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Gameday Preview: South Carolina

We did a Q & A with SBNation's Garnet and Black Attack for our South Carolina preview. Visit them for more information on the Gamecocks. Our questions are in bold.

1. Is Marcus Lattimore really hurt or was Spurrier saving him for Saturday?

I'm pretty sure that he was really hurt; I don't think that Spurrier would save him for Saturday, although I could be wrong. Obviously, there might be motivation to do that--Spurrier told reporters before the Arkansas game that having or not having Lattimore can mean the difference between winning or losing for South Carolina, and based on our performance when he was hurt against Kentucky, I would have to strongly agree with that. With that in mind, one could see how Spurrier might recognize that the USC-UF game is more important than Ark.-USC and decide to shelve Lattimore and give up on the Ark. game at the slightest sign of Lattimore being injured. That said, Spurrier said all week that the Ark. game was an important one, and I believe him. Lots of things were running on that game--an undefeated home record, a good ranking, momentum going into this weekend's game. I don't think Spurrier would give up on those for any reason.

2. Even as a kid in Tampa, Stephen Garcia had the talent but could be a head case. However, it seems like he has matured this season. Is that correct and do Gamecock fans trust him?

I think he's matured to some degree. His off-season behavior left a little to be desired until the summer began, but he got it in gear and worked fairly hard at that point. He also seems to have a new-found desire to be the student of the game that Spurrier wants him to be, or, at least, he says all the right things to make us believe that that's the case (talks about watching film, etc.). 

At any rate, he's definitely become a better QB for the most part. There are still some flaws in his game. He doesn't always protect the ball when he runs, and his accuracy on certain downfield throws leaves a lot to be desired and doesn't seem to be improving. That said, he seems to make better choices regarding when to run, and his passes tend to be a little safer than they used to be. All in all, he's a better decision-maker, and that's a major step forward for a guy who was for a long time not known for making wise decisions with the football.

3. Other than Alshon Jeffery and Lattimore, who does South Carolina rely on to move the ball?

The other two WRs to keep your eyes on are Tori Gurley and Ace Sanders. Gurley is the second-leading receiver and would likely be a guy who could put up really impressive numbers if not for the fact that Jeffery is the decided go-to guy. Sanders, a true freshman, is a speedy slot receiver who we've been working into the offense more and more. Look for us to use him on end-arounds, WR screens, and the occasional deep throw. Our other running threat is Brian Maddox, who Gators fans will remember from last year. He spells Lattimore a few series each game and has had a pretty good year in that role. There are some other guys we look to at times, but these are the main ones to watch.

4. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said "kickoff" was when he knew South Carolina was in trouble against the Hogs. Did Arkansas expose a flaw or did the Gamecocks have a bad night?

I would say that we just had a bad night. Arkansas didn't really expose any flaws, at least none that we didn't already know about. We struggle against the pass, and Ryan Mallett had a good day throwing the ball, which wasn't surprising in the least. The poor performance of the offense was a surprise, but I would mostly chalk it up to the Lattimore injury and poor OL and WR play, which haven't been huge problems this year; here's to hoping they won't be against Florida.

5. Since defeating Alabama, the Gamecocks have lost twice and couldn't put away Vandy and Tennessee until late in the game. Are they still hung over from that win?

I don't know if I'd call it a hangover. I think two things have happened that are more personnel / tactical than anything else. First of all, Lattimore has spent some time on the bench with injuries. That's hurt us quite a bit, either because we don't have a running game without him or because the coaches don't have enough trust in Maddox to believe that we do. (I'm going with the latter, and I think the coaches are wrong in that regard; Maddox has played well when given the opportunity to do so.) Second of all, since the Kentucky game the secondary play has seemed to get worse and worse, and Tennessee and Arkansas were able to do a good job of taking advantage of that. I'd say a lot is riding in this game on whether or not the Gators can do the same thing.