Scouting South Carolina Defense/Special Teams

South Carolina was pretty good on defense early in the year but lately, not so much. On the season they're allowing just 105 yards on the ground, but 265 through the air. However four of the last five opponents have thrown for 300-plus against them. The only team that didn't? Vanderbilt.

The thing they do best is bring the heat. They have 33 sacks. It makes you wonder how many passing yards they would have surrendered if not for the excellent pass rush they generate.

The defensive line is led by a pair of very good ends in Devin Taylor and Cliff Matthews. They have combined for 10 sacks and are pretty solid against the run. Add in reserve Melvin Ingram (six sacks) and you have plenty of talent at defensive end, probably the most Florida has seen LSU. The defensive tackles are also solid in Travian Robertson and Ladi Ajiboye who are good, strong players. Overall, this is a very good front four and they have some depth.

There is not a lot to say about the linebacker corps; at least not a lot of nice things to say. It's a pretty bad sign when your top three tacklers are all members of the secondary. The most significant member of the unit is their SLB (which they call a "spur") Antonio Allen. He plays more like a strong safety than LB and would rather run around a block than take one on. He has 2.5 sacks among his six tackles for loss. You want to run at him. MLB Josh Dickerson is an okay player but certainly no game changer. This is one place --- and the only place --- where Vanderbilt is better than Carolina.

The secondary for the most part tackles better than it covers. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is touted as their best cover guy, but he has more sacks (3) and fumble recoveries (2) than interceptions (1). The other corner C.C. Whitlock gets picked on a lot. They'll use three safeties in D.J. Swearinger, Akeem Augusty and DeVonte Holloman, but they really miss Chris Culliver back there.

Overall, this is not a very good defense and their weakness at LB is something Florida's running game ought to be able to exploit. The biggest concern has to be the Carolina pass rush. In many ways they are a lot like Georgia on defense, but maybe better in the trenches.

Carolina special teams ---- Carolina special teams are rather unremarkable. There has not been a kickoff return of 40 yards or a punt return of 30 yards in any Carolina game this season --- for either team. Spencer Lanning is a good combo kicker, but a better punter. He averages 44 on punts and is 7-for-11 on field goals with a long of 51. He has had one blocked and that's the only blocked kick in any Carolina game this year.

To me this game is a lot like the Georgia game for the Gators. South Carolina has a very good offensive team and an average defensive team. Georgia was much better in special teams, but Carolina has a better defensive front and much better pass rush.

The Gators need to protect the QB, whichever one of the three is in there and give him time to exploit the Gamecocks through the air. I also believe that misdirection plays will be very effective against this team for a couple of reasons. They generally like to be aggressive attacking the ball, and they're probably going to be amped up out of their shoes to have a chance to earn a trip to Atlanta.

Carolina has been a very good first quarter team this year, outscoring opponents 77-26. Florida has been awful out of the chute offensively, scoring just 21 points all year. If the Gators win the first 15 minutes it could be a big day in The Swamp. If not, be prepared for more fourth quarter dramatics to settle the SEC East.

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