If tenth-ranked South Carolina ever sees the triple option again, it will be too soon. Despite holding Navy to 126 yards below their season average in rushing, holding them to nearly half of their season point total, and scoring on half of its offensive possessions fans still left Williams-Brice Stadium somewhat unhappy after a 24-21 victory over the Midshipmen to improve to 3-0 on the season. This week the Gamecocks will begin to see more of traditional offenses than its seen in two of the first three weeks when they take on 3-0 Vanderbilt Saturday night at 7:00 inside Williams-Brice.
The Commodores are coming off a 30-7 blowout win over Ole Miss and feature a balanced attack similar to one Carolina faced at Georgia. Vandy is averaging 33 points per game, rushing for 177 yards per game, and passing for 141 yards per game. Even their touchdown distribution is balanced, scoring six rushing touchdowns and four touchdown passes.
"They're running the ball well right now and their quarterback is a capable passer," defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. "They've improved every week - you can see it from week one to week two to this past week. They've made drastic improvement. They do a lot of stuff formation-wise to try and confuse you so we're going to have to be on top of our game."
Junior Zac Stacy leads the ground game, running for an average of 87 yards a game on 28 carries and a 77-yard touchdown. Freshman Jerron Seymour has burst onto the scene, rushing for 48 yards per game and two touchdowns. Carolina will also have to look out for quarterback Larry Smith. Smith has carried the ball 11 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns. The downside for Vandy is that Smith has also been sacked 10 times that brings his net rushing yards down to just 12 yards.
Smith will also provide quite a challenge for a troubled South Carolina secondary. Thanks in large part to the fact that Navy only completed five passes for 61 yards, the Gamecocks have risen to 40th in pass defense. However, that does not change the fact that East Carolina and Georgia threw for a combined 508 yards and eight touchdown passes the first two weeks. THat is something that Vandy, and the remainder of the Gamecock schedule - will try and exploit.
"We're about to get into the meat of the schedule with conventional offenses and people are going to challenge us and see if we can play pass defense," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.
Smith's numbers don't leap out at you, completing just 38-of-71(54%) passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns, but he has the ability to throw for a lot of yards. It will be important for the South Carolina defensive line to get pressure on Smith and force him into mistakes or add on to the sack total through three games.
"Every week we look to do that," Lawing said. "UConn got a lot of pressure on him."
If Smith has time to throw the ball, he has plethora of receivers he can throw to. 10 players have caught at least two passes and none has caught more than seven. Chris Boyd has proven to be the biggest threat, catching seven passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-4 Boyd will provide a similar threat to the Gamecock secondary that East Carolina's Lance Lewis provided. No other Commodore receiver has more than 100 yards this season, but three other receivers have 50+ receiving yards.
This week South Carolina will be without one of its back-up cornerbacks as Cadarious Sanders continues to nurse an injury suffered in the Georgia and will be out "a little while" according to Ward. However, Victor Hampton will make his long-awaited debut after missing the first three games due to a suspension.
"Victor will play," Ward said. "Vic has shown he can challenge people, which we've tried to get all the DB's to do. I expect him to play a lot. As long as he practices well he will play."
Hampton will be backing up Stephon Gilmore at boundary corner, while Marty Markett has once again earned the starting spot at field corner.
Though Ward indicated last week that the move of Devonte Holloman from Spur to safety would probably only be to provide more physicality for the Navy option offense, head coach Steve Spurrier indicated that he could stay there. Turns out the head ball coach was right.
"DeVonte will stay on the perimeter," Ward said. "He played well and tackled well. He was one of the young men Coach Spurrier singled out in the meeting today so we're going to leave him at boundary safety and he's going to start there this week."
Holloman took the place of Jimmy Legree alongside D.J. Swearinger and Sharrod Golightly will back up Holloman. Legree will back up Swearinger.
"Jimmy will be back-up for D.J. at free (safety) and we'll play Jimmy," Ward said. "We didn't play him last ballgame just because Coach (Jeep) Hunter, myself, and Coach (Ellis) Johnson and the staff was disappointed in his tackling. In the Navy game we just felt like we needed guys in there that could tackle. Jimmy will be fine."
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