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AUG. 31, 2011 • VS. EAST CAROlINA

Stephen Garcia’s Last Chance

Contents

Will he lead?

stephen Garcia’s last chance COVER STORY, P. 44

ON THE COVER: Stephen Garcia returns as Gamecocks quarterback for a fifth season. Photo by Paul Collins.

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Opponent Preview: East Carolina Gameday Poster Explaining The Game: John Butler Senior Profile: Jason Barnes GamecockCentral.com’s Recruit to Watch: Shaq Roland It’s Prediction Time!

executive EDITOr: Dan Cook | editor@free-times.com, ext. 133 ASSIGNING EDITOR: David Cloninger production manager: Lisa Willis | lisaw@free-times.com, ext. 121 senior graphic designer: Wilbert T. Fields | wilbertf@free-times.com, ext. 145 graphic designer: Joey Ayer | joeya@free-times.com, ext. 150 Contributors: Chris Clark, Paul Collins, Chris Dearing, James Harley, illustrator: Dré Lopez ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Kerry Powers | kpowers@free-times.com, ext. 128 ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES: Adam Cross | adamc@free-times.com, ext. 134 Ansley Hobi | ansleyh@free-times.com, ext. 146 Ginny Kuhn | ginnyk@free-times.com, ext. 130 Richard Skipper | skipper@free-times.com, ext. 140 Liz Thompson | lizt@free-times.com, ext. 127 CLASSIFIEDS MANAGER: Cale Johnson | classy@free-times.com, ext. 131 CLASSIFIEDS SALES: Katie Pollard | katiep@free-times.com, ext. 141 Jason Stroman | jasons@free-times.com, ext. 132 PublisheR: Eric Hancock | eric@free-times.com, ext. 129 OPERATIONS MANAGER: Jen Coody | jenc@free-times.com, ext. 124 CIRCULATION: Tammy Figurski | circulation@free-times.com, ext. 152 The Side Line is published by Portico Publications, LTD. 1534 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29201 | PO Box 8295, Columbia, SC 29202 | (803) 765-0707 • 765-0727 FAX free-times.com Advertisers in The Side Line assume responsibility for the entire content and subject matter of all advertisements. In case of error or omissions in advertisement, the publisher’s sole liability shall be to publish the advertisement at a later date. Notice of error must be made within ten days of first insertion. © 2011 Portico Publications, LTD. All rights reserved.

usc VS east carolina: 2011 season openeru

rusc VS east carolina: 2011 season opener

SHOP ROAD

WILLIAMS-BRICE STADIUM CAROLINA WALK CONDOS

STATE FAIRGROUNDS

S. STADIUM ROAD BLUFF ROAD

ASSEMBLY STREET

GEORGE ROGERS BLVD

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Nickname: Pirates

What’s at stake

COACH: Ruffin McNeill

Getting off to a good start. In a season that’s expected to be the greatest in South Carolina history, getting upset by a midmajor team in the first game would not be the way to prove the team is ready. It might take the Gamecocks out of contention for a BCS bowl right away, and would definitely raise the pressure for each week going forward. East Carolina, like all opponents, wants to play the spoiler, especially with two more major teams coming up over the next three games. The Gamecocks have to be spot-on from the start.

Years as coacH: 2

Why you should hate them

Conference: Conference USA 2010 record: 0-0 (6-7 in 2010) 2011 Conference USA record: 0-0 (5-3 in 2010) Series record: South Carolina leads 10-5

CAREER RECORD at ECU: 6-7 OVERALL CAREER RECORD: 7-7

They used to employ Skip Holtz, who was credited as an offensive genius for running the ball on every play when he was at USC. Their baseball team had the bad sense to beat USC in the 2009 NCAA Regionals. They call themselves the Pirates and are located in Greenville, N.C., home to such dastardly swashbucklers as … nobody. And they used to beat USC like it stole something in the late 1990s, before the administration wised up and stopped scheduling them.

