Tennessee defense prepares for dual-threat nature of USC quarterback

Garcia keeps Vols on toes

jperson@thestate.comOctober 29, 2009 


    WHO: USC (6-2, 3-2 SEC) at Tennessee (3-4, 1-3)

    WHEN: 7:45 p.m. Saturday

    WHERE: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

    LINE: Tennessee by 6

    TV: ESPN (TWC 26/DTV 206/DISH 140)

    RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5

    ONLINE: Following along as Seth Emerson blogs live from the game at gogamecocks.com

    Game notes

    -- A win would give USC consecutive victories over Tennessee for the first time ever; the Gamecocks won last year's meeting in Columbia, 27-6.

    -- Head coach Steve Spurrier is 11-7 all-time against Tennessee, 2-2 as head coach at South Carolina.

    -- The Gamecocks are 1-13 all-time at Neyland Stadium with the lone victory coming in 2005, Spurrier’s first season at USC.

    -- A USC win would guarantee the Gamecocks a winning season for the second straight year and the fourth time in the five-year Spurrier era.

Tennessee defensive players are preparing to face a running quarterback against South Carolina - the one who is also the Gamecocks' top passer.

While USC coach Steve Spurrier sometimes cringes when Stephen Garcia darts out of the pocket, the Vols said Garcia's scrambling ability gives them something else to prepare for.

"You have to play hard longer because you don't know when that guy's going to break a tackle or when he's going to break out of the pocket, with him being so mobile," linebacker Rico McCoy said Wednesday. "That's how they come up with a lot of their big plays. He's able to keep a play alive and throw the ball downfield to one of those big receivers they have."

Garcia is second behind Arkansas' Ryan Mallett among SEC quarterbacks in total offense (236.6 yards a game). And though Garcia's 99 rushing yards are well behind the total of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (466), Tennessee players are impressed.

"He makes a lot of plays with his feet. He can make good throws on the run," defensive tackle Dan Williams said. "He's really what makes their offense go this year."

On Rocky Top. USC running backs coach Jay Graham played at Tennessee for four seasons and returned to his alma mater in 2005 as a graduate assistant. But Graham will be on the visiting sideline at Neyland Stadium for the first time Saturday.

"Actually, I'm gonna be pretty comfortable in the stadium, because I've been there as a player and as a graduate assistant," said Graham, who played from 1993-96 and is sixth on the Vols' all-time rushing list. "So I don't know what to think about it. I'm just looking forward to the game, preparing for the game, and hopefully we can do the things that we've been working on out here."

Almost on Rocky Top. Gamecocks freshman cornerback D.J. Swearinger might have been facing USC this week if Phillip Fulmer had kept his job. Swearinger, a Greenwood native who has played in all eight games, committed to Tennessee before his senior season.

"I was ready to go there. But things happen for a reason. ..." Swearinger said. "So I thought things over and I'm happy where I'm at now."

Injury report. Freshman receiver Alshon Jeffery missed Wednesday's practice due to an illness. "Alshon was sick today and they sent him home," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, it's only a one-day stomach virus or something like that."

Receiver Moe Brown, who sustained a concussion at Alabama and sat out last week against Vanderbilt, has been cleared to play Saturday, Spurrier said. Defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck stinger) also is set to play.

He said it. A day after USC receiver Moe Brown said he was offended by Lane Kiffin's "pumping gas" comment, Gamecocks safety Chris Culliver took a jab at the Tennessee coach. Culliver said he did not "want to get too much" into discussing Kiffin, then did just that.

"They're what, 3-4? Just look at the record. That's really all you gotta say, just look at the record," Culliver said. "I mean, he's supposed to be this dude who's coming in and turning the program around. But like I said, I'm not gonna get into that too much."

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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