Blogger Q&A - South Carolina

In case this is your first football season with us, let me introduce our Blogger Q&A.  Blogger Q&A is a weekly entry we do with a bloggeur from a blog of our opponent. I contacted Gamecock Man over at Garnet and Black Attack (SBNation's South Carolina Blog) to do this week's Blogger Q&A.

His questions and my responses are up at Garnet and Black Attack here.

1. Jared Cook was a major difference maker in last year's game with 88 receiving yards.  Which Gamecock player is likely to be that difference maker come Thursday night?

I'm going to go with Tori Gurley. Gurley has been the go-to receiver in the vertical game so far this year, but most of his biggest plays have been called back for some reason or another. I think this will be the game where he makes a couple of big, gamebreaking catches that will stand. You can expect to see us try to use his height in post-up situations in the endzone.

2. Steve Spurrier does not seem to have the same magic he had at Florida.  Has the game outgrown him, or is South Carolina too difficult of an environment for him to sustain significant success?


Mostly the latter. Spurrier is still capable of calling a good ballgame. When his line and quarterbacks have performed, he has had good offenses. However, he hasn't had the talent he used to have at Florida, so success has only been intermittent.

This isn't to say that he hasn't made mistakes. Part of the blame for Blake Mitchell and Chris Smelley's lack of development certainly falls on Spurrier's shoulders. He may still be a great play caller, but perhaps he's not as good at working with quarterbacks as he used to be. Part of the blame for the development and other problems, also, lies on his loyalty to poor assistants like former line coach John Hunt. Luckily, some of those problems have been solved and we appear to have a better staff now.

All of that said, I should stress that I don't think it's impossible to win big in Columbia. Spurrier has made some strides in recruiting that suggests that we might be able to make a run soon. We'll see.

3. Last season, Chris Smelley threw for over 300 yards against the Rebels.  The same Chris Smelley is no longer playing football.  Was he playing inspired ball or was the Rebel secondary just that bad?  Will Garcia be able to produce in a similar fashion this season?

I think he was playing inspired ball. Smelley was capable of playing extremely well on the right day. He was also capable of throwing four interceptions on a bad day. I do remember thinking that we benefitted from some rather conspicuous breakdowns in coverage against you guys last year, but Spurrier's strength is that he knows how to beat opposing defensive coordinators in terms of getting receivers open. The difference in that game was that his quarterback delivered the goods like one of his Florida guys would have in the old days.

I do think Garcia is capable of producing at a similar level. He's come close in the past couple of games against Georgia and Florida Atlantic, but he's yet to quite get the right distance on his deep ball. I'm interested to see how he responds if Ole Miss plays more man defense than Georgia did. Against Georgia, Garcia put up good numbers by picking apart the underneath of Georgia's zone. I think coordinators will now try to take those plays away with man defenses. However, that could open things up for a vertical attack. If Garcia makes those throws, that is.

4. The Gamecocks' victory over NCState was sloppy, whereas they looked quite strong against Georgia.  How much and in what areas did South Carolina improve from game 1 to game 2.


First of all, I think Spurrier called the N. C. State game quite conservatively. Against Georgia, he went to the air more often, and Garcia and company showed that we can move the ball that way. So in a way, it was probably just a matter of opening it up a bit and taking advantage of our strengths and what the 'Dawgs gave us. Red-zone production was also better against Georgia. Against N. C. State, we were in the red zone multiple times after the first touchdown but got no points due to special teams woes. Against Georgia, we still had problems scoring touchdowns, but at least we got something.

5. What is your score prediction and why?

I'm a little torn about this one. I think that this Carolina team is one complete game away from proving that it's capable of beating the best SEC teams, and with this game in Columbia, I think you'll see us bid for the upset if we play anywhere near our peak. My gut tells me that we'll win it, but my head tells me that until we prove that we can overcome some defensive and special teams shortcomings, I shouldn't bet against a team like Ole Miss. I'm going to go with Ole Miss in a fairly high-scoring game. Let's say 38-35. I might change my mind on gameday, though, so drop by to see my preview. In any case, I think we should all expect a very exciting night of football. May the best team win!

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