Frisby's Corner: Week Five
Tim Frisby can be heard on ESPN Radio's "The Sports Drive With RT" on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 3-6 p.m. on 93.1 FM in Columbia.
Last year at this time my South Carolina Gamecocks stood at (2-3, 0-3 in the SEC). The forecast for the remainder of the season was bleak. We had beaten Central Florida, followed by a loss at Georgia, a beating at home by Alabama, a victory against Troy, and a sound thrashing at the hands of Auburn. All was not well with the Gamecock Nation. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the gallows. Someone forgot to tell Coach Spurrier and us players that the season was over. As a team we decided to try it coach Spurrier's way and play to our capabilities. His philosophies and attitude began to seep into our heads and the winning soon followed. Five SEC victories later, we stood at 7-3, 2nd ranked in the SEC East, and ahead of Florida in the standings. We finished one Georgia loss short of the SEC Championship Game!
This year we stand at (3-2, 1-2 in the SEC), and based on our performance against Auburn, we may be poised for a repeat performance of last year's home stretch. As we head into the Kentucky game this is how I see the Gamecocks shaping up:
I know you have heard of the saying "growing up overnight." I believe that is exactly what we saw on Thursday night with our young, inexperienced line. Syvelle Newton had nothing but praise for the boys up front after the night was over. Although there is much work to be done, you can see the beginnings of a team coming together. The line provided adequate, but not yet great protection for Newton. However, Syvelle was able to stand in the pocket and go through progressions with little pressure at times. The line also improved immensely in the run-blocking category. Gamecock backs at least had holes to work with when approaching the line of scrimmage. It will be imperative for the run blocking to improve another level this week. We must control the line of scrimmage and make the most of our possessions. Kentucky possesses a good ground game and will use big chunks of the game clock. We will have to make the most of our limited offensive possessions.
Our backs ran with passion and authority on Thursday night. I was proud of the yards they were able to grind out with second and third efforts. The backs consistently fought off defenders and fell forward when tackled. Mike Davis finally broke out of his sophomore slump and ran like the Mike Davis we became acquainted with in the second half of 2005. What can we say about the gutsy performance of the still gimpy Cory Boyd? He not only ran with a purpose, he also saved the Gamecocks from a critical turnover with a heads up tackle and strip. I thought we would see a little more of Taylor Rank, and I was also surprised that coach did not use the backs out in space to deter the blitzing ends.
Look for a healthy Cory Boyd to assert himself against the Wildcats this Saturday. I am predicting a very big day for Mr. Boyd this weekend. Also look for another strong performance from Mike Davis and Taylor Rank. Unfortunately, I don't believe coach is going to use Bobby Wallace, who I think can benefit this team.
Coming out party #2 for Kenny McKinley. Kenny had a very impressive night against a very good Auburn Tiger defense. He will need to continue to be consistent and healthy as defenses adjust to shut down Sidney Rice.
Sidney Rice is finding out how big the target is on his back. Opposing defenses are being designed specifically with Mr. Rice in mind. He will always draw the best corners who consistently pull, grab, hold, and tug on the sophomore superstar. Auburn employed a soft zone to bring help to Rice's side. I don't believe Sidney will see much man-to-man coverage against Kentucky or much throughout the rest of the season.
Jared Cook is developing into a nice threat from the tight end position. Forget about the dropped touchdown. Jared has great hands, and he has learned a valuable lesson about looking the pass all the way in. Moe Brown will continue to bring in a few catches per game. Unfortunately, that is all I can say about our receiving corps. Mike West and O.J. Murdock have not been able to crack the rotation, and Freddy Brown still needs some work to be of help. Look for Noah Whiteside to begin taking more reps. Noah is getting into game shape, and his speed and good hands will be needed.
What else can we say about Syvelle Newton? Bottom Line: He gives this Gamecock team a chance to win when he is under center. The Auburn game MVP, he has proven that he can stay in the pocket when needed and get himself out of trouble when he feels pressure. One of the best intangibles he brings is his ability to get rid of the ball and avoid the sack. Hopefully he is working close with coach Spurrier this week to perfect the Red Zone Offense. We must start capitalizing on trips to the Red Zone.
Blake Mitchell needs to be prepared to execute the game plan if needed. I only see Blake being used if Newton is injured or ineffective offensively. I believe coach Spurrier recognizes the impact that Syvelle has on the game with his athleticism, and look for coach to really start opening up the playbook this weekend.
I said in a previous column that the Gamecock defense would have to play the game of their lives on Thursday to beat Auburn. They did not. However, they played pretty damned good. What that performance did was make believers out of this defensive unit.
That doesn't mean there isn't anything to work on. Our secondary must play better when we go to man-to-man. The defensive unit as a whole must play better in third down situations. There is no excuse to consistently give up third and long situations and definitely not a fourth and six. The secondary is giving up too much cushion, allowing opposing receivers to probe for the necessary yardage and sit underneath for first downs.
Our linebacking corps continues to be impressive. Jasper Brinkley is a disruptive force and Marvin Sapp has the speed and strength to continue to frustrate opposing offenses. Look for our linebackers to be extremely busy in run support this weekend. We must bottle up the Wildcat running game and force them to the air.
The Auburn game was a gut check. This Kentucky game can be the beginning or the end. Our season is at the proverbial fork in the road. One prong of the fork leads to misery and heartache. The other prong leads to an undetermined destiny. I believe this Gamecock team can be a team of destiny. Coach Spurrier has the plan if the players are willing to execute it. Play like champions Saturday. Go Cocks!!!
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout FootballTuesday at 5:40 AM
SEC Recruiting NotebookNews, notes and recruiting scoop out of the SEC...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:00 AM
New Head Coaches Mid-Season ReportThere were a lot of college football head coaching changes before this season. Let's take a look at how a few have fared so far this season.
Scout's Top 25 Recruiting ClassesScout has a new top school in the recruiting rankings. Take a look at capsules for the top 25 classes in the country, including a new number one.