Kelcy Quarles (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
By Ron Aiken, GamecockCentral.com
Very little has gone right for Kelcy Quarles so far in 2013, and he's not happy about it.
He's not happy about a defense that was embarrassed in Athens, not happy about a defensive line that was shredded by a Georgia team that just plain wanted it more and not happy that his own production hasn't been what anyone, including himself, thought it would be so far.
"We played horrible last week," Quarles said. "We thought we were going to walk into Georgia and they were going to hand us something, but they came out and did a great job.
"We played with no intensity and no emotion and no focus at all. I don't think last week we had any swagger about us. We didn't have any intensity about us. We were out there looking like deer in the headlights.
"We were in the wrong place at the wrong time sometimes. We made crucial mistakes when we couldn't make them."
Most expected Quarles - a monster of a man at 6-foot-4, 294 pounds - to have a monster of a season, but so far he's been a puzzling non-factor, with six tackles and a sack in two games. That's good enough for twelfth-best on the team, but it's not good enough for Quarles, who many have speculated could leave for the NFL with a strong junior campaign. Not helping his cause was missing the first half of the North Carolina game for an academic issue.
"The first game I played a half, I played OK," Quarles said. "It was a fast tempo. The last game, I played OK. I haven't played to my full potential yet.
Quarles said No. 13 South Carolina has to erase the mistakes it made against Georgia if they're going to be anything like the defense most thought this unit should be before the season began.
"We talk about how good we're supposed to be up front, we talk about how good this defense is supposed to be, and now it's time to put those two games behind us," Quarles said. "We have to come out with more intensity and more focus. I've been stepping up and trying to be that vocal leader, and not even a vocal leader, but going out and stepping up and making plays and showing up.
"This week we've been more focused, it's been more attention to detail. I feel like we've been doing a better job with our assignments."
Playing strong assignment football will be a necessity as the Gamecocks face a Vanderbilt team that has given South Carolina fits in recent years.
"Vandy is a team on the rise," Quarles said. "We struggled with them last year, and thankfully we get them at our house this year.
"We need to come out with the mindset to dominate. We have to come out and play ball this week. We have to go do it. Yeah, we won the first one, we lost a vital second one, but the rest of the season we're ing to be fine."