2011 SCHEDULE: 9/3 9/10 9/24 10/1 10/8 10/15 10/22 10/29 11/5 11/12 11/19 11/12 H

South Carolina (at Charlotte) VIRGINIA TECH UABH NORTH CAROLINA at HoustonH at MemphisH at Navy TULANEH SOUTHERN MISSH at UTEPH UCFH at MarshallH

Conference USA game

Last meeting:

East Carolina 21, South Carolina 3 (Sept. 18, 1999, at Columbia)

usc VS east carolina: 2011 season openeru

rusc VS east carolina: 2011 season opener

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Hero or villain? Best that ever was or what might have been? Golden god or miscreant? Legend or loser? It’s up to him. “I had a rough spring,” Garcia said. “Thankfully, I had Marcus [Lattimore] and Alshon [Jeffery] and the rest of the players on the team that took to their Twitter accounts and Facebook [to support me]. It really put in my head how much I love these guys. I’m very thankful to still be here.” South Carolina’s incumbent quarterback has said — at least, said when he has been allowed to speak — how grateful and appreciative he is of yet another chance to play for the Gamecocks, following the fourth and fifth suspensions of his checkered career during spring practice. Since returning to USC in May and being fully reinstated to the team just before preseason camp began, Garcia has said he is done with outside distractions and is walking the straight line of behaving himself, concentrating solely on football and leading USC to what is expected — its greatest season in history. He very well might. It was easy to believe Garcia as he sat at the table during Media Day, saying he had finally come to terms with severe issues with maturity and focus, but it was all behind him now. Talking with the quarterback that day, it seemed that it was a mere baby step for him to take over his rightful place atop the USC passing charts.

Past the Past? Going into his fifth season, quarterback Stephen Garcia says he’s focused on the team, not his personal legacy. Photo by Paul Collins

WILL HE LEAD? Stephen Garcia’s Last Chance

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B Y D AV I D C L O N I N G E R

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o here he stands, back for a fifth season and a sixth chance. Stephen Garcia knows this is the last shot for him to cement his legacy.

The problem is his past. It will never go away. While Garcia swears he is done with the shenanigans, he said the same thing after his third suspension. And his fourth. Scarcely two weeks after the fourth, he was asked to leave an athletic seminar due to being rude and disruptive, while numerous sources have confirmed that Garcia had alcohol on his breath. That triggered his suspension, which Coach Steve Spurrier, Athletics Director Eric Hyman and USC President Harris Pastides each signed off on, sending Garcia home to sort it all out. “Back at that little seminar, it kind of got a little crazy towards the end and the guy asked me to leave,” Garcia says. “I left.”  He called the moderator the next day to apologize, but didn’t realize what was about to occur. “I didn’t think it was going to be this kind of a deal, but it happened,” he said. Spurrier told him that he was welcome to transfer if he wanted to, subtly suggesting that a fresh start might be the best option for everyone involved. Garcia thought about it until his teammates took to their social media outlets to defend him, saying they loved and supported him no matter what he was going through. That caused him to hesitate, then recommit. He took the list of conditions USC gave him in order to be reinstated, accomplished them and came back.

usc VS east carolina: 2011 season openeru

Battle-Hardened and Ready

Now comes the “easy” part — proving he is worth it. “That game can’t come soon enough,” Garcia said fervently after a recent scrimmage. “I’m here, so that’s a start. It’s gone pretty well, I think.” There has never been any doubt that Garcia is the Gamecocks’ quarterback this season. He has the numbers, the experience and the on-field toughness that draws respect from teammates and opponents alike. The fearless way that Garcia can command a game and turn a lost-yardage play into a gain is well documented.

