Grading The Gamecocks

This is important. After reviewing the film from Saturday's victory over Vanderbilt many many times, we are ready to grade the Gamecocks on their performance. What they looked good doing and what they did not look good doing - while remembering that the most improvement is usually realized between games one and two ...

Questions:

Has Dondrial Pinkins learned to read defenses - will he look his receivers off?

We counted Dondrial looking his receivers off no less than 14 times this past Saturday. At times he did it so well that it was almost unnoticable.

Will the Gamecock wide receivers catch catchable balls?

Troy Williamson certainly caught his share of balls. Not only that but he turned it upfield and ran with authority afterwards. The jury is still out on the others but for the Gamecocks to be successful against Georgia Noah Whiteside and Matthew Thomas are going to have to catch their share of balls as well.

How durable is the offensive line and how quickly will depth develop?

The second team offensive line did not get enough reps Saturday and the Gamecock coaches know it. But they felt they needed to get the starters more work heading into the Georgia game. Still, the second-teamers did receive 'some' work. Do not expect them to get much more against Georgia. It will be the Troy State and South Florida games before we should expect to see the second teamers getting any work worth mention.

Is the new Rick Minter defense up to the task? Will they apply pressure to Cutler?

Minter's defense looked good. They swarmed to the ball and they hit with purpose. Most encouraging was the pressure up the middle. And remember, this defense played fairly vanilla this past Saturday. Expect them to do much more stunting and to throw many more looks at Georgia than they did Vanderbilt.

How will the young and inexperienced Gamecock cornerbacks react in a live game situation?

So far so good. Fred Bennett was the most impressive. Johnathan Joseph looked good when challenged as well. It was difficult to gauge their potential against Vanderbilt because Cutler had little time to throw most of the time. Still, there were times when Vandy wide receivers were open and there were several long completions by the Dores, especially in third and long. Georgia will be a much much bigger test and we are not completely sure that the young corners are going to come out of that one as undamaged as they did against Vandy.

Do the Gamecocks have a kicking game? What sort of field goal range are they capable of?

The kickoffs got on track late in the game. Punting was below standards. Field goal kicking was atrocious.

Will the new coaches show a positive effect on this football team?

If the way this team blocked and tackled is any indication of the effect the new coaches are having, then we can definitely say it has been positive so far.

Will the Gamecock coaches out-coach their opponents at half time in terms of adjustments?

The Gamecock coaches were not really challenged this past Saturday because they had superior depth and talent. Georgia's staff will be a much better gauge.

Will Skip Holtz's move back into the box prove to be an advantage for the offense?

Except for the clock management at the end of the first half, it appeared that the communication between the box and the sidelines was near perfect. Holtz himself has said the first half clock management was his fault.

Running Games:

It would not surprise us to see Gonzie Gray start the game but expect Demetris Summers, Daccus Turman and Cory Boyd to receive the majority of the carries.

We were the only ones to call this correctly. Everyone else had Summers or Boyd starting the game. We know exactly why it was always the plan to start Gray, but in walking the fine line between 'Insider' and reporters were are not at liberty to say. The bottom line is that it worked. Furthermore, the transition from back to back to back in the lineup appeared smooth and hitchless. All the backs stayed fresh. They will need more of the same against Georgia.

For the Gamecocks to take control they are going to have to be able to pound the ball on Vandy and wear them down heading into the second half when depth should prove to be in favor of the Gamecocks.

South Carolina had almost 150 yards rushing in the first half.

What could be the back breaker for the Dores is Dondrial Pinkins' ability to run the ball - he would be a full back or running back for most other teams in the country. Pinkins not only has the ability to run the ball when pressured, but he tends to punish tacklers in the process.

Pinkins had a huge first half, particularly in the first quarter and finished 17-77 but remember he lost ten yards on a sack. He alone would have been too much for the Vandy defense to handle. However, Georgia will be much bigger and much quicker than Vandy and Pinkins cannot afford to lay himself out there for major punishment against the Dawgs.

