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SEC 2009 // A Gamecock's Mind

For those who don't know, I ran Garnet and Black Attack, the South Carolina blog here on SB Nation, before launching Team Speed Kills. When I moved over here, GABA was placed in the more than competent hands of Gamecock Man, who has done a superb job at running the place. Gamecock Man agreed to answer a few questions as part of South Carolina week.

Is Stephen Garcia really "the guy"? And even if he is, do Gamecock fans really have faith in him to stay out of trouble through an entire season?

Tough questions; I guess it depends on what you mean by "the guy." In terms of arm strength, mobility, and other physical qualities, Garcia appears to have the tools to be a good SEC quarterback. He'll need to continue to improve his knowledge of the playbook and his decision-making skills, but I think that will come with experience. The results from spring practice sound promising in that regard. Therefore, I fully expect Garcia to be an improvement over Blake Mitchell and Chris Smelley, and I think he's fully capable of helping us get to 8-9 wins and a New Years Day Bowl, especially in his junior and senior seasons. If that's what you mean by "the guy," then yeah, I think Garcia is "the guy." If you mean someone that can be one of the nation's best quarterbacks, the kind of player that can elevate this offense to SEC-title caliber, then it's really almost impossible to say. Obviously, we'll get an idea of what his ceiling is like this year. If he dramatically improves and we have a very good year, then the expectations for 2010 will be sky high for Garcia and the Gamecocks. Sort of like what you see with Jevan Snead and Ole Miss this year. As far as his off-field behavior, I think most people think he's grown up. He seems to have matured and taken a leadership role on the team, which is a good sign. You of course never know with someone with his history, but I don't think he'll have any more problems of that sort.

The losses from last year's team that look most harmful are WR Kenny McKinley and TE Jared Cook. Does that sound about right to you, and do you worry about whether their replacements can fill the void?

Well, I might argue that the losses to the secondary (Emanuel Cook, Captain Munnerlyn, and Stoney Woodson) hurt more. McKinley and Cook were great players for us, certainly. However, I like Weslye Saunders as Cook's replacement and don't think we'll lose a beat from the TE spot. At WR, we have lots of talented players, such as Jason Barnes, Moe Brown, Dion LeCorn, and freshman Alshon Jeffery. One of these guys is going to have to step up and become the go-to guy; that will probably be Barnes or Brown, as LeCorn is more of a possession receiver and Jeffery is inexperienced. I think we'll see good production here, though; keep in mind that some of these guys played pretty well in McKinley's absence early last season. I also think we'll see a better running game this year, meaning that we won't have to have the passing game completely carry the offense, which was sometimes the case last year.

At secondary, we have some talented players in place to replace the guys we're losing, especially at safety. However, depth could be a huge problem if someone gets hurt. Remember how our defensive performance waned in 2007 after all the defensive injuries? That could happen again this year if guys like Darian Stewart and Chris Culliver get hurt.

A bigger deal this year: Beating Vanderbilt or beating Clemson?

Are you being serious? I expected better from you, C&F. It's gotta be Clemson. Losing to Vandy sucks, and having a losing streak to Vandy sucks even more, but I don't think most Gamecocks fans hate Vandy. I actually cheer for them when they're not playing us. It's just kind of embarrassing losing to them, and it's frustrating when you lose to them in the fashion that we have. The fact that we have more talent than them has been apparent in both games; the problem was inane decision making by our QBs in 2007 and weird special teams gaffes in 2008. Just frustrating. However, Vandy just doesn't inspire the kind of feelings in me that Clemson does. If I could enjoy the feeling I got after we beat Clemson in 2006, I think I could handle another loss to Vandy. The only possible argument one could make for Vandy here is if you imagine a scenario when losing to Vandy costs us a trip to Atlanta. I could probably stomach another loss to Clemson slightly better if I knew we were going to get a shot at the SEC Title. But teams that lose to Vandy usually aren't in the running for divisional championships, so this probably won't happen, anyways.

How many wins does Spurrier need this year to show progress, and what happens if he doesn't get there? Will he retire? Do you see any way the university could fire him if they decide it isn't working out?

I think he needs eight regular season wins and to finish in the upper half of the SEC East. Nine is possible, but unless we're much better than advertised and some of our opponents are much worse, I think it's hard to see us winning 10 or 11 with the schedule we have. If he wins eight, he'll have improved on previous totals. Moreover, as I said, there'll be high hopes for 2010. If Stephen Garcia comes through as the quarterback, this offense will be one of the best and most experienced in the conference in 2010. If he only wins seven, there will be some cause for concern, but with the schedule we have, it's a distinct possibility even if the team plays well.

As far as what he'll do if it doesn't happen, it's hard to say. He claims that he's in this for the long haul, that he recognizes the challenge of winning big here and wants to take that challenge the distance. I tend to take him at his word on that. However, he's not a young man anymore, so who's to say that he might not just decide he'd rather hang out on the beach and the golf course instead of dealing with the rigors of the SEC when he's not winning much?

Would the university fire him? Unless he has an atrocious year, I kind of doubt it. He has been fairly successful here compared to his predecessors. However, I actually wouldn't be against it -- depending on the circumstances -- if we only win five or six games. I think we have the resources here to do better than that, and I think we should hold our coaches to standards higher than that.

Do you disagree with anything we've said this week?

I think your predictions are pretty accurate. I might change the following:

9.19 :: vs. Florida Atlantic :: POSSIBLE WIN.

I'd call this a probable win. Florida Atlantic is good on offense, but I don't think they have enough defensive brawn to hold us back.

9.24 :: vs. Ole Miss :: PROBABLE LOSS

I'd call this a possible loss. That's probably because I like our home-field advantage here. I'm also not as high on Ole Miss as most people are.

10.3 :: vs. S.C. State :: POSSIBLE WIN

This is a win. SC State is a good FCS team, but don't expect much from them in this game.

11.28 :: vs. Clemson :: POSSIBLE WIN

This is a push. I'm guessing that's what you really think it is, too.

I also notice that you call Vandy a probable win and FAU and SC State possible wins. I think Vandy will be much tougher than FAU or SC State.

What I was getting at was that Florida Atlantic is a bigger threat as a trap game than Vanderbilt. And the Gamecocks, for whatever reason, always seem to play their worst games against FCS competiton. But Gamecock Man makes valid points.

Thanks to him for answering our questions.


MONDAY: South Carolina Leans on Hope, Again
TUESDAY: The Carolina Calendar
WEDNESDAY: Spurrier Meets with Two Students; Stephen Garcia -- and the Rest of the Depth Chart; Hope and Homerism
THURSDAY: Guessing the Gamecocks
LATER TODAY: The Last Savior We Had Around Here Didn't Do So Well