trying summer. Garcia, charismatic as always, handled his first public comments since the suspension with the right amount of grace, humor and seriousness. “I’m taking a couple of online classes, a Navy SEALs class that sounded pretty interesting, and archery,” Garcia said amid laughter. (He dropped archery for acting, then dropped that for another online course, but is still enrolled in amphibious warfare — Navy 403 — this semester.) “Coming here, I didn’t realize it was going to be this type of a fishbowl,” Garcia says. “I learned the hard way, which I’ve tended to do in my life. But I guess I

“The ultimate goal is to win the SEC championship.” — Stephen Garcia

But is he The Quarterback? The one who leads the team? That’s the question that has dogged Garcia throughout his career, due to his off-the-field mistakes. “He has his good days and his bad days, just like all of our quarterbacks do,” Spurrier said during preseason camp. “Sometimes he makes all the throws, sometimes he can’t get the ball out of his hand.” Spurrier’s comments on Garcia are usually about the technical side of quarterbacking, with the coach sniping recently that he didn’t need to say anything, since the scrimmage was open and everybody saw what Garcia was doing. “Everybody always thinks I’m criticizing him,” Spurrier said. That day, since Garcia didn’t look too sharp, Spurrier didn’t need to say anything.

In Search of Consistency — and Leadership

The X’s and O’s tell themselves. Garcia plays the game fast and loose, Joe Montana one day and Joe Blow the next. He needs 3,201 yards this season to become USC’s all-time passing yardage leader. Last year, he threw for 3,059. Garcia knows what he needs to do; he’s said how nice it would be to return sometime in the future and see his name etched onto the Northwest ramp of Williams-Brice Stadium. The question is how well he leads on the field. As evidenced by his teammates constantly talking up his qualities, he has what he needs to do the job. “He’s a great leader,” tailback Marcus Lattimore said during preseason camp. “He takes charge in the huddle, he makes plays out there. We all love him.” “We’ve always supported him,” said center T.J. Johnson. “He’s had some things go on but he’s always been dedicated to getting better and making the team better.” Spurrier’s wife, Jerri, has spoken about how she views Garcia as another one of her children and helped him get through the

wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s made me who I am today.” Garcia directly answered the obvious question, as well — the one about alcohol, which has played a part in the reasons for four of his five suspensions. “Negative,” he replied when asked whether he has a drinking problem. “No.” Garcia says he has a much better relationship with Spurrier than in the past, and has tried to work on his weaknesses — on and off the field — during his time back on campus. While Spurrier has said it is a competition between he and backup Connor Shaw for the starting role in the seasonopener, it doesn’t seem likely that Spurrier would bench a player with 28 consecutive starts.

Ready to Win — As a Team Garcia should again be the quarterback. Whether he’s The Quarterback remains to be seen. While his off-the-field life has remained quiet since he reported back to school in late May, there is a four-month season ahead. No worries, he says. “This is probably the most comfortable I’ve been since I’ve been here. Just got to translate that into on-the-field performance,” Garcia says. “I’m not really worried about my legacy. I’m more worried about the team in general.” “The ultimate goal is to win the SEC championship,” he adds. “If we do that, we have a pretty good shot at winning the national championship, as the past five years have shown.” As for outsiders concentrating solely on his past, Garcia has realized that’s a selfimposed pit. “I’ve been dealing with it since my first month here,” he says. “I’ve developed some pretty thick hide. Hopefully, it has passed.” Sure, but can he be the guy to earn the trust of his teammates, and everyone who is anxiously watching him? “They just have to, I guess,” Garcia says. “I’m asking them to.”