The Gamecocks must stuff the Vandy running game and force Cutler to go to the air attack on almost every down. Vandy will do everything in the power to challenge the Gamecock defensive line and get a Dore running game going today.

Vandy finished the game with 36 yards rushing net. Consider that being stuffed. In 22 attempts they averaged only 1.7 yards per carry.

Passing Games:

Pinkins needs to get a couple of completions under his belt early for confidence's sake. ... expect the Gamecock coaches to try the long ball once or twice, early ...

Second play, second series and Pinkins launches a bomb to Troy Williamson on a slanting pattern deep. Vandy's Bill Alford was injured on the play. The ball was slightly overthrown and just out of Williamson's reach. But a message was sent and you could see the change in the Vandy defense almost immediately.

... for long term success during the course of this game Pinkins is going to have to hit his tight ends and wide receivers over the middle in the ten to fifteen yard range ... and his backs in the flats. Additionally we expect to see SC utilize their slot backs, Gonzie Gray and Andrea Gause, against a Vandy defense that has not seen a Gamecock utility player on offense since the Ryan Brewer days. Look deep, dump short could be the play of the day if the Gamecocks hit long early. And we cannot stress this enough; the South Carolina tight ends need to be given a chance to shine today. It could be the difference in the game.

We were right about most of this - up until the time we insisted the tight ends would be needed to beat Vandy. Obviously that is something being saved for Georgia.

... Cutler is going to throw the ball all over the place in an attempt to challenge the young Gamecock cornerbacks. ... pressure off of Fred Bennett, Tremaine Tyler and Johnathan Joseph is to bring it from the line, especially the ends. Moe Thompson, George Gause and DeAdrian Coley are going to be coming on every down. Also expect the Gamecock linebackers to do a lot of stunting and shooting the gaps. SC needs a sack or two out of their backers today. Jason Capers and Darrell Shropshire are both looking for sacks today as well and believe they will get them up the middle before the ends Thomas and Gause get their chance.

We watched the game film over and over. At first glance, when watching the game Saturday, it appeared that the Gamecock defense was having little success getting pressure on Cutler. In retrospect, after watching game film so many times, it is clearly evident that the ends were not being sent with any purpose. It looked to us as if they were simply asked to surge and contain. Both ends came by nature but neither were simply unchained and cut loose in all out pinching moves. We cannot stress this enough. This defense was kept vanilla in the truest sense of the word this past Saturday against Vanderbilt.

Kicking Game:

South Carolina will be fine punting the ball. Extra points are safe as well. Kick off coverage should be good with the athletes the Gamecock will field, both on the coverage and return teams actually.

This started out very very shaky for the Gamecocks but improved as the game progressed. The Carolina kickoff team will need to get off to a much better start verses Georgia or they will be burned. Punting the ball was another issue but the Gamecocks were not asked to punt enough to really give a verdict. Extra points were fine. Vanderbilt averaged 18 yards per kickoff return and while that may not sound like much, it is when you are only kicking the ball to the 10 yard line.

The great unknown is what kind of range SC will have in the field goal kicking department. For that reason, provided the Gamecock defense is in control, expect Lou Holtz to give his field goal kicker plenty of opportunities to kick field goals out to a range of 40 - 45 yards. In other words SC will manufacture a few field goal opportunities.

This was a key point and it is key to understand exactly what happened Saturday as we hit this nail on the head - but few seemed to understand what we were presenting to our members in advance.

Brown,Josh           2nd 14:56  35 yds - Good
Brown,Josh           2nd 09:01  37 yds - Missed
Brown,Josh           2nd 00:00  32 yds - Missed

Brown hit the first one. This field goal was the result of the Pinkins sack/fumble to end the first quarter so it was not manufactured but rather a natural occurance. The ball was placed on the 17 and Brown knocked it through to the right of the goal posts but with plenty of distance.

