South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier gave no indication during his Tuesday press conference that he plans to be conservative against an East Carolina defense that was statistically one of the worst in the country last season.
But multiple South Carolina assistants warned Wednesday that there could be a learning curve before the Gamecocks' offense starts clicking Saturday night in Charlotte against the Pirates.
After giving up 44.0 points a game last season, second-worst in the FBS, ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill and defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell made the decision to transition to a 3-4 defense.
But in terms of building a game plan, that's not enough information to know the best way to operate.
"Every defense is different," running backs coach Jay Graham says. "There's differences in four down [linemen] defenses and there's different types of three-down defenses. We just don't know what to expect. Three-down is their basic scheme, but what type of three-down? We just don't know yet."
That means getting creative in trying to determine what to expect from the Pirates' defense.
Spurrier said Tuesday that the staff has studied the defense of BYU, where Mitchell spent 11 years as a defensive assistant, and Air Force, where ECU visited in the offseason.
"We think this is what they are going to look like," Spurrier said. "It is unusual. Watching last year's East Carolina defense, they may not look anything much like that. So, it's something different."
The unknown factor means preparing for anything according to offensive line coach and running game coordinator Shawn Elliott.
"You have to be sound mentally and assignment-oriented," Elliott said. "I think you have to almost picture multiple fronts. We have no idea how they're going to line up.
"We're going to take our time our first couple of series, see what they're doing, and make some adjustments. We just hope to do things right and correctly, and then we'll play from there."
The unknown factor extends to the Pirates' secondary.
"We don't know what they've installed," wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Steve Spurrier, Jr. says. "It could be man, it could be zone, it could be blitz.
"We really don't know exactly, but as you get out there and get going hopefully you can get a good idea of what they're trying to do defensively."
But Spurrier, Jr. says that can also serve as a blessing in disguise.
"It's hard to get a grasp of what exactly to get ready for," Spurrier, Jr. says. "But then again it makes you hone in on who you are, and what you need to be really good at, and just keep busting your tail to be as good at that as you can be."
- Jay Graham confirmed that freshman TE Rory Anderson is second on the depth chart at the position.
- Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott played for ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill at Appalachian State.
"We were really close as a player and coach relationship," Elliott said. "We don't speak on the phone very often but we're very close. If I were to walk up to him tomorrow and say, 'Hey, I need some help.' He's going to help me. And same thing with me, I'd do anything for him."
- Spurrier was not available for comment following Wednesday's practice. The Head Ball Coach hasn't announced a starter at quarterback for Saturday's game.
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