The Gamecocks will be starting Syvelle Newton for the first time in his career at quarterback. The object will be to keep it simple until he settles into the role and is comfortable behind center leading the team. Putting Newton in a winning scheme and not asking too much from him early is important. Any early successes will only build his confidence and allow him to elevate his play as the game advances. Most importantly, loosen his arm up early with some short routes to see what he can do, but do not limit him to called plays - give him a chance to read defenses and check-off as he sees fit. No sense in wasting the opportunity by not allowing him free reign of his own offense. Newton has a better than average arm, if only the Gamecock coaches will allow him to put it to use.
It would be nice to see the Gamecock defense continue to put points on the board in this game. SC has scored on defense in each of the two previous games and they will be looking to extend that streak. More importantly for the Gamecocks is that they not turn the ball over in key situations on offense. Newton has had a propensity to give the ball away at times since spring. Today's game will be as much of a test of Newton's ability to make good decisions when it counts as anything. The Gamecocks, even against an inferior opponent such as USF, cannot afford to turn the ball over. No fumbles, no interceptions. Keep striving for that perfect game.
Tomorrow's game should be an opportunity for a shut out. Anything less will be a disappointment. During the course of this game the Gamecocks need to get as many of the younger players in the game gaining playing minutes as possible. This could prove to be valuable down the stretch of the season. Yet, even when the younsters are in there it needs to be stressed that they not allow a score. Place them in key situations and demand that they perform on the level of the starters. Instill pride in them now that will carry over into the bigger games. Of course, if my some miracle South Florida comes in and lights up the scoreboard and makes this a close game, then use this game to find younger players that will not allow lesser teams to score. The sign of a good football team is one that dominates on defense against lesser opponents.
With Dondrial Pinkins and Demetris Summers already riding the pine for this game, the Gamecocks need to avoid further injuries to key personnel. The problem is that in past years some of the worst injuries have occured to key players verses the non-conference weaker opponents. That's one reason you play your depth in games like these, to avoid needless injuries to your starters. SC has not had the depth in past seasons to pull this off, but they do now - and they should. Avoid injuries by playing as many of the second and third teamers as possible, early and often, in this game. Carolina CANNOT afford to lose any offensive linemen in this game. Nor can they afford to lose another cornerback. They must avoid any injuries to their starters at all costs.
It's time for the Gamecocks to get their kicking game on track. Nothing spectacular, but at least acceptable - something Division-I level in nature. Give whomever a chance to build confidence with a couple of moderately long field goals if possible. A 35 yarder would be nice. And hope that the punting game gets on track as well - averaging at least 40 yards per punt even though we do not expect the Gamecocks to have to punt often in this game if they get their running game going with Cory Boyd and Daccus Turman. Coverage is another area that needs work before heading into the meat of the conference schedule. Strive for perfection on kick-off and punt return teams. With Noah Whiteside back it is just a matter of time before he breaks one and sends a signal to the rest of the league for the game film highlights. Tomorrow could be interesting in that aspect as we understand USF has one of the better kicking games, two of the better kickers, that the Gamecocks are likely to see this year.
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