Practice report: D-line must stop the run

Missouri's spread offense is unlike most up-tempo offenses. Missouri relies just as much on the run as they do the pass and Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing believes his defensive line has to stop the Tiger rushing attack if they expect to win Saturday's contest.

A lot of offenses are going to an up-tempo style of offense designed to run as many plays as possible and wear down the defense by not allowing them time to sub players in and out. Seventh-ranked South Carolina will see that style of play Saturday afternoon when Missouri comes to town in the SEC's premiere game of the week.

Carolina has already seen the up-tempo style of play when they faced East Carolina in the home opener two weeks ago. The difference between ECU's game plan and the plan Missouri will use is that Missouri will run the ball as many times as they pass it. The Tigers have 121 rushes on the season and 109 passes, a total of 230 plays in three games. By comparison South Carolina has run 194 plays, 36 less than the Tigers. What the Tigers want to do is spread you out and make you tackle in space.

"They spread you out," defensive line coach Brad Lawing said. "The thing that they do is they're going to run the ball as much as they pass it. When you get spread out it makes you use more athleticism and a lot of times it negates the big guys. We have to fit everything up right and then tackle."

Kendial Lawrence has carried the ball 34 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns, averaging an impressive 6.6 yards per carry. Quarterbacks James Franklin and Corbin Berkstresser have carried the ball 26 and 24 times, respectively. Franklin is expected to start after sitting out last week's game against Arizona State with a shoulder injury, similar to the injury Connor Shaw has but there is no structural damage on Franklin's shoulder.

"He's a good quarterback; he can run and he can throw," Lawing said of Franklin. "What they do in the passing game is that the ball is gone. They've given up five sacks on the year. One time was an intentional grounding and the others they were sending five guys. They're very similar to the East Carolina system as far as throwing. They catch it and they throw it. We have to affect the quarterback, get our hands up and knock balls down. We have our work cut out for us, but we have to stop the run first. If we don't stop the run we won't win the game."

In last week's game against Arizona State, Missouri ran 27 plays in the first quarter alone. That averages out to 108 plays for the entire game which would be devastating to even the deepest of defenses.

"They use very fast tempo," Lawing said. "A lot of times you can tell that because the camera man can't keep up. He starts recording when the play has already started. They're going to go fast, but we have to stop the run. That's job #1. If we can do that and affect the quarterback we have a pretty good chance to win."

To help combat the spread offense Carolina may turn to the ‘rabbit' package, a package that spent a lot of time on the field in last week's win over UAB. Lawing will use four defensive ends on the line; Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor, Aldrick Fordham, and Chaz Sutton with the priority of getting to the quarterback in passing situations.

"In passing situations we'll run ‘rabbit,'" Lawing said. "We've been doing it all year. I've done it for a long time. If they're going to throw the football I want speed on the field. We can react to screens, we can play different kinds of pass coverages, and our ‘twist' game can create havoc."

Last week UAB was just 5-for-19 on third down conversions with the ‘rabbit' package in the game on virtually every third down play.

"Sometimes it's four ends and sometimes it's three ends and a tackle," Lawing said. "Last year Travian (Robertson) gave us a real good push so I did it with Melvin (Ingram) and Travian inside, and had J.D. and Devin outside. I'm using four ends now because Aldrick has played inside most of his career, and Chaz or Jadeveon can play in there. We've got a lot of different ways we can put that puzzle together."


- J.T. Surratt returns this week after a three game suspension. Despite the suspension Surratt has gotten reps on the line and has worked on the scout team to help the offense. Lawing hopes to get him in if the time is right.

"He's practicing so my intention is to get him in the game when it dictates," Lawing said. "This is a different game because they're going to spread it out. I'm going to put athletes on the field whenever I can."

- Sharrod Golightly also returns this week from suspension. He was listed as the back-up at spur behind DeVonte Holloman prior to the suspension. Freshman Jordan Diggs has stepped into the back-up role and the two will be competing for playing time behind Holloman.

- T.J. Gurley will get the start at safety in place of D.J. Swearinger. There was no other option the coaches considered. Gurley has been practicing as Swearinger's back-up despite being listed at cornerback.

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