Spirits are high as season opener approaches

The Gamecock football team returned to the Proving Grounds on Monday evening after heavy rainfall forced them indoors for Sunday's practice. The team continued to finalize their preparations for N.C. State with a spirited two-hour workout as the season opener quickly approaches.

Coach Steve Spurrier described the practice as a "normal Wednesday practice on Monday" because of the fact that the Gamecocks are playing on Thursday instead of Saturday.

"Hopefully our guys will be ready to play Thursday night," Spurrier said. "We've had good spirits the last couple days. We're getting ready for a ballgame and hopefully getting ready to play our best."

One of the recent issues surrounding the team was the demotion of budding star Jason Barnes from first string down to second string wide receiver. However, on the depth chart released Monday by the USC sports information department, Barnes was listed as one of the first team wide receivers alongside redshirt freshman Tori Gurley and senior Moe Brown.

"When we go into our three wide receiver set there's a good chance (Barnes) will start," remarked Spurrier before explaining the reason behind Barnes' demotion. "The reason Tori (Gurley) passed him (on the depth chart) was because Tori practiced better than him. I guess Jason didn't realize that, but anyways we've got that all straightened out now. The guys who practice the best are usually the guys who will be starting."

Spurrier was then asked about how the progression of Stephen Garcia was coming along and if he thought the sophomore signal-caller was ready to face the tough N.C. State defense.

"Well, we don't know yet. We haven't played N.C. State yet," he began before saying that Garcia had another solid practice on the evening. "Stephen (Garcia) actually threw the ball pretty well today against the scout team, so that was encouraging."

Garcia has been improving of late according to the coaching staff, and quarterback coach G.A. Mangus agreed with Spurrier's comments regarding Garcia's performance in the practice.

"Stephen threw it around pretty good tonight, and has had some good days recently."

Improving everyday is something that Mangus has stressed to the quarterbacks since his arrival in Columbia nearly eight months ago.

"That's what we wanted to try to do: get better all through camp, not peak too early, and improve every day," said USC's first-year quarterback coach.

Mangus claims he's happy with Garcia's progress, but there's still room to get better.

"(Garcia) is definitely a better player now than he was in the spring, and he should be because he's really put in the time. I want that to continue since he can still get a lot better, but I'm happy with the commitment he's put towards developing himself into a better quarterback."

Garcia will have an abundance of targets to throw to this season as the Gamecock receiving corps is very deep, and Mangus believes that the repetitions and practice time that Garcia has had with these receivers will pay dividends.

"The chemistry between Stephen (and the receivers) is better, and I think it grows everyday that we're out here (practicing). I think every one of our guys at wide receiver brings a skill set that's slightly different than the rest of our guys. It just takes time to develop that chemistry. That's why I told Stephen to throw hundreds and hundreds of balls with the receivers this summer."

With new offensive line coach/running game coordinator Eric Wolford at the helm and plenty of running backs at their disposal, the Gamecocks will put an emphasis on trying to run the ball more effectively this season. Mangus cites this as something that will help remove the pressure put on Garcia and the other South Carolina quarterbacks.

"A successful running game always helps out in the passing attack," Mangus began. "The running game is a quarterback's best friend. Balance (running and passing the ball) is something that I've always believed in. It helps the offensive line, helps you play action pass, and helps keep the defense off balance. (Keeping the defense off balance) is really what it's all about."

Robertson, D-Line ready for challenge of containing Wilson

N.C. State starting quarterback Russell Wilson will look to have success by passing as well as his ability to scramble out of the pocket for yards against the South Carolina defense on Thursday evening. Starting defensive tackle Travian Robertson claims that it'll be very important for both he and the rest of the defensive line to come out and attack Wilson early so as to set the tone for the rest of the game.

"We've got to put pressure on (Wilson)," the junior from Laurinburg, North Carolina began. "Coach (Brad) Lawing has been putting a big emphasis on us trying to collapse the pocket and trying to keep him from getting outside. It's really going to be important for the defensive line to make plays. We're going to have to come out of the gates attacking Wilson and containing him as best we can, so that we can get our offense some time with the ball."

Robertson will be starting alongside senior Nathan Pepper at defensive tackle, and Devin Taylor and Cliff Matthews will start at the defensive end positions for the Gamecocks. Behind them they will have seniors Eric Norwood and Rodney Paulk starting at linebacker. This front seven is something Robertson thinks will be a play a pivotal role in determining South Carolina's success not only against N.C. State, but against every opponent the Gamecocks face this year.

"It's always important for the front seven guys to play well, especially when you go into a hostile environment like we expect to have up in Raleigh. If we just go out there and play hard and know our assignments, I'm confident that we'll perform well," said Robertson.

Playing hard is something that Robertson himself may have to do the whole game due to the suspension of Ladi Ajiboye, but he states he's ready for the challenge. "I've just got to suck it up, play hard every snap, and give it all that I've got. (The current lack of depth) is just something that we've got to deal with, but I think we'll be fine."


- Reserve offensive Guard Kevin Young sprained his knee, and while it won't require surgery, it is severe enough to keep him sidelined for "a while", according to Spurrier.

- Mangus believes that Stephen Garcia has done well in terms of knowing when to scramble and when to stay in the pocket. Mangus stated that Garcia is grasping the concept of how to use his running ability "as a weapon rather than a liability."

- When asked about Garcia's leadership ability, Spurrier responded by saying the following: "He's done alright, but to be a leader I think you have to play well, so we'll see if he can do that here shortly."

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