Anthem Roundtable: East Carolina

Gamecock Anthem returns the weekly feature "Anthem Roundtable" as we take a look at East Carolina.

The Anthem Roundtable is back this week with a look at the East Carolina Pirates. Both teams are 1-0 coming off season opening wins but will look to this game for marked improvement from week one.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...

The big question this week for South Carolina is the status of Connor Shaw. It could be a game-time decision on whether or not the redshirt junior starts. If Shaw doesn't play, how will this affect the Gamecock offense?

PORTER: First of all let me say that I fully expect to see Connor Shaw when the offense trots onto the field Saturday. It's just a gut feeling I've had all along. But there is a real possibility he doesn't play. Dylan Thompson was horrible last week. There's no other way to put it. However, he's a much better quarterback than he played like last week. If Thompson is indeed the man that starts the game, I don't expect too big of a change in the offense. I do believe they will run a little more of Marcus Lattimore and try and throw in some short passes to build Thompson's confidence, but if the receivers don't get open it doesn't matter who is back there throwing it.

GARRETT: Shaw's absence will certainly force the Gamecocks into a more run-oriented offense. They have a strong running game with Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles but they would likely lose the zone-read option in the playbook due to Dylan Thompson's mobility. He's not the quickest guy around but could pick up a few yards here and there. There will still be some passes thrown this weekend regardless who is at quarterback but ball control on offense will likely be the focus for the Gamecocks.

LOHD: If Shaw cannot go then the playbook is a simpler and you will see more Marcus Lattimore. Regardless of who is under center, the Gamecocks have to get the passing game going or it could be a long day.

MLS: If Connor Shaw is not behind center, ECU instantly becomes more of a challenge and not a guaranteed win. Dylan Thompson looked like a deer caught in headlights last week. In his defense, his lack of significant playing time isn't working in his favor. If Thompson is given the nod then we have to expect the offense to lean on the surgically repaired knee of Marcus Lattimore. Latty looked great in his first action back, a little limited by the brace but effective nonetheless (SEC Player Of The Week reflects that.) The game would have to revolve around the running game to keep Thompson's nerves in check. At the same point, ECU isn't Georgia and it'd be a shame to throw Connor back out there if he isn't ready and risk losing him for the games that we really need to win.

East Carolina gave the Gamecocks all they'd hoped for in last year's game. Without quarterback Dominique Davis and wide receiver Lance Lewis, is there enough firepower in this offense to keep the Pirates in the game?

PORTER: While the Pirates are missing Davis and Lewis, they still have some playmakers. Justin Hardy had his coming out party in his first career game against the Gamecocks last season. He caught a season-high 11 passes for 91 yards (92 was his season high) and had a nice touchdown at the end of the first half. Michael Dobson also returns and he got better as the season progresses. It all lies on the arm of Rio Johnson. Johnson had a nice game last week, but a lot of his balls floated to the receivers. This week most of those passes will be batted away or intercepted. Look out for Reese Wiggins. He didn't get to play early last season but stepped in for Lewis late after Lewis suffered an injury. Had a career night against UCF with 123 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

GARRETT: The offense is built around the quick pass. Rio Johnson isn't quite the prolific quarterback that Davis was but he's solid. Throw in running back Michael Dobson, who had 80 yards on 4.1 yards per carry in Week One, and Justin Hardy and Reese Wiggins at wide receiver and there are some nice pieces. They may strike early but it's hard to imagine the Pirates being able to effectively move the ball all day on the Gamecock defense.

LOHD: The Gamecocks secondary will be tested that is for certain and the Gamecocks will have to be ready for short routes. The key will be USC tackling and not giving up the big play.

MLS: On paper, ECU is lacking some playmakers. Last week against Appalachian State, quarterback Rio Johnson threw for 242 yards on 43 attempts with a completion percentage of 65%. His average yards per pass were around 5 and half. Having not seen the film, it appears that the passing offense was revolving around a lot of short passes and screens. That game plan isn't going to work against an experienced SEC defense. ECU's offense shouldn't pose as much of a threat to the Gamecocks.

The Pirates allowed 419 yards of offense to Appalachian State including 300 yards through the air in Week One. Can South Carolina get its offense off the ground this weekend?

PORTER: For the sake of Steve Spurrier I hope so. Spurrier was understandably frustrated after the passing performance last week, as was everyone else. If Appalachian State, a FCS school, can throw for over 300 yards you would the Gamecocks could throw for at least 250-300 with such an emphasis on Lattimore getting carries. Even Thompson should have some success. If they put forth another performance like last week, the passing attack may never get better this season.

GARRETT: Steve Spurrier has to like the passing numbers they gave up last week. The opportunity is there for the receivers to establish themselves in this offense. The running game looked efficient against Vanderbilt so there shouldn't any concerns there. Can the Gamecocks get Ace Sanders, Damiere Byrd and others involved this weekend? That's goal and it looks like a possibility regardless who is starting at quarterback. South Carolina doesn't need to put up big numbers to ease the fan base. Just show some improvement from last week.

LOHD: I like to think so as the ECU defense will allow it. The Gamecocks have to work to get their playmakers in space and need to get the tight ends involved. This will help the running game and take pressure off whoever is under center. The Gamecocks can win this game by a lot if they simply don't turn it over and present a balanced attack.

