Maddening mobility

If a quarterback who can throw poses a problem, it stands to reason that a quarterback who can throw AND run poses twice as much of a problem.

That's the situation facing Tennessee Saturday night in Columbia. South Carolina's Stephen Garcia is almost as good running the football as he is throwing the football. He ran for 86 yards vs. UAB and is the Gamecocks' second-leading rusher (124 yards), even though he has started only one game and has played in just four of their eight outings.

Vol coaches are acutely aware of Garcia's mobility as they prepare to face him.

"His ability to scramble, his ability to make plays with his feet, presents problems as far as stopping big plays," secondary coach Larry Slade said. "Just watching tape, he's made a lot of big plays by scrambling around. Guys, not being disciplined, are coming out of coverage, and then he throws it down the field. That's always an issue when you've got a quarterback that can scramble around like that."

So what must Tennessee's defensive backs do to counteract Garcia's scrambling ability?

"He forces you to do your job," Slade said. "If you're a deep-third player, you have to play your deep third. You can't come out of your coverage and say, 'I'm going to go tackle him.' Guys like that force you to really be disciplined."

Defensive coordinator John Chavis admits that facing a mobile quarterback complicates matters quite a bit.

"It always does when you're playing a quarterback that can run," he said. "He has a lot of quickness and he's not afraid to pull it down. He's made a lot of plays running the football."

Tennessee already faced three mobile quarterbacks this fall – UAB's Joe Webb, Florida's Tim Tebow and Auburn's Kodi Burns. Each presented a unique challenge – as does Garcia.

"We've had some other quarterbacks that will do the same thing but every play is different," Chavis conceded. "The rush is going to be different The blocking scheme is going to be different. You never know where those things are going to open up, so you have to have a plan to be able to keep him in the pocket."

Against guys like Webb and Burns – who run better than they throw – a defense can devote more energy to containing him than rushing him. That isn't the case with Garcia, who throws well enough to foil this strategy. He has a 60.7 percent completion percentage and a 141.2 passer-efficiency rating.

"You don't keep him in the pocket by not pressuring him," Chavis noted. "You have to do that."

Perhaps the key to corralling Garcia is for Tennessee's ends to give him some heat without giving him a chance to escape the pocket.

"We've got to do a great job getting pressure but, at the same time, keeping him in the pocket," defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell said. "We can't let him pick up a lot of yardage, big first downs. That's my biggest concern – how we can get after him, get him on the ground and not let him pick up yardage."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories