SC's Spurrier points to offensive progress

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - There were some bad snaps, a few poor throws and several errors that had South Carolina coaches screaming.

Still, head coach Steve Spurrier found hope in his team's offensive performance in a Sunday scrimmage.

Things didn't start so well at Williams-Brice Stadium with South Carolina's offense struggling to move the ball and show any progress at improving an attack that ranked last in Southeastern Conference rushing.

But the Gamecocks discovered their rhythm as the session went on, scoring touchdowns on their final five full possessions.

"It was somewhat encouraging," Spurrier said.

Starting quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 8 of 16 for 110 yards with an interception and a 2-yard TD pass to tight end Mike Triglia. Backup Reid McCollum went 7 of 11 for 166 yards, an interception and a pair of touchdown passes to Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery.

The best news of all may have come out of South Carolina's running game where freshmen Kenny Miles and Jarvis Giles, along with 5-foot-6 track and field athlete Bryce Sherman brought some pop to an area that was troubling in 2008.

Miles finished with 98 yards on 16 carries, including two 5-yard touchdown runs. Giles managed 39 yards and a touchdown, while Sherman gained 59 yards and scored once.

South Carolinia's lack of punch last season led Spurrier to make changes to his coaching staff, especially on offense, where he made four of the five new hires. Spurrier and his players have consistently talked about the new vibe and attitude brought by the first-year guys - and Sunday was one of the first times it showed.

"I feel like we came out of here better than we were," tight end Weslye Saunders said.

However, there were moments that weren't so promising.

Garcia overthrew several receivers, and that was when the ball wasn't snapped over his head. One of those snaps cost his offense a possession.

McCollum and center Lemuel Jeanpierre also mishandled an exchange early on, killing another drive.

Offensive line coach Eric Wolford, brought in from Illinois, shouted so loudly on the sidelines when plays didn't go well, he could be heard through the mostly empty stadium.

"I keep looking for a megaphone in his pocket or something," Saunders said. "I don't know if he knows how to whisper."

Wolford's messages finally made it through.

After Garcia was picked off by Chris Culliver midway through the session, the Gamecock attack began to find some consistency.

Garcia and Saunders connected on a 49-yard pass and Miles finished off the drive on the next play with a TD run. In the next sequence, McCollum threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery, a first-year player who originally pledged to Southern Cal.

"It was great to be out there and doing this," said McCollum, a redshirt freshman who withdrew from school last year because of his attempt to deal with the deaths of two close friends in fatal fires.

Summerville assistant football coach Louis Mulkey died in the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters in June 2007. Cassidy Pendley died with six other South Carolina college students in a North Carolina beach house fire four months later.

Spurrier says both McCollum and Garcia can achieve big things if they commit themselves to doing all the things it takes to win football games. He saw some of that out there Sunday, but he will need to see much more from both before South Carolina opens the season at North Carolina State on Sept. 3.

Spurrier expects his new staffers to make sure problems are corrected.

"I don't care whether it's the quarterback or the center, we can't have that," said Wolford, also the run game coordinator. "We're not going to tolerate it, that's all there is to it."


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