rusc VS east carolina: 2011 season opener

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By Chris Dearing

John Butler Takes on Special-Teams Challenge A

s well as South Carolina played last season in reaching the 2010 SEC Championship Game, there was one area that was a glaring weakness. The kickoff and punt return game was abysmal: USC ranked near the bottom of the SEC on both counts. First-year coach John Butler’s job is to change the fortune of a special-team group that has not produced a return score since 2003. Butler has experience with that in his previous two stops. He had successful stints at Harvard (2003-2006) and Minnesota (2007-2010). With the Minnesota Gophers, the kick return unit averaged more than 22 yards a game in three of Butler’s four seasons and his coverage units were some of the best in the Big Ten. His philosophy in the return game is simple, yet effective: Run north-and-south, not east-and-west. “Most of our schemes are going to be schemes where you have to attack vertically,” Butler says. “We are not going to do a whole lot of running to the perimeter. We will get some stuff on the perimeter, but even when we attack the perimeter, it’s vertical cuts. “Everything we are doing is about angles,” he continues. “We are not going to be doing much running to the sideline. There is a lot of speed in this league, and we have a lot of speed.” Initial reports point to D.J. Swearinger as the primary kickoff returner. He returned four kicks last year for a 21.8-yard average and likes the new concept. “I think we’ll break one for a score this year,” Swearinger says. “[Butler] wants us to attack the hole, and that’s not something we always did in the past.” Butler said he would use two guys deep, with basketball point guard-turnedreceiver Bruce Ellington being the most likely option for the other guy. Even though two guys will be deep, the scheme will be in place to have the ball go to the one the Gamecocks want to field the kick. Stephon Gilmore and Ace Sanders split punt-return duties last year, and Gilmore is in line to get first crack at it this season. Gilmore was the better of the two, with an average return of 5.2 yards. There are several younger players that have potential, but

Butler likes to rely on experienced guys that have been in the fire. “We have a good group of guys and there are some younger guys that just have to get more [experience],” Butler says. “You need more experience catching punts than you really do kickoffs. Kickoffs you have time, but with a punt, you have someone in your face right away.” Replacing Spencer Lanning on field goals will more than likely fall on the foot of senior Jay Wooten, while the punting job is still a toss-up between Joey ScribnerHoward and Patrick Fish. Wooten handled the majority of the kickoffs last year and he could also continue those duties this year. Butler is comfortable using Wooten on any field goal from 45 yards or closer. “I just want to be able to help the team any way that I can,” Wooten says. “I think we’ll have a good, sound unit this year.” The punter decision probably won’t be made until the opener. Scribner-Howard and Fish have been even for most of the camp and Butler says the ultimate decision will probably come down to a little bit of a gut feeling. “It’s a pretty dead heat between Fish and Scribner-Howard,” Butler says. “We’re not asking them to do much. It will come down to the guy we trust the most and who I think can execute the scheme we’re asking them to do.” Wooten and whoever ends up with the punting duties will have Butler in their corner. “I’m a very positive guy with the specialist even if they are struggling,” Butler says. “Negativity with those guys doesn’t help. Positive mental outlook as well as the right fundamentals is the key to being a good specialist.”

usc VS east carolina: 2011 season openeru

SENIOR PROFILE

By David Cloninger

TAYLOR SWIFT NOVEMBER 18, 2011

WIDE RECEIVER

Jason Barnes

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e’s always had that one game per season, the one where he’s been such a vital part of success that everyone looked around and said, “You know what? Jason Barnes is going to be a star.”

That one game has never become one season. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” Barnes says, acknowledging his lack of consistency in previous years, but not dwelling on it. “A lot of people from Charlotte want to come see me play, so it’s a big chance for me to show them something.” With the first game of No. 12 South Carolina’s season in Barnes’ hometown, the senior wide receiver realizes his chance to have a great game is clearly there. It will be difficult, considering the Gamecocks will also have All-American Alshon Jeffery to throw to, but Barnes is confident that he can also make an impact.

