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South Carolina Questions

The folks at Garnet and Black Attack sent us a few questions to answer about Ole Miss. They'll have our responses up soon. We responded with some questions for them to answer. Here are their responses.

1. Talk a little bit about the play of Jared Cook. We've got his brother as a starting fullback and think the world of him. Jared's numbers aren't bad for a TE no one was talking about before the season started. What has been the difference in his play so far?

Well, we've always known that Jared is capable of a lot. He's a big guy who can run and has soft hands. He had over 400 yards receiving last year, which isn't bad for a TE, especially considering that Kenny McKinley was the go-to guy all of last season.

The spike in his numbers this year is partially to McKinley's injury. When Kenny went down, Jared become our best option and, because we still haven't found a wideout we can count on like Kenny, Jared remains a go-to guy.

2. How is it that Steve Spurrier can't seem to get a decent offense together? Are there injuries we don't know about? Give us your reasoning for your offensive woes.

Well, I can tell you that you're not the only one who's surprised that Spurrier can't get the offense together. We certainly weren't expecting for the Gamecocks to be known for good defenses and putrid offenses under Spurrier.

The only significant injury is to Kenny McKinley, our star wideout. Not having Kenny hurts us, as we've been unable to find an equally competent go-to receiver and our vertical game is suffering for it.

However, we we also have other, more serious problems. You can have all the wide receivers in the world and it won't do you any good if you can't get them the ball. I'd say our problems are two-fold. First of all, we don't have a running game. The blame, I think, lies with our line, which does OK pass blocking but can't open up a hole for a tailback to save their lives. Our tailbacks are decent but none of them are good enough to make things happen without good blocking. Because we don't have a running game, opposing defenses have chosen to sit back and play the pass, limiting our options down field. Spurrier is known for his passing attack, but his offense requires some proficiency on the ground to keep defenses honest.

Our other problem, of course, has been the QB situation. Tommy Beecher was an unmitigated disaster. With all due respect to Tommy, who I wish all the best, I'm still scratching my head as to why he started against NC State. Chris Smelley is a little better and has his moments, but he doesn't have a great arm and tends to make ill-advised decisions when no one is open. We're now going with Stephen Garcia, who I'm sure you've heard of. Garcia brings some definite advantages: he has a big arm, and he can also scramble when the pocket breaks down, which should help us against Ole Miss if your defense wins the battle in the trenches. The problem with Garcia is that he's young and doesn't know much of the play book, so we're kind of limited as to what we can do with him in there. That said, I'm hoping he can at least take our offense to a slightly higher level.

3. Who is the best player on your team that no one is talking about? What's so good about him?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Chris Culliver. Chris is a sophomore safety and has played well on defense, although he's still developing in that area.

Chris also returns kickoffs for us, and this is where I think he could really affect the outcome of the game on Saturday. He's had some solid returns so far this year and I'm just waiting for him to take one to the house. I told Kyle at Dawg Sports the same thing before we played Georgia, and Chris held up his end of the bargain by having a few solid returns that gave us good field position. Unfortunately, our offense didn't do much to capitalize.

4. What has been Ellis Johnson's impact in coaching your defense? We're glad he's gone from Mississippi State. We're waiting for the floodgates to open on y'all like they did last season after your uncanny defensive play for the first half of the season.

Speaking of Mississippi State, we played them the past two years and I wish we could play them again this year instead of you guys. Maybe they could cure our offense.

The main improvement we've seen under Coach Johnson is our better run defense. Johnson seems to have instilled better tackling fundamentals in our guys. Johnson also installed a 4-2-5 scheme to combat the growing number of spread offenses in the SEC. The virtue of this scheme is that the extra safety provides backup in run support. Hopefully this element will cure what ailed us last year against Houston Nutt's Hogs. At the same time, a larger defensive backfield gives us a solid pass defense. It also allows us to use CB blitzes from time to time, as the extra safety can pick up the receiver the blitzing CB leaves open. We've had some success with this play so far.

The formation does have some weaknesses, though. Having one less LB makes us a little vulnerable for medium gains on the edges. I expect Snead and McCluster to try to hurt us in this way.

The drop in our defense's effectiveness late last year had more to do with injuries than anything else. We have a handful of solid NFL prospects on our first string, but a lot of those guys got hurt last year. So far this year we've been lucky in regards to injuries, and we'll have to remain so to succeed, because as we learned last year, we don't have a lot of depth.

5. What is your prediction on the outcome of the game on Saturday? How do you think it will go down?

I don't really want to make a prediction because I don't want to jinx us and at the same time don't like to pick against us. I expect it will be a tight game that's decided by turnovers. Both of these teams are capable of playing at a high level when they're not making mistakes, but both have proven themselves capable of shooting themselves in the foot from time to time. Moreover, while I think you guys have an explosive offense, I think we're capable of shutting you down if we continue to play like we've been playing. That means that the only way you're going to score a lot of points is if you manage to force a few turnovers and get the short field.
At the same time, our offensive line is going to have to play a lot better to keep your defensive front out of our backfield.

P.S.We got a field pass for South Carolina. Share in our jubilation.