MLS: That's all contingent on if the Gamecocks put a healthy Connor Shaw on the field or not. If Connor is on the bench, we could be in for a clock eating, run based performance. Having said that, I wouldn't expect an aerial attack. Even if Connor is the quarterback on Saturday, the play call may still be very conservative for precautionary purposes. Ideally, would love to see the field get stretched and see some what the receivers can do. Just not sure this is the week we see that.

Last year, the Gamecocks got a spark from Stephen Garcia off the bench. What Gamecock do you think could provide a similar spark this weekend?

PORTER: I don't think there is a player on the roster that isn't starting that can have that kind of impact on the game as Garcia did last year. If Shaw doesn't start perhaps he can come off the bench and provide that kind of spark, but other than that I really don't see anyone doing that. If I had to choose someone I'd go with Shaq Roland or Jerell Adams

GARRETT: I like Kenny Miles off the bench. I think this is a game where Lattimore will likely have a chance to rest and Miles is the ultimate team-player who will do what he can when given the chance. He could see double-digit carries along with some receptions off of the bench. Dylan Thompson could also be a candidate as well if Connor Shaw starts this Saturday.

LOHD: Bruce Ellington in the Wildcat formation. It would present a different wrinkle to the offense and get the fans excited. Who knows it may work and if Connor is out, it could be useful to keep ECU honest via an Ellington deep ball attempt out of the scheme.

MLS: Kenny Miles. If the run is going to be as heavily relied upon as I'm predicting, Lattimore will need a breather. Kenny can provide that change of pace in the effort of letting Latty catch his breath. Last week when we discussed if Mike Davis was going to get in the game, I predicted a few carries. He got one carry for 4-yards. I'm jumping back out on that limb and thinking that we could see him get a few more reps this week.

Turnovers were a big part of the 2011 contest between these two teams. Do you see that happening this weekend for either team?

PORTER: It has been a long time since I've seen that ugly of a ball game with so many turns in momentum caused by turnovers. Turnovers were certainly what led to Carolina's win, but it was also turnovers that led to ECU's early lead. It just so happened that Carolina made ECU pay more than ECU did to Carolina. I don't see either team having another performance like that.

GARRETT: It's hard to imagine both teams turning the ball over a combined nine times like last year. South Carolina should be more settled in the home environment after last week's tough opening win at Vanderbilt. The comfort level will be there for the Gamecocks and this will allow them to play smarter with the football. South Carolina's defense will be looking to pick up a few turnovers themselves and Clowney and Taylor have the speed to disrupt that quick offense.

LOHD: I think more so for ECU to be the turnover culprit as the Gamecocks secondary should be a little tighter in their coverage. Also the SC defensive line will be tougher to penetrate and could see a strip at some point out of the crew.

MLS: Unless Marcus Lattimore all the sudden turns into a young Tiki Barber, the Gamecocks should do a nice job of maintaining their possessions. The Pirates on the other hand should be a little worried. Rio Johnson cant walk into Billy Brice thinking he's facing the same defense he did last week against App State.

Offensive line play was a big reason for the Gamecocks struggles in the passing game in the season-opener. Who needs to step up their game this weekend to give the Gamecocks' quarterbacks time to make a play?

PORTER: Has to be Brandon Shell. After going back and watching some of the game and watching Shell in particular, he looked lost out there a good bit of the time. There were plays where he literally did nothing at all. Whether it was heat, his ankle, or just a product of his first start he has to improve or he's going to lose his job. He may already have.

GARRETT: The offensive line as a whole needs to play better as a unit. Run blocking was solid in Week One but the pass protection was awful at times. Obviously Brandon Shell struggled at times with the heat and his first college start, but he needs to step up and show he can be the future at tackle. He will likely see time on the right side of the offensive line as he practiced there some this week.

LOHD: The entire unit needs to step-up as they must work as a team to give the QB time and to open up some holes. They have the potential and now have one game under their belts so it is time to begin to play as one unit.

MLS: Mike Matulis and Brandon Shell are switching spots on the line this week. Matulis is shifting to the left side and Shell to the right. Shell says he's more comfortable on the right. This is his week to redeem himself from a poor showing last week. Typically the RT is relied on more in the running game as the LT protects the QB's blindside. If this holds true, Shell is going to have his chance to anchor the line and open some holes. He was a big recruit and that was his first action, time to step up and show what you got. After UAB, it's only going to get tougher.


PORTER: I've debated on a score over the last few days based on several factors: Will Shaw play? If he does is he healthy? How will Rio Johnson fare against a much better defense than Appalachian State? The only way South Carolina loses this game is if they turn the ball over time and time again and ECU doesn't. I believe Shaw will play and will be healthy. He may not be as quick to run with the ball, but he should be able to find some receivers. Carolina wins 31-14.

GARRETT: If Connor Shaw starts, and plays well, South Carolina wins 41-20. If he doesn't play then I think you'll see a closer matchup with a heavy run based approach from the Gamecocks and USC wins 31-17. Either way, a win is all but likely for South Carolina.

LOHD: USC gets the win with a score that will look like 31-17.

MLS: Short and sweet, 24-10. Gamecocks dominate time of possession and run, run, run.

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