The second attempt happened after a stalled drive, the fourth possession of the game for the Gamecocks. South Carolina had only thrown the ball nine times by this point and they were even running the ball in third and long situations. Clearly this was the first of the manufactured field goal attempts. The ball was placed on the 20 yard line on the right hash mark. Now remember, Brown had shown good leg in the previous attempt so this 37 yard attempt was the next step in finding his range. The hold was good and there was plenty of distance but the attempt was wide left. It was the first possession where the Gamecocks would walk away without a score. Brown pulled it badly - probably trying to put too much leg into it. The next logical step would be for the coaches to bring him back in and get him to hit another one - this one from closer range.

Then came attempt number three ... the obviously manufactured field goal we expected and mentioned in our keys to the game. People questioned Holtz's clock management but he was overruling the box for a reason. It was actually quite genius of him if you look closely. He allowed the clock to run down by keeping the ball on the ground and not calling time outs. With 2 seconds remaining in the half he called a time out and chewed the ears of his offense for 60 seconds in what appeared to be an attempt to distract Brown from the pressure of the kick after having missed his last attempt. Classic good coaching by Holtz - kickers are all about being mental. The stage was set, this one could pay off later in the season. 2 seconds remaining on the clock, South Carolina up 17-6, the ball carefully positioned by Holtz's play calling on the left hash mark's 15 yard line ... and Brown kicks it wide right. He failed the test. He overcompensated for the miss to the left on the previous attempt. South Carolina has major major problems with their field goal kicking game and if not careful it could bite them.

Holtz will ladder his field goal kicker in an attempt to test his range, starting short and going long ...

He did exactly as we expected him to do. Laddering is a term used by mortar men and artillery men in combat. They fire short and long, short and long, narrowing the gap to the target until they fire-for-effect. It is also a common practice used by football coaches to find range on their kickers. Clearly Brown's range in around thirty yards if you expect him to be consistent. Thirty yards from the middle of the field. Not good for the Gamecocks. They will have to find a solution ASAP or it will cost them a game before season's end.

Noah Whiteside, Matthew Thomas and Demetris Summers are expected to return balls today.

Whiteside returned punts and did a great job. He will break one or two this season. Williamson got the nod ahead of Thomas but we still expect to see Thomas back there soon. Summers filled-out the kickoff return duo.

Intangibles:

South Carolina has played better on the road the past couple of seasons than they have at home. We believe this is because Dondrial Pinkins enjoys the road games and feels less pressure than he does at Williams-Brice in front of the hometown fans.

Dondrial had a great game in Nashville. The jury is still out on Pinkins until he has a similar game at home.

Vanderbilt has home field advantage ... South Carolina needs to take control of the game and quiet the Vandy crowd early.

South Carolina fans negated any homefield advantage Vanderbilt may have hoped to have in this contest from the beginning.

The Bottom Line:

South Carolina needs to rush for over 200 yards and pass for over 200 yards. If they do that then they win this game hands down.

SC rushed for 269 yards and passed for 184.

SC needs to come out of this game today on the plus (+) 3 side of the turnover margin ...

The Gamecocks recovered two Vandy fumbles and forced two interceptions. Conversely the Gamecocks fumbled twice but lost only one of those. South Carolina came out of the game on the plus (+) 3 side of the turnover margin.

If Vanderbilt's offensive gameplan is stunted by the Gamecocks early you could see signs of Dore frustration and that will spell doom for the Admirals ...

We've never seen a more frustrated bunch than Vandy. Their shoulders were slumping in the second quarter and they had their hands on the hips most of the second half.

Prediction:

The Gamecocks get it going early and come out of this game with at least a 10 point victory.

Final: 31-6 Gamecock Win.

Final note ... do not be surprised if Vanderbilt turns out to be a better team than they appeared to be this past Saturday. They are capable of upsetting a team or two this season and may very well find themselves in a bowl before all is said and done.

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