South Carolina offense

During his glory days at Florida, Steve Spurrier always had efficient quarterbacks, productive running backs and explosive offenses. At South Carolina he has had none of the above.

The obvious question: Will that change this fall?

Perhaps. The Ol' Ball Coach is hoping that sophomore Stephen Garcia can provide the stability at quarterback that the Gamecocks lacked in Spurrier's first four years at Columbia. He's also hoping that mid-term freshman Jarvis Giles (who originally committed to Tennessee, then reneged) can provide the big-play dimension SC's ground attack desperately needs.

Unless Garcia and Giles come through, Carolina could be in for another offensive disaster. The 2008 Gamecocks allowed a mind-boggling 39 sacks. They finished last nationally with 27 interceptions and tied for last nationally with 38 total turnovers. They also found time to rank 112th out of 119 teams in rushing yards at just 94.1 per game.

Unlike Spurrier's previous Gamecock QBs, Garcia has no reason to look over his shoulder. Now that Chris Smelley has transferred, Garcia has the QB job virtually by default. With no capable relief pitchers in the bullpen, Garcia will get every opportunity to play through his mistakes.

In addition to completing just 53.3 percent of his passes as a part-time starter last fall, Garcia threw more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (6). He was the team's second-leading rusher, however, and that mobility is priceless, considering how inept Carolina's pass protection can be.

Giles could be just as crucial, however, as the Gamecocks look to improve on last fall's putrid 2.9 yards-per-carry average. The 5-11, 183-pound rookie appears to be a difference-maker after shredding a solid Carolina defense for 114 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries in the spring game.

Giles' ability to provide a legitimate running threat should take some pressure off of a passing attack that ranked No. 13 nationally at 222.5 yards per game a year ago. That's fortunate, because the air game will be without its top two receivers of 2008 - wideout Kenny McKinley (54 catches for 642 yards) and tight end Jared Cook (37 for 573). The best of the returning pass catchers are Moe Brown (30 for 391) and Jason Barnes (27 for 346).

South Carolina averaged a modest 20.8 points per game last fall, which is about what Spurrier's Florida offenses averaged PER HALF during his heyday.

Of course, comparing South Carolina and Florida is like comparing apples and oranges. For instance, Spurrier lost just 27 games in 12 years at Gainesville. He's dropped almost as many (22) in his first four years at Columbia.

Bottom line: If Garcia and Giles have breakout years, South Carolina could challenge for second place behind Florida in the SEC East. If not, another season in the 6-6/7-5 range appears likely.


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