If you're expecting the South Carolina to come out in a 5-2 or 3-4 defensively or have an overhaul in the starting line-up when it takes the field against probable #1 Alabama next weekend, you will be disappointed. However, if you're expecting to see a more aggressive, physical defense than you saw Saturday night against Auburn on the Plains, you should like what you see. While the Gamecocks will continue to run the same schemes they've ran all season, Gamecock Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward said you will see a different style of play against the Crimson Tide.
"We'll definitely stick to what we're doing," Ward said of the defensive schemes. "We'll probably be a little more aggressive - probably get the DB's up and play a little more press-man instead of putting them off in a lot of situations and playing a lot of zone coverages."
Tuesday certainly wasn't a fun day for the Gamecock football team. Not only did the players have every mistake from the Auburn game pointed out - and there certainly were many - during film sessions, Ward said Coach Spurrier let them have it out on the practice field as well.
"I thought Coach Spurrier was really tough on the guys as well as he should be cause when you go back and look at the video there's a lack of execution," Ward said. "It's things we talk about as a defensive staff about assignments and that's why we give up big plays and it hurt us in that ball game. We talked about it last week and we gotta get some of the things corrected."
Special Teams Coordinator Shane Beamer said today was tough on everybody, not just the players.
"It wasn't easy," Beamer said. "I'd be lying if I said guys weren't hurt, coaches are hurt and disappointed. (We) had a good team meeting and cleared the air a little bit, and watched the video. It was OK today."
Junior Defensive Back Akeem Auguste said there were plenty of mistakes to point out and it's up to the players to correct them.
"We all see where we're going wrong and we just gotta all capitalize on it. We gotta start making our corrections instead of just going out and doing the same thing over and over again from this week to the next week. It's just been giving up big plays. We've got to stop that. We've got to get back to everybody (being) on the same page."
The Gamecock defense faced a formidable foe Saturday night in Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Newton, all 6'6 and 250 pounds of him, had his way with the Gamecock defense. On just the fifth play from scrimmage, the Auburn quarterback used his speed and vision to get to sideline and race 54 yards for a Tiger touchdown. That would prove to be a sign of things to come as Newton rushed for a game-high 180 yards on 25 carries and three touchdown runs. Auguste said Newton did an excellent job of waiting until the last second to decide on whether to hand the ball to the running back or keep it himself.
"He was holding that thing real long," Auguste said. "He would have two guys going for the sweep and nobody in the middle of the field, and sometimes we'd stay with the quarterback and he'd give it off to the sweep. It was just different and I think we just weren't used to it going like that and how fast-paced it was."
Ward said it was more of a case of guys trying to do too much and being out of position that hurt the Gamecock defense, who was #1 in the conference in rush defense heading into the game.
"I think the guys tried to do too much instead of taking their assignments and when you do that you're gonna cause big plays," Ward said. "We just gotta get back to the fundamentals and take care of your assignment and do what you're supposed to do."
Beamer agreed, but said it wasn't all on the players. The coaches share some of the blame.
"We had way too many missed assignments compared to other games," Beamer said. "DeVonte (Holloman) going out (mid-way through the third quarter with concussion) had something to do with that, but at the same time there were some simple things that we shouldn't have busted that we did. I can't put my finger on it, but all we can do is work hard and keep harping on things in meetings and simplify if we have to. I don't think what we were doing scheme-wise was all that complicated the other night, but guys certainly weren't where they were supposed to be. And it's not all on them either - we've got to coach better."
In the second half, Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn increased the tempo drastically. Auburn ran a hurry-up offense for most of the half and had Gamecock defenders struggling to keep pace. Ward contributed part of that to the players thinking too much instead of just reacting.
"We just got to get back and, again, we're not trying to do too much as players and we're not trying to do too much as coaches to make sure these young men are playing fast and they're not out there thinking," Ward said. "I think the speed of the game got to us a little bit and guys started to get out of place and didn't take care of their assignment."
One of the glaring holes in the Gamecock defense early on in the season has been the middle of the field. Oftentimes quarterbacks have found receivers open without a Gamecock within 10 yards. Ward says a lot of that lays at the feet of the coaches, having players in the wrong positions.
"it's based on what we're doing defensively," Ward said. "I think a lot of people have given us formations making us take safeties out of the box - linebackers out of the box - and make us make calls that we don't need to be in all the time. So we've got to do a good job looking at what we're doing scheme-wise to make sure we're not putting the players in a bad position either as coaches."
Auguste believes that the defense will continue to see more of the same until the problem is corrected.
"Personally, they're seeing what works against us and stuff so they're gonna try and do the same things other teams are doing - trying to spread us out and beat us," Auguste said. "I feel like that ain't the problem - the problem is us. We gotta fix it."
If the Gamecocks hope to have any chance of staying on the field with Alabama next week they must correct their problems. Ward says you can expect to see more of the defense that you saw last season as opposed to what you've seen the first month of the 2010 season.
"We've kinda gotten away a little bit from what we've done to be successful around here so we'll get back to those basics," Ward said.
"The bottom is, whether you win or lose, you got to make corrections on things you did wrong and we just happened to be on the losing end this time and we have to make those corrections," Ward said. "We're going to look at next week's opponent just as well as if we won the ball game. We know Alabama is really, really good running the football and we've got to do a great job of assignments defensively and make sure you take care of your responsibilities. If we do that we'll have a chance. If we don't it could be a long day."
After Saturday night's performance, the Gamecocks certainly have plenty of corrections to make.
Expect a new defense...sort of
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
Scout On the Road: SeptemberScout takes a look at some of the top prospects we saw in person during the month of September...
Scout FootballWednesday at 2:00 PM
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout FootballMonday at 11:15 AM
10 Schools Down But Recruiting WellA look at 10 programs recruiting well despite be down as a program.
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.