Devil's Advocate (SC)

Editor-in-chief
Posted Oct 30, 2009
Randy Moore


Only two quarterbacks have enjoyed any real success against Tennessee this season - Florida's Tim Tebow and Ohio's Theo Scott. Both are guys who can hurt you with their feet, as well as their arms.

That's why Saturday night's game with South Carolina shapes up as a potential pitfall for the Vols. Gamecock QB Stephen Garcia is almost as dangerous running the ball as throwing it.

First, a little history lesson:

Tebow was the Gators' leading rusher in their 23-13 Game 3 defeat of the Vols with 76 yards. If you deduct the three times he was sacked, he rushed 21 times for 99 yards, an average of nearly 5 yards per carry.

Scott didn't run for positive yardage in Game 4 the way Tebow did in Game 3 but he hurt the Vols with his mobility, nonetheless. Scott routinely escaped the UT pass rush on his way to throwing for 319 yards - by far the most Tennessee has allowed in a game all season.

That brings us to Stephen Garcia. He led South Carolina rushers in Game 2 vs. Georgia (10 carries, 42 yards) and has posted positive rushing numbers in six of the Gamecocks' eight games this season. If you deduct the 23 times he has been sacked, he has 43 rushes for 253 yards - an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Moreover, Garcia has proven adept at buying time in the pocket with his elusiveness.

Naturally, this has Tennessee's coaching staff concerned.

"We're going to have our hands full," head man Lane Kiffin conceded. "Where we have struggled is when a guy has moved around and made a play that's not in rhythm. Our defense does not let guys play in rhythm in the passing game very much. We're 10th in the country in pass-efficiency defense. Garcia does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield and making plays out of rhythm, so we're going to have to do a great job this week."

Senior defensive tackle Wes Brown has faced several mobile quarterbacks during his 3 1/2 seasons with the Vols. He says the Big Orange has a way to counter them but the plan must be carried out correctly.

"Any time you have a mobile quarterback, the two inside guys (tackles) are supposed to stop the step-up and Chris (Walker) and Ben (Martin) on the edges are supposed to make him step up," Brown noted. "But if we get out of our lanes, he can hit us for a run, like (Alabama's Greg) McElroy did a couple of times. We'll just have to be aware of that."

Another thing Tennessee must be aware of is South Carolina's pass-rushing duo of Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews. Norwood, a linebacker leads the SEC with 6 sacks. Matthews, an end, is tied for second with 5. They will give Tennessee's patchwork offensive line a stern test.

"We're going to have a big week as an offensive line, protecting the quarterback," redshirt freshman tackle Aaron Douglas said. "I think we'll be all right but they definitely have some great pass rushers."

Ironically, another factor that may work in South Carolina's favor is the fact the Vols are playing at home. Tennessee already lost to UCLA and Auburn at Neyland Stadium this season, giving their two worst performances of the year.

So, why do the Vols play better on the road than at home?

After an audible sigh, Kiffin tackled the question.

"I can't figure that out, really," he said. "Maybe when you have so many young guys and there's so much excitement around our home games - the Vol Walk and their families are here - it's distracting."

Chasing a mobile quarterback for four quarters can be distracting, too. The Vols will be reminded of that Saturday night.


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