said King. "I guess you could say I'm the emotional leader, I just try to be that guy that's standing up tall when everybody's down and get their spirits back up."

Regarding whether or not he was happy with the performance of the offensive line in Wednesday's scrimmage, King remarked, "I wouldn't say that I'm happy. I'm cool (with the performance in the scrimmage), but we still made some mistakes out there. I wouldn't say happy because that means that everything is going great. I'll be happy if we perform well as a line and can beat N.C. State."

King added that even though the Gamecock offense may gain yards on a given play, that doesn't mean the offensive line did everything right.

"A few times tonight we made mistakes and were able to get away with them because everything else looked good on the play. We made some mistakes blocking that could cost us the game during the season."

It's clear that Wolford has made a great impact on the offensive linemen, and as a player King says he's proud to play for his new position coach.

"It's easy to work hard for Coach (Wolford). He knows football, loves football, and loves us as a unit," King emphasized. "It goes a lot deeper than what many people think. It's easy for me to stand up and say that I'd play for this man hurt, sick, or whatever the case may be."

When asked if Wolford was the loudest coach on the Gamecock staff, King responded with a chuckle, "You could definitely say that. Hands down he is."


Gilmore comfortable in offensive package

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore saw several reps at quarterback in the specialized "Cocky" formation during Wednesday's scrimmage. Gilmore had 32 yards passing while completing 1-2 passes, and ran the ball seven times for 25 yards. Spurrier claimed that Gilmore performed well under center during the scrimmage.

"We gave (Stephon) about ten to twelve plays. He did fine," Spurrier said. "He got a bunch of action."

Gilmore, one of the gems of USC's freshman class, stated after the scrimmage that he is comfortable in his role on offense, although he's still focusing most of his time and energy on mastering the cornerback position.

"I felt good out there," Gilmore said of his time at quarterback. "I'm just focusing on getting better at cornerback right now, but whenever coach puts me (at quarterback) I'm going to try and go out there and do what I can to help the offense."

According to teammate Jarriel King, Gilmore isn't the only one who feels good when he's playing quarterback.

"I like it when (Gilmore) is back there," King said with a smile. "I actually want to see him pass a whole lot more, but I know he can do a lot for us when he's (playing quarterback). I look forward to seeing him play there."

Spurrier noted that Gilmore only has a limited number of plays in the "Cocky" formation at this point. Gilmore claims that more could be inserted into the package before the season starts, but he's content with running whatever plays the coaches call for him to run.


Notes:

- Spurrier said that junior wide receiver Dion LeCorn is expected to return to full-contact practice next week. "He's bouncing around and running a little bit better," Spurrier said. LeCorn has missed the entire preseason up to this point while continuing to rehab from the broken bone in his leg he suffered in the spring game.

- The Head Ball Coach expressed confidence in Spencer Lanning's ability to handle the placekicking duties this year, stating, "Lanning is a good kicker. We've watched him enough in practice to know he's very good."

- Spurrier praised the leadership and chemistry on the team, saying, "We've got good leaders... We think we've got players that really want to play well the entire game and the entire season. We'll find out if we can do that."

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