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Oct. 28, 2009

By Andrew Kitick
Assistant Media Relations Director

Garrett Anderson is ready for a strong finish. The senior offensive lineman knows that is time to step it up and it is time to put it all on the line in the final six regular season games of the year.

With the first half of the season in the books, Anderson knows it will only be a few more times that he will sit in the locker and put on the Garnet & Black, a few more times to run out before the game to the sounds of 2001 and a few more times in the trenches battling it out against the best in the Southeastern Conference.

“It’s been a great ride,” said Anderson. It’s been something that makes you the man you are supposed to be. It puts you in a lot of tough situations and turns you into the man you really are. In general it has made me tougher and has helped me to get ready for the real world. You definitely become a part of a brotherhood that’s like no other. I know that I have friends on the teams throughout my four years that I will keep up with for the rest of my life. This has been an incredible experience; it’s something that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

A native of Irmo, S.C. and a graduate of Dutch Fork High School, Anderson always had his eyes set on playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

“I grew up a Carolina fan,” said Anderson. “I’ve seen the best and the worst of the Gamecocks here in Columbia but I’ve always wanted to play here and dress in a Carolina uniform. It’s been really fun to be out there and actually play and be a member of this team.”

After signing out of high school, Anderson made his way on to the field in no time with action in all 13 games as a true freshman including four starts at right guard. As a sophomore, Anderson started in four of nine games and last season he was a starter in all 13 games at center. This year, he has seen action at both center and guard.

Growing up, Anderson drifted toward being a lineman and has always respected what it means to be in the trenches and the complexities of the position. Not the glamorous and most recognized, success still depends on the line both offensively and defensively and it is a spot that Anderson takes seriously.

“In general, it’s a humble position,” said Anderson. “It is the kind of position that you have to be perfect every time. That’s where the blame goes first. It’s extremely physical and extremely mental. You have to be able to know, not think whenever the defense changes, you have to know and react and not think. Besides that, you have to play against guys who are between 270-380 pounds and be able to move those guys at will. It’s a great position. It’s my favorite just for the sheer fact that you are never going to be on the highlights but you are one of the most vital parts of the game and if you can’t be proud of what you’ve done personally, you are not going to be able to look to anyone else.”

As a center and a guard, Anderson has learned to play two distinct but different spots on the line. Although they have different assignments, he noted that communication is key at each spot on the line.

“(When I’m at center) I’m calling out the blocking assignments and I’m trying to make sure the offensive line is blocking the potential five that we are going to need to block,” said Anderson. “We take (Stephen) Garcia’s calls and we have to make sure that we work as well as we can then as an offensive line. Center to me is a little more mental and you have to be really quick and confident in what you’ve prepared for the week and be able to get the offensive line going in the right direction. There is plenty of physical stuff with center, but I know that the guard is always the tougher position. The main thing about guard is that it is a pretty physical position. The depth of the quarterback pocket is set off by the guards and some pretty strong people play at the guard.”

Teammates make teammates better and that phrase can be warranted when talking about the offensive line. Anderson noted the impact of new offensive line coach Eric Wolford and his approach with the squad this season. The camaraderie and tight bond of the offensive line this year is noticeable to Anderson.

“He’s brought a new perspective to the offensive line,” said Anderson. “The physical attitude, the demeanor, whenever we go out there and play football that the offensive line should set the tone for the offense, we should work as a unit, not just individuals. It should be a group thing no matter how many guys are out there. We have to be able to work together and not have individuals out there. If that permeates to the rest of the team it makes us a really good team and that’s great if it can start with us. The offensive line should have a demeanor about themselves. It was something that was assumed in years past but to instill that, especially when you play against strong teams that you know have really good offensive lines, they come out there and you know that they are going to be good and it is going to be hard to get set. They set that tone when they go out there and that’s their demeanor. (Coach Wolford) wants for us when we step on the field, the defense will know that we came to play a physical game.”

Physical, tough, those are a few words to describe the battle on the line in the Southeastern Conference. Every week, Anderson knows it is a challenge with top players staring him and his teammates down. He knows that to win the game, he is going to have to beat the man in front of him.

“You realize that every week you go out there and you see your opponent, you’re playing against someone who could go in the (top) rounds of the NFL Draft,” said Anderson. “It’s always competition. It’s pretty brutal and tough in there but that’s the SEC and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Understanding that this was his final season to don the Garnet & Black, Anderson and the rest of the senior class made it a point that this year would be the, “New Carolina.” From the spring to summer workouts to preseason practice, the senior class (Garrett Anderson, Moe Brown, John Guerry, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Eric Norwood, Nathan Pepper, Gerrod Sinclair, Scott Spurrier, and Darian Stewart) have looked to lead by example and have instilled an attitude that has permeated on to the field.

“When it comes down to your senior year it’s your last go,” said Anderson. “You can’t really say, `we’ll get them next year’ because there is no next year. One thing too with workouts, participation wasn’t just the players it was also Coach (Fitzgerald). He definitely deserves credit with that. One thing we always wanted to do was be the new Carolina, that’s one thing we definitely wanted to do this year. We didn’t want to be seen as a team that just sits back and goes through the motions, and to understand that it starts in the off season and it starts in work outs and fall camp and spring ball. It’s a year round sport. That’s something that the seniors want to do here. We want to make sure that everything we do, everything we put into it, everything you eat, how much sleep you get at night. It all makes a difference in how you play on Saturday.”

As the days go by, it’s those moments that Anderson realized he will miss a lot.

“It’s been interesting because you realize how much more than just the football you will miss,” said Anderson. “You will miss the comradery, the 5 a.m. (workouts). You realize how much you love what you do and how much it’s going to stink not to do that every morning. It’s been a great experience. I think we are definitely closer than ever to being able to finish out in one of those games. We didn’t win against Alabama, but we definitely had the chance to. I think it’s something that has to be instilled in (some of our younger players as they go forward) that we’re not just a mediocre SEC team; we have the chance to be a great SEC team. Don’t assume that just because teams like Florida and Georgia have the names doesn’t mean that they are better than us. We have the talent, ability and coaching. We just have to be able to get out there and do it. That ideal has been instilled in the players, I don’t know if that’s the turning point, but I think it will make us into a teams that leads to the change in this university.”