Seeing improvement every day out of a freshman is of paramount importance to a coach. As the season has progressed, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has taken a step forward each and every game.
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles
Because of depth on the defensive line, Quarles hasn’t needed to be pushed passed his level of readiness. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing has brought along Quarles slowly and it’s paying off.
Quarles has some of the best players and one of the top coaches in the Southeastern Conference to learn from, but he also has another voice with experience that few have.
Kelcy’s father, Buddy Quarles, played offensive line for South Carolina from 1984-87. The two have a tight bond and speak on the phone regularly. After each game, Buddy tells his son what he sees.
“He’s not a harsh critic. He’s the first guy I talk to after every game,” Quarles said. “He calls me and says, ‘You could have done this or could have done that.’ And, ‘I see you doing this and I see you doing that.’”
Buddy can also give a unique perspective. Kelcy spends each day of his life trying to figure out just how to get to the football with a man or two in his way. Buddy, in his heyday, was one of the guys trying to stop players like Kelcy.
The father is teaching his son a thing or two about how to beat the offensive linemen and become a better player.
“It’s a whole lot of secrets and tricks that he’s taught me,” Kelcy said. “Coach Lawing, he tells us the same things. It’s really film study and paying attention to your keys when you get out there. It takes a lot of preparation and everything.”
Some of those secrets? Kelcy didn’t want to divulge too much. It had to do with watching the hands, eyes, and angles of the feet of the offensive linemen lined up across from him.
“He’s been very supportive of me,” Kelcy said. “I really thank God that my dad played college ball because he told me things I need to get used to. Him being an offensive lineman and me being a defensive lineman, he tells me things that he doesn’t think I know that he does know so I use them to my advantage.
Quarles has played in six games this season after missing the Navy game with a concussion. He has 13 total tackles, including one for a loss. However, he’s provided a lot of pressure in the backfield hitting the quarterback four times, which is tied for the second-most on the team.
Whether it’s by his own skill and improvement or by the help of his father, Quarles is making an impact. He’s moving up the depth chart and is listed as co-starter with junior Aldrick Fordham this week ahead of Saturday’s game against Tennessee.
“It’s not up to me whether I start or not; it’s up to whether coach Spurrier and coach Lawing see it,” Quarles said. “When they make decisions for me to step up or stay in that second spot, my play has to turn up. I have to make plays when I go out there.”
Quarles and the Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1) take on Tennessee (3-4, 0-4) on the road at Neyland Stadium on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. EDT on ESPN2. A win would keep South Carolina in control of its own destiny in the SEC East race.
Q&A with Kelcy Quarles
It was a much-needed break. I felt like that we needed that break real bad with all the injuries we’ve had. As far as the Marcus situation goes, we’ll miss him because he’s a great back. Brandon Wilds can come in and do great things also. The team will rally around him. We’re getting used to everything. People are losing the sense that we can really win. People are counting us out. I feel like we’re the same team. We’re missing Marcus, we’re missing the depth. I wish we still had him but we’re still going to be the same team. We’re going to go out there and do the best we can.
Talk about Brandon’s skill set.
He’s a big back, kind of like Marcus. Everyone has their faults. I feel like he came in the Mississippi State game - when I first saw him run the ball, I heard he was good in high school, but when I first saw him running the ball, I said, ‘Wow, he can really have a big impact on our season.’ You get the same thing out of Marcus, just not as much experience. We’ll still run with great power. I think he’ll do a great job running the ball for us.
You’re listed as co-starter this week. How close do you think you are to the starting role?
Being a freshman coming out of high school and prep school, staring was something high on my list to accomplish. Coming in and seeing the competition, it took me a while to get used to everything. At the same time, I feel like when my time comes, all I can do is go out and contribute to the team and make plays. It’s not up to me whether I start or not; it’s up to whether coach Spurrier and coach Lawing see it. When they make decisions for me to step up or stay in that second spot, my play has to turn up. I have to make plays when I go out there.
What’s it like for you to be in a conference title race for the first time?
It’s exciting because last year, they did it but I wasn’t a part of it. Since I’m here now and actually contributing, it makes me want to go harder when you lift and run. That’s the only thing you think about. Even in the classroom, I make sure I do everything in the classroom so I can make sure I’m on that plane or I’m on that bus so I can contribute to this team. I know and I believe we can win the SEC East. We had a meeting and we talked about the things we can accomplish. I feel like we can accomplish it no matter what.
With all of the talk around LSU and Alabama, do you feel like sometimes the East gets overlooked?
I mean, we have us, Florida, Georgia – it’s some powerhouse schools. It’s the SEC, period. I feel like we do get overlooked. Everyone is focused on LSU and Alabama. It seems like we’re getting overlooked but when it’s all said and done, I feel like we’ll all know who’s on top. The SEC, period, whether it’s the East or West, it’s a great conference to play in.
Anything on the line this weekend when you consider that Justin Worley’s last start was a win at Williams-Brice Stadium against Greenwood, your alma mater?
I kind of thought about that when they told us. I kind of got excited. We could get a little payback for the boys back home at Greenwood. We took one last year. It was rough out there for them. I’m certainly going to be thinking about that when I go out on the field this Saturday.