Class: RS Senior HOMETOWN: Charlotte, N.C. HIGH SCHOoL: Independence HEIGHT / WEIGHT: 6-4 / 214 EXPERIENCE: 3 VL for 46 yards in a loss at Alabama, but only 20 catches the rest of the year. The drop continued in 2010, where his best game was two passes for 24 yards in a win over Vanderbilt; that game was one-third of his total catches for the season. “Last year, I didn’t have a good camp, but this year I had a great camp,” Barnes says. “Got back on the horse.” With only one year to go — and knowing he’ll be playing in front of family and friends in his hometown — Barnes re-committed himself and decided to be an impact receiver, Jeffery or no Jeffery. He figures Jeffery — a multi-talented future NFL star — will see a lot of double- or triple-team coverage, so Barnes aims to be open on the other side, waiting for quarterback Stephen Garcia to catch his eye. With only a week before the season began, receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. pegged Barnes as one of his top four receivers, along with Jeffery, Ace Sanders and D.L. Moore. Spurrier Jr. has a rotation of six that he likes to use every game, but for him to name four

“Every time I step on the practice field, I play like it’s my last game.” — Jason Barnes And with that impact can hopefully come the momentum to turn one great game into one great final season. “Competition is always a good thing as a person and an athlete,” Barnes says. “I look forward to competition each day. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but every time I step on the practice field, I play like it’s my last game.” Barnes burst onto the scene in his redshirt freshman year of 2008, catching seven passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns in a win at Ole Miss. On the second touchdown, he was leveled on impact and lost his helmet — but held onto the ball. He had a careerhigh 88 yards at Kentucky that same year, but was otherwise quiet. The next season, Barnes had six catches

that soon, and for Barnes to be one of them, seemed to bode well. “I like him because he’s talented,” Spurrier Jr. says. “He really knows what to do out there, and there’s no learning curve.” The Gamecocks are blessed with a variety of receiving options, able to come at opponents with height, quickness, leaping ability or sometimes all three in one package. Barnes plans to be one of those options, not just on Saturday against East Carolina, but for the entire season. “I’ve been pretty consistent, listening to the coaches, doing everything in my power to make each play,” Barnes says. “This is my last shot. Got to do it this time.”

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outh Carolina’s coaching staff holds verbal commitments from a trio of highly rated wide receiver prospects in the 2012 recruiting class, and the crown jewel of the group grew up just a short ride down the road from WilliamsBrice Stadium.

Lexington product Shaq Roland turned down offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and a host of others when he ended the recruiting process by pledging to USC last month.  “I just felt comfortable with them, you know,” Roland told GamecockCentral.com shortly after making his commitment. “It’s close to home. That’s a big thing for me. My friends and family can come see me play whenever. From the start, they showed they wanted me real bad. They showed they were committed to me.” The 6-foot-1 180-pounder, also a standout as Lexington’s star basketball player, possesses all the tools necessary to be highly productive at the college level, according to coach Scott Earley. “He’s a complete player that has a complete skill set,” Earley says. “There’s nothing on a football field he can’t do or enjoy doing. Most people have two gears and Shaq has three. He’s also the ultimate competitor. He wants to compete and win and that’s important to him. When you’re like that and have the skills to go along with it, you’re going to be successful. He’s going to be real successful.” The Palmetto State standout went into

more detail about what tools he will bring to the table as a Gamecock. “I’m very versatile,” Roland says. “I can go deep like Alshon [Jeffery], and with him you know he might could leave by the time I get there, or soon after. If he does, I can be a deep threat for them. I can also catch short routes and make somebody miss and get upfield. I want to come in and make an impact early. That’s what everybody wants to do.” Roland was a longtime lean to the home-state program, and always wanted to get his decision out of the way so that he could worry about playing ball rather than fielding offers from recruiters during his final year of high school. “I wanted to get it all over with so I can focus on my senior year coming up,” Roland says. “So it feels good. It’s a relief.” Earley believes that while every highschool player has to improve before setting foot on an SEC field, Roland will not have a hard time making the transition because of his talents. “You can’t just out-athlete everybody in the SEC.  He’s got to get a lot crisper in his routes, but everything else is there,” Earley says. “He’s only played receiver one year, last year for me. By the time he gets done here, he will be ready.” Roland is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and the top overall prospect in the state of South Carolina for the 2012 class. He is also expected to challenge for the South Carolina “Mr. Football” Award, which is given to the top player in the state. The past three Mr. Football winners — Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney — each pledged to USC. Many players with the talents of Roland like the attention that comes with multiple top-notch offers and high rankings by recruiting services. Roland is not one of those. “He’s just quiet, humble, and hates attention,” Earley says. “He just likes to be left alone and be a student-athlete. He doesn’t get tied up in all that stuff.”

