There are roughly eight days remaining until the opener against Central Florida in front of a nationally televised audience. So I am going to give it to you straight.
Bobby Wallace is the real deal. If the Gamecock offensive line can somehow muster a hole or two for this young man to run through, he will make the most of it.
Wallace clearly established himself as the number one tailback Tuesday night with darting, jitterbugging runs often made from nothing - the product of Twinkle Toes' determination. He is definitely a player. He runs harder and stronger than his size might deem possible yet he delivers punishing blows to defenders when he is unable to run around them or under them - which he often does in the first place.
The Gamecock Secondary may be the finest ever fielded at South Carolina and that is saying something given their recent history with NFL draft picks especially (seven in the past five years). These guys on the current squad, they are good. And they are deep. Ko Simpson is outstanding, but Johnathan Joseph is probably just as good, if not better, at breaking on balls, defending the run and good old fashioned white-on-rice pass coverage. You will also like what you see out of Fred Bennett and others in that USC secondary.
Field goal kickers Josh Brown and Ryan Succop are duelling it out for the job of "kickin'em when it counts," as Coach Spurrier says. I counted eleven MADE in a row from the pair, combined with the hits by newcomer walkon Jordan Dachs.
Dachs kicks line drives but he is fairly accurate and fairly long. His kicks skim the top of the horizontal bar on the uprights regardless of distance (40 yards and in) for the most part.
Succop and Brown nailed several from beyond forty, and one or two from fifty - before missing one from sixty-five yards out.
The entire defense is very fast. Even the defensive linemen, interior linemen no less, can run. The Gamecocks are going to be stout on defense. This is all good stuff mind you.
Travis Lee is finally blossoming. And all the wide receievers seem to be able to run crisp routes and work themselves open even against one of the finer secondaries in the country.
The Quarterbacks. Cade Thompson is the more natual of the three. Antonio Heffner is the more athletic of the three. Blake Mitchell is the more experienced of the three but that does not seem to be helping Blake a great deal in these scrimmage situations.
One bad scrimmage does not a quarterback make. We understand that, but this was bad. Really bad. And none of them have ever really had a 'good one' up unto this point if you think about it. I had been waiting to pass any sort of judgement thinking this last scrimmage would be the one ... but it was worse than you could imagine.
These quarterbacks could not hit the broadside of a barn if they were standing next to it Tuesday night. Steve Spurruer has a lot of work ahead of him in the next eight days. It's a little bit spooky, if not discouraging, to see how poorly those QBs performed Tuesday night. Bad bad bad. They stunk it up out there.
Here is the really spooky part that I saw. It was deja vous all over again when on several occassions Antonio Heffner was unable to find an open receiver or to get the ball to an open receiver through the air - so he tucked it and ran.
Arrggggh. And fans looking for a positive out of this group of quarterbacks will jump for glee over Tony's ability to scramble. Yessir. It's Lou Holtz's quarterback style come back to haunt us all.
More bad. The offensive line is weak up the middle. That's not new news. What is new news is that James Thompson has somehow worked himself onto the second team and that means this unit is digressing rather than progressing. They allowed too many quarterback pressures and they failed to open holes where they were supposed to between the tackles. There is a lot of work left to do on the offensive line.
The entire offense. The only way the could have looked uglier were if they were wearing Keystone Cop hats rather than helmets. They could not get in sync. They could not move the ball with regularity. They could not communicate from the sideline to the huddle. They could not find a QB willing to take charge and be a leader. Blake needs to be more vocal. They could not hit an open wide receiver. They do not block all that well anywhere on the line. Some of them looked lost at times. Coach Spurrier was so frustrated, and I was warned that he would do this from some of my Florida counterparts, but he was so frustrated he simply watched most of the scrimmage with his hands on his hips or his hand under his chin ... silent. You want to see him animated over there. You want to see him throwing his visor. You want to see him with the look of someone who has a fix for the problems. But he was almost motionless at times. Silent. Watching. Shaking his head in disbelief.
The defense is going to have to win a few games for the Gamecocks this year unless Spurrier can pull the proverbial rabbit from his visor between now and the opener.
South Carolina will beat Central Florida on September 1. But to finalize the 'ugly' portion of these observations I will offer you this. Talk about ugly. Georgia will break out the ugly stick on the Gamecocks in Athens unless something changes drastically between now and September 9. It will be ugly because Mark Richt would love nothing better than to put a major old fashioned fanny whooping on Steve Spurrier for the sake of the Georgia fans' past embarrassments at the hands of the Evil Genius. And regardless of Georgia's situation, I can promise you this, D.J. Shockley, right this moment anyway, is better than all three Gamecock quarterbacks combined.
That's why Spurrier gets paid the big bucks. To turn all of this, this mess on offense, into something better, something positive, just in the nick of time. Because unless he does, it could get very ugly during the course of the upcoming season for USC.
(Final wish: That last night's scrimmage was an abomination and not an indication of things to come. And that there is a great deal of improvement between now and next Thursday remaining to be had. And that the rule of first week improvements holds true - that there is a great great deal of improvement from the end of the Central Florida game to the beginning of the Georgia game in Athens. Keep your fingers crossed.)
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