Garnet & Black game story lines

semerson@thestate.comApril 8, 2010 

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USC quarterback No. 14 Connor Shaw warms up his throwing arm during practice. The USC football team had yet another spring practice at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, March 27, 2010. The team held a scrimmage after a short practice.

RICH GLICKSTEIN — rglickstein@thestate.com Buy Photo

Five story lines entering Saturday's South Carolina Garnet & Black spring football game:

Garcia's evolution

While some were preparing to make the case for the USC quarterback as a preseason All-SEC candidate, the USC coaching staff has privately - and, lately, publicly - been expressing frustration with the redshirt junior.

Coach Steve Spurrier vented to ESPN.com this week, saying Garcia had too many first-down sacks and "careless" interceptions last season, and questioning whether he had a "strong commitment."

It is unlikely Garcia would not be the starter entering the season. But this is Spurrier, so you never know, and a poor showing Saturday could give the Head Ball Coach ammunition heading into the summer.

The backup QBs

The freshman quarterback has had a good spring, impressing with his presence and running ability.

But is he ready for the limelight and - if Garcia falters - to play in the SEC? Saturday might not be a good test, considering many key the defensive players will be sitting out. Still, coaches figure to throw everything they can at Shaw - maybe some blitzes and zone coverages - to see how he reacts.

Andrew Clifford, a redshirt freshman who has had some good scrimmages, should receive some snaps. The team knows what it has in Zac Brindise, a redshirt junior, but he will play, too.

The new line (again)

Before he was hired, Shawn Elliott vowed to Spurrier he would help turn around the offensive line. Saturday's game will offer the first indicator of how much progress the first-year assistant coach has made.

It will be a bad sign if the blocking is poor, given that the defensive line is missing three starters and the team's two best linebackers might be out. But the rules of the game might be to the line's benefit, particularly if Spurrier limits blitzing to give his quarterbacks time to throw.

Also, keep an eye on the snaps, with T.J. Johnson shifting from guard to center.

Spring stars

Recent history is rife with players who had outstanding springs but were hardly heard from thereafter. This year likely will not be an exception.

Matt Coffee, expected to play fullback in the fall, and walk-on Jacob Baker could see a lot of carries. With as many as five starters along the defensive line sitting out, backups will have a chance to shine.

C.C. Whitlock, slated to be a backup cornerback, will start in the absence of Chris Culliver. It will be interesting to see how much Patrick DiMarco plays tight end.

The kickers

Spencer Lanning would seem to have a lock on punting and place-kicking duties, based on his solid performance in both areas last season. But don't rule anything out.

Joey Scribner-Howard, a transfer from Carson-Newman, should get a few field-goal tries. He might not supplant Lanning, but if he does well, he would give the team another option in case it wants lighten Lanning's work load.

It's almost definite the team will have a new kickoff specialist, a sore spot last season. Lanning, Scribner-Howard, Adam Yates and others will be given a chance to show they can kick the ball inside the 10-yard line on a regular basis.

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