usc VS east carolina: 2011 season openeru

It’s Prediction Time! OPINION BY JAMES HARLEY

T

he off-season in college football is all about analysis. Returning players, rookies and recruits are first scrutinized on paper and film, then realistically on the practice field as the season approaches. Now, with just a few days until kickoff — and with all that observation and analysis under the belt — it’s time to take the next step in the dramatic cycle that is college football and apply the data to the upcoming schedule in the form of predictions.

Currently ranked No. 12 in the major polls, expectations for the Gamecocks are high across the nation. Of course, not so high as having a chance to go undefeated or they would probably be in the top 10. Obviously they are expected to be bowl eligible or they would not be in the top 60. So, sliding between these boundaries, the question becomes, “If the Gamecocks are expected to lose a couple games, exactly who has a chance to beat them?” The first worthy opponent is Georgia, played in Athens in week two. The ‘Dawgs will be coming off of a high-end season opener against Boise State, which should have them focused and operating at full speed. But the fact is that UGA is overrated, as has been the case in several recent years. They are currently riding the wave of hype surrounding sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who is living off of the analysis of his potential alone. Stephen Garcia might get a lot of bad press, but he’s the better player in this matchup based on what has actually happened on the field. Look to see a lot of disappointed Bulldogs leaving the stadium at the end of this one. Next on the list is Auburn, which is somewhat the opposite of Georgia in that the team is probably underrated. Analysts have pointed to a huge loss of talent as a major problem, but championship teams tend to be deeper than just the starting line-up. Still, with a home field advantage and (hopefully) a raging desire to avenge their two losses to the Tigers last year, the

Gamecocks should be able to pull this one out — though it will likely be closer than many people expect. If nothing else, the fact that the Gamecocks haven’t beaten them since 1933 should favor USC, since it would be hard to keep losing every game, right? The toughest part of the Gamecocks’ schedule will be the three-game road trip to Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas. Those who have written Tennessee off gained some credibility last week when the Vols’ best player, safety Janzen Jackson, was kicked off the team for yet another drugrelated incident. Suffice it to say it’s another substantial step backwards for a program struggling to re-start itself. Arkansas likewise is suffering from some significant attrition. In addition to losing quarterback Ryan Mallet to the NFL, the Razorbacks’ top running back and Heisman contender Knile Davis is out for the season with an injury. While still capable of defeating USC, this will be a year of revenge and the Gamecocks will emerge victorious. This all sounds great, but in keeping with tradition the Gamecocks will likely choke away a game they should win. Enter Mississippi State. With five straight wins over the Bulldogs and a 6-0 record on the season, this one will be the prime candidate for failure due to a lack of intensity and commitment going in. While not expected to challenge for the SEC West title, No. 20 MSU will field a solid team capable of capitalizing on any of our weaknesses. The final threat is another team that has been prematurely written-off: the Florida Gators. Coming off their worst season in five years, expect them to bounce back to some degree under new head coach Will Muschamp. Of course, “bouncing back” for an 8-5 Florida team is equivalent to a great season for the Gamecocks, and we should not go into this one too cocky. Coming the week after the redeeming win over Arkansas, look for USC to drop this one. Beyond these games, the Gamecocks should have no trouble, though that hasn’t always worked out in the past. Indeed, if we simply beat all the teams that we should it could actually be considered a successful season on at least one level. Let’s hope for a step above that. Keep up with Harley’s Side Line blog at free-times.com and his Side Line column in the weekly edition of Free Times.

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usc VS east carolina: 2011 season opener


The Side Line 2011: East Carolina