Scouting USC Defense and Special Teams

While the Gamecocks offense has struggled to turn yards into points due to a mediocre line, the Carolina defense has evolved into a "bead but don't break" type of unit against better teams. The Gamecocks are holding opponents to 306 yards a game, 146 on the ground, and just 160 through the air.

They are coming off one of their worst games of the season, surrendering 405 yards and 33 points in a loss at Arkansas.

Up front they are pretty solid with a good pair of DE in Clifton Geathers (29 tackles, 2 sacks) and Cliff Matthews (39 tackles, 5 sacks). Matthews was declared out for this game with a shoulder injury, but now appears set to return. DT Ladi Ajiboye has not improved since his freshman year and the middle of the line is more suspect.

By far Carolina's best defensive player and one of the best in the SEC is WLB Eric Norwood who leads the team in sacks (7), tackles for loss (10.5) and interceptions (2). He's also blocked three kicks. The other two LB are undersized with MLB Shaq Wilson (69 tkl) and Darian Stewart (46 tkl, 6 tfl) who is sort of a combo OLB/nickel.

The secondary is decent, but makes very few plays. In fact the entire secondary has a total of 2 interceptions. The best player back there is Chris Culliver, but he is iffy with shoulder and disciplinary issues. Spurrier speaks glowingly about freshman CB Stephon Gilmore who has one of the two picks the Carolina secondary has managed. Keep in mind he got that pick against Florida Atlantic.

In all, this defense is better than Vandy, but not a ton better. The biggest difference is that Carolina more size in the trenches --- especially if Matthews plays --- and the presence of Norwood.

South Carolina Special Teams ----

This is a mixed bag, which is not unusual with a Steve Spurrier team. Carolina has blocked four kicks, but they've also had one blocked. Stephon Gilmore (11.7) is a decent punt return man who has a long of 35 yards, but they are not very good on kickoff returns (21.2). Carolina's longest return there was a 61-yard run by Culliver.

They don't cover kicks worth a darn; giving up 14.6 on punts and 24.5 on kicks. They've allowed two kick returns for TD; one to Georgia and the other to Vanderbilt. Spencer Lanning does all the kicking. AS a punter he has shown that he has a good leg, but often the hang time is inadequate. That's why they allow that 14.6 return average. He is better as a place kicker, making 15-17 FG with a long of 47.

Florida has to make sure to put extra emphasis on protecting Chas Henry who has come close to having a couple blocked this year. This also might be the best remaining opportunity to spring Brandon James on a return.


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