The outlook for South Carolina football – not just in 2018, but over the next few years – became noticeably gloomier after Saturday’s decisive loss at Kentucky. The fact that Will Muschamp once again lost to Kentucky is not the biggest story of all, though it is certainly newsworthy and discouraging.
By Matt Zemek
What is more conspicuous is that South Carolina scored only 10 points and has an offense which is simply not generating big plays. South Carolina is one of the worst teams in the SEC and the country at generating offensive plays which pick up more than 30 yards.
Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports noted earlier this week that the Gamecocks have registered just FOUR plays of 30 yards or more. That is 122nd in the FBS, an embarrassing statistic on its own terms but even more ridiculous when realizing that the Gamecocks have Deebo Samuel and Jake Bentley on their team.
If South Carolina cannot get an explosive offense from this pitch-and-catch combination, how can one expect the Gamecocks to do any better with similarly talented skill players in the future? The greatest fear about Muschamp as a coach is emerging right now: He simply doesn’t cultivate good habits or tendencies on offense. He is a defense-first coach, but plenty of defense-first coaches hire strong offensive coordinators and/or show enough attention to detail that their offenses fundamentally work. That is not true for South Carolina, and that reality has to change quickly in order for the Muschamp era to regain the sense of optimism which emerged a year ago.
1 – FIX WHAT IS BROKEN
The offense is broken. It has good players, however. Get them the ball. Try to get them the ball in open space. Consider new ways of spreading the ball around. Be innovative. Don’t be afraid to be unconventional and potentially look foolish. Familiar and established methods aren’t working. The Gamecocks have to be able to gobble up large amounts of yardage in a smaller number of plays. They can’t expect to produce 12-play, 80-yard drives on a consistent basis. The paradigm has to be adjusted, against Missouri or anyone else.
2 – PREPAREDNESS FOR A NEW APPROACH
The Kentucky offense was and is built around Benny Snell, a bruising running back. The Missouri offense is built around quarterback Drew Lock. This is a very different offense and a very different challenge for the South Carolina defense in Week 6. When opponents have very different playing styles, teams have to make not just the tactical adjustment in terms of defending more passes. They have to make the mental transition needed to get used to the change of pace. A potent passing attack will punish brief lapses in the secondary. South Carolina’s back line of defense must be especially ready to stay on task and coordinate assignments against Mizzou’s aerial show.
3 – WALK THE LINE
The South Carolina offense hasn’t taken many chances this season, and while being disciplined with the ball is good, the Gamecocks have to be willing to try to ignite their offense. Striking the balance between prudence and aggression is regularly hard in sports, but South Carolina has to confront that challenge and try to master it. Evolution here is essential for the Gamecocks.