Frisby's Corner: Week Ten
I will deviate from my normal prose this week to bring you my "STATE OF THE GAMECOCK PROGRAM," as I see it at this juncture of the season. It seems like a great opportunity to reflect, exhale, and evaluate the Carolina Football Program:
STATE OF THE PROGRAM
Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Denny Green might as well have been talking about our Gamecocks when he fixed his mouth and said, "They are who we thought they were." And whom we thought this Carolina team was turns out to be not that bad at all.
Coach Spurrier said that he was in the business of building a premier Division I football program here at South Carolina. He asked the Carolina faithful for their support and patience. He asked his players to approach games with the belief that they were the superior team and not only could, but should win every game they played. I think Coach is well on his way to realizing his objectives.
I believe that this current edition of the Gamecocks is right where they're supposed to be. The problem may be that the Gamecock Nation set their collective expectations too high based on the premature success of my 2005 team. We were an aberration in Coach Spurrier's rebuilding plan. We turned out to be better then advertised. We were hungry and we bought into Coach Spurrier's team philosophy and playbook. We set a school record for consecutive SEC wins and beat Tennessee and Florida. We actually walked before we crawled. So if you want to place the blame for overblown expectations on anyone, place them on us. Don't blame these current Gamecocks who have played their hearts out this year. Is there work to be done? Absolutely! So let me address where thw team now stands at each position, and what we can expect as we close the year out:
Something is amiss in relation to the Cory Boyd situation. We are not getting the full story. I refuse to believe that Cory's reduced playing time is a result of missing a few practices because of the flu. Hopefully we can get Cory back into his starting role versus MTSU and have it carry over to the Clemson game.
Mike Davis is beginning his late season emergence once again. Mike, for the second straight season, has begun to come on strong down the stretch. Let's hope we can bottle his late season heroics and have him sip from that bottle during his remaining eligibility.
I would like to see Taylor Rank get a few carries during the remaining two games as well. Why? Taylor is a quality running back and a great teammate. When he was given his opportunity this season, he made the most of it. Give the kid a chance.
If Brian Maddox is as good as advertised, thr Gamecocks should have another great addition to the running back stable next season.
How Sidney got his groove back... Sidney Rice seems to have found his groove with the return of Blake Mitchell to quarterback. However, Sidney is not the only receiver who has benefited from Blake's return. Kenny McKinley is becoming a star in his own right, and we are starting to see the emergence of Freddie Brown and Mike West as viable options in the receiving rotation as well.
Noah Whiteside has never fully regained his previous form after the severe ankle injury last year. O.J. Murdock remains in the doghouse and will probably not be used for the remainder of the season.
We are hoping that 5-star athlete Mark Barnes (Richland Northeast) will make a great addition to the corps of receivers in 2007.
At least we seem to be getting some quality blocking from the tight end duo of Pavlovic and Boyd. Andy actually came up with his first reception of the year on a broken play in the Florida game. Hey, we'll take them any way we can get them from the TE's. I thought we would try to incorporate them more into the offense with Blake back, but nothing has materialized.
There is not a quarterback in the country playing better then Blake Mitchell at this time (Sorry, Troy Smith and Brady Quinn.) Obviously Blake is in a comfort zone when operating in the Spurrier Offense. If Blake was given time by the offensive line earlier in the season, we may be talking Heisman and Mitchell in the same breath. Blake systematically picked apart Florida's vaunted defense on Saturday.
I sincerely hope that there is no QB controversy going into next season. If anyone calls for anyone but Blake, let's slap him or her before they open their mouths. I don't want to even hear the name Smelley until 2008.
I do think that we must get Syvelle Newton some touches on offense. Syvelle is a playmaker, and besides Sidney Rice, maybe the Gamecocks only other game breaker. Coach must devise something in the offense to take advantage of Syvelle's abilities. I think just putting Syvelle in at QB for a few plays disrupts the defense.
John Hunt has this offensive line playing to the best of its limited potential. The line has survived personnel changes, additions, deletions, and swaps throughout the season. The O-Line has show perseverance and a willingness to be critiqued to develop into a viable unit. They will only get better from this point. perseverance Unlike the defense, this offensive line has learned from its mistakes. I think that Syvelle Newton's time at QB bought this line time to mature and learn how to block. This is another reason to thank Syvelle for his sacrifices.
I don't know what to say about our defense! I can say, however, that most of the defensive woes have been self-inflicted. We don't seem to make adjustments from game to game very well. The defense is getting beat with the same looks and formations week after week.
One of our biggest problems is our corners giving up entirely too much cushion on normal routes, and more importantly, on third and long. To compound the situation, we use bad tackling technique and take poor angles on our opponents. Our opponents do an excellent job of exposing the defensive weakness during the contest and attacking it until, or if we decide to react. Florida utilized the underneath crossing route for crucial yardage throughout the game. You would think we would start having a linebacker take a shorter drop to cover underneath after a few Gator successes?
Somebody seems to have told our secondary that it is more important to go for an interception than bat or slap down the ball. Unfortunately, this advice has led to three cheap scores and the margin of victory in the last three conference games against highly ranked opponents. Hopefully we have seen the last of that!
It may be time for Coach Spurrier to get more involved in what is happening on the defensive side of the ball. Coach should take this MTSU week to take a long look at the defense.
Three blocked kicks and nobody's to blame? Something went wrong. Let's get it fixed as soon as possible. Blocked kicks result from one of two things: low trajectory of the kick or poor blocking from the line. I don't care that Moss was 6 foot 6, tell me how many blocked kicks he has this year?
I'm going to leave Clemson alone this week. I'll have something special for them in next week's column prior to the Carolina game. Besides, they have enough of their own troubles right now. If North Carolina State was not so inept on offense, we would be talking about another Tiger loss instead of an extremely close win against an Atlantic Division cellar dweller.
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