College Sports

Offensive line raises Spurrier's ire

USC's offensive line, featuring from left, Justin Sorensen, James Thompson, Web Brown, Garrett Anderson and Jamon Meredith, has come under fire.
USC's offensive line, featuring from left, Justin Sorensen, James Thompson, Web Brown, Garrett Anderson and Jamon Meredith, has come under fire.

COLUMBIA --  Steve Spurrier raised the expectations for his South Carolina team this season, setting an SEC championship as the Gamecocks' main goal.

But after watching his offensive line's performance through the first 12 days of preseason practice, Spurrier said the Gamecocks are playing down to their customary place in the SEC East.

"We're a long way off," Spurrier said Wednesday after USC's second scrimmage, the first involving starters. "If anybody watched us tonight, we'd be lucky to be picked fourth in the Eastern Division. I bet Kentucky and Vandy looked better than our team tonight. But anyway, we don't play for two and a half weeks, so hopefully we can make some improvement."

Spurrier said improvement must begin up front, where the Gamecocks replace all three interior starters.

Getting manhandled by USC's beefed-up defensive line would be one thing. But Spurrier said offensive linemen appear to be directionally dyslexic.

"We've got linemen that still don't know where to block, can't block the left gap," he said. "When we say, 'Slide to the left,' they can't slide to the left. So anyway, we need to find out who can play here after Saturday's scrimmage."

After the Gamecocks' younger players scrimmage again Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, Spurrier said coaches will update the depth chart and work with the players expected to see the most action in the Sept. 1 opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

USC hoped to avoid a repeat of last year, when porous line play forced Spurrier to sit quarterback Blake Mitchell in favor of the more mobile Syvelle Newton. It took the Gamecocks until the eighth week to settle on their front five.

Less than two weeks into camp, Spurrier already is talking about trying different combinations up front.

"We're going to find out if some of those freshmen -- I don't know if Quintin Richardson's ready to play, yet," Spurrier said. "But some of those other guys don't look like they're ready right now. We've got to find some guys that can block a little bit.

"I'm tired of watching Blake and the quarterbacks get hit almost every time they throw the ball."

Spurrier said the offense was stuck in neutral for the first 90 minutes of the closed scrimmage. Tailback Brian Maddox's 1-yard touchdown run was the only score until coaches put the ball on the 25-yard line and worked on the red-zone offense.

Mitchell and backups Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher, who alternated every snap, each threw an interception. Mitchell was 11-of-15 for 111 yards and a touchdown; Smelley was 4-for-10 for 41 yards and a touchdown; and Beecher was 8-of-10 for 79 yards.

Freshman Stephen Garcia was 2-for-6 for 20 yards and a touchdown in limited late action.

Spurrier said the quarterbacks got most of the yardage on dump-off passes to backs against a heavy rush. Maddox, a freshman from Anderson, caught four passes for 30 yards and was the leading rusher with 28 yards on nine carries.

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