QUESTION: Give us your take on the progress that Stephen Garcia has made this season. What improvements has he made and what do you accredit that improvement to. How important is he to the GameCock's success?
ANSWER: Stephen Garcia has improved significantly in his understanding of Steve Spurrier's offense and in his decision making this year. As a freshman last season, he was mistake-prone and often appeared unsure of his reads while relying more on his dual-threat improvisation than his knowledge of the offense. However, under the tutelage of new Quarterbacks Coach G.A. Mangus, Garcia has cut down on the mistakes, emerged as a reliable field general in the Gamecock offense, and become one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC this year. Mangus, a former Spurrier quarterback at Florida, deserves a lot of credit for the job that he has done in mentoring Garcia this year both on and off the field. Garcia is still not playing at the level of Spurrier's old quarterbacks in Gainesville, but he has shown signs of moving toward that level of play. He currently ranks third in the SEC in passing yards per game (224 ypg), fourth in completion percentage among starting quarterbacks (59%), and has an impressive 11-4 touchdown to interception ratio. He also ranks second in the league in total offense with 236 ypg. Simply put, Garcia's production and efficient play this season are two of the key reasons that South Carolina has been able to start off 6-2 this fall.
QUESTION: Who is South Carolina's biggest offensive threat or weapon. How has their success so far has impacted the Gamecocks season so far?
ANSWER: True freshman wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has emerged as South Carolina's top offensive weapon this season. After playing limited snaps in the first four games while still learning the offense, Jeffery has exploded onto the SEC scene in the last four weeks, compiling an astounding 21 catches for 414 yards and 5 touchdowns. He has displayed elite jump-ball ability, as well as the elusiveness and vision to make big yardage after the catch. Jeffery has already drawn multiple comparisons to former Gamecock great Sidney Rice, and he has been instrumental in USC's wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the month of October.
QUESTION: What position stands out the most as far as improvement on the offensive side of the ball. OL, WR, RB's TE, QB etc?
ANSWER:The quarterback position is by far the most improved aspect of the Gamecock offense this season. South Carolina's quarterbacks threw 27 interceptions last fall, ranking near the bottom nationally among all FBS teams. Stephen Garcia has only thrown 4 picks this season, and he has displayed a much better understanding of the offense and how to attack varying coverages.
QUESTION: What does South Carolina have to accomplish on offense this Saturday in Knoxville to be successful?
ANSWER: South Carolina must continue to play efficiently on offense against Tennessee this weekend, not turning the ball over and giving the Vols a short field to work with to score cheap points. They must also hit some big plays like they've done the past few weeks, because the UT defense is too stout to consistently move the ball methodically for long drives. Lastly, as is the case with any SEC matchup, it will be important for the Gamecocks to capitalize when they have scoring opportunities, preferably punching the ball in the end zone and not settling for field goals when those scoring opportunities present themselves.
QUESTION: What has been the most surprising aspect of the Gamecocks offense this season?
ANSWER: The most surprising aspect of the South Carolina offense this season has been how efficient quarterback Stephen Garcia has played despite the offensive line struggling to protect and the running game not consistently pulling its weight. The Gamecocks rank last in the SEC in sacks surrendered (22) and ninth in the league in rushing offense (137 ypg), yet Garcia, for the most part, has displayed poise and confidence in leading the Gamecock offense this season, only throwing 4 interceptions all season and completing 59% of his passes.
QUESTION: Any key injuries on the offensive side of the ball for the UT game?
ANSWER: The Gamecocks are fairly healthy on the offensive side of the ball heading into Saturday's game. Tight end Weslye Saunders has been limited with a sprained ankle the past couple of weeks, but he has practiced at full speed this week. Receiver Moe Brown sat out last week after suffering a concussion in the loss to Alabama, but he is also expected to be full speed for Saturday's game in Knoxville.
QUESTION: Do you see South Carolina making any key changes offensively to overcome the Vols defensive unit?
ANSWER: Steve Spurrier's offense has not changed much over the years, regardless of the defenses he faces from week to week. Spurrier and staff will certainly game plan to try and counteract UT's zone blitzing scheme, as well as prepare Stephen Garcia to know where safety Eric Berry is at all times. However, the Gamecocks will continue to do what they do on offense, mixing and matching formations while working to find favorable matchups against the impressive Vols' defense.