Scouting Report: South Carolina

The South Carolina Gamecocks venture to Nashville as Vanderbilt's homecoming opponent this Saturday afternoon. USC has a 4-2 record overall and 2-2 record in the Southeastern Conference. After a season opening shutout win over Mississippi State by a score of 15-0, The Gamecocks were shut out at home 18-0 to Georgia. At that point, Carolina coach Steve Spurrier moved . . .

former quarterback and then wide receiver Syvelle Newton back to quarterback following the one-game suspension of starting signal caller Blake Mitchell; Newton has started at QB every game since.  USC barely edged I-AA Wofford 27-20, and then they slaughtered I-A weak sister Florida Atlantic 45-6.  In a Thursday night nationally televised game against Auburn, Spurrier's troops came up short at the end, losing 24-17.  Auburn's offense had the ball for every play of the third quarter.  Two weeks ago, Carolina ventured to Lexington, Kentucky, and edged the Wildcats 24-17.

 

Spurrier has never lost to the Commodores.  In 13 previous meetings, his Duke teams beat Vandy twice, his Florida teams did it 10 times, and he won last year as coach of South Carolina.  As a player at Florida in 1966, he guided the Gators to a 13-0 win.

 

Offense

 

 

South Carolina is not an offensive powerhouse this season.  This unit does not remind anybody of Spurrier's great teams at Florida.  However, the offense is doing what it needs to do for the Gamecocks to succeed.  Time-consuming drives that keep a defense off the field can make an above-average defense play like a dominating defense.  In the games USC has won, they have run an average of nine more plays than their opposition.  Let's take a look at some of their statistics. 

 

Scoring:  21.3 points per game ranks 10th in the SEC and 81st of 119 in Division I-A

 

Rushing Average: 130.0 yards per game (4.0 avg) ranks 9th in the SEC, 68th in Division I-A

 

Passing Average: 222.3 yards per game ranks 6th in the SEC, 44th in Division I-A.  The Gamecocks are completing 61.0% of their passes and averaging 7.8 yards per pass attempt.

 

Passing Efficiency: 138.81 ranks 5th in the SEC and 38th in Division I-A

 

Total Yardage: 352.3 yards per game ranks 6th in the SEC and 58th in Division I-A

 

QB Sacks allowed: 17 sacks in 6 games ranks 9th in the SEC and 95th in Division I-A

 

Turnover Margin: +1 in 6 games ranks 5th in the SEC and 51st in Division I-A

 

 

Breakdown by Position

 

Wide Receiver

 

What more can you say about Sidney Rice (6-4, 202 So.)?  He is the best wide out in the Southeastern Conference and one of the 10 best in the nation.  He's just a sophomore and probably the best underclassman receiver in Division I-A, ranking ahead of Michigan's injured receiver Mario Manningham.  To date, Rice has grabbed 26 passes for 419 yards (16.1 avg) and five touchdowns.   He's played in 17 games in his collegiate career, and in eight of those games, he's finished with triple digit receiving yardage.  He was the difference in this game last year, when he caught eight passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns.

 

If Vanderbilt tries to use all their resources to stop or slow Rice, then Kenny McKinley (5-11, 174 So.) will make them pay.  McKinley has 20 receptions for 347 yards (17.4 avg).  Against Auburn with the Tigers concentrating on Rice, McKinley caught eight balls for 110 yards.  He took one for 44 yards against Kentucky.  He can go deep and get open, giving the Gamecocks quite a one-two vertical-stretching punch.

 

The Gamecocks are thin at this position after the two starters; backups Moe Brown and Chris Hall have combined for just 11 passes and 86 yards.  When Newton moved from receiver to quarterback, he had caught 10 passes in the first two games.

 

Tight End

 

Robert Pavlovic (6-4, 242 Jr.) has caught one pass and David Laggis (6-5, 254 Jr.) has yet to catch one this year.  Obviously, this is a blocking and not a pass catching position.  Andy Boyd was supposed to start at this position, but a shoulder injury has kept him on the sidelines for most of the season.

 

Offensive Line

 

This group was a weak spot at the beginning of the season, but it has improved since then.  Center Chris White (6-3, 319 Sr.) is the leader of the unit.  A Remington Award candidate, he has started 34 games in his college career. 

 

Guards Thomas Coleman (6-3, 316 Sr.) and Garrett Anderson (6-5, 293 True Fr.) are better pass blockers than run blockers with little experience but much promise.  Coleman was a walk-on who earned a scholarship earlier this year.  He was named the most improved offensive lineman last season.

 

Tackles Hutch Eckerson (6-6, 286 True Fr.) and Jamon Meredith (6-4, 286 So.) are tall and lanky but not overly strong.  They don't measure up to some of the excellent tackles Vandy has faced this season.  Meredith is a highly intelligent player.

 

Unlike Vanderbilt, South Carolina has little experienced depth in the offensive line.  If any of the starting five leave the game after suffering an injury, the replacement will be considerably less talented.

 

Quarterback

 

Syvelle Newton (6-0, 210 Sr.) was moved from quarterback to receiver when Spurrier took the South Carolina job.  Two games into this season, Newton not only was back at quarterback, he was the starter for game number three.  Since becoming the starter, he's played exemplary ball.  In four games, Newton has completed 63.5% of his passes for eight touchdowns against just three interceptions.  He's proven to be quite adept at going deep to Rice and McKinley.

 

Newton is a threat to take off and run with the ball, much like Vandy's Chris Nickson.  Obviously, being a former wide receiver, Newton can be used as another receiving option on halfback passes.  Think of him as a Chris Nickson with three more seasons of experience.

 

Fullback

 

Lanard Stafford (5-9, 240 Jr.) has started four times this year and has yet to receive a handoff for a running play.  He hasn't been asked to catch a pass either.    Likewise, backup Brian Kingery (6-1, 237 Jr.) has not rushed or caught a pass this season.  Stafford is a converted offensive lineman and is used strictly as a blocking back.  Kingery used to be a linebacker, and he too is used just as a blocker.  Stafford is better at leading interference, while Kingery is the better pass protector.

 

Tailback

 

Cory Boyd (6-1, 201 Jr.) picked up his first 100-yard rushing game against Kentucky.  He shares the tailback duties with former regular Mike Davis (5-9, 207 So.).  Third teamer Taylor Rank (6-0, 206 RS Fr.) gives the Gamecocks excellent depth.

 

Boyd combines power and speed and possesses an excellent pair of hands coming out of the backfield on passing plays.  He leads the Gamecocks with 325 yards rushing (5.2 avg) and four touchdowns.  He's also caught 17 passes for 196 yards and another score.

 

Davis started the season slowly, rushing for just 36 yards against Mississippi State, Georgia, and Wofford.  Since then, he has rushed for 129 yards against FAU, Auburn, and Kentucky.  He's not as good as Boyd on passing plays.

 

Rank saw action against FAU and responded with 101 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 44-yard romp.

 

Defense

 

The Gamecocks are winning ball games thanks to an aggressive, hard-hitting defense.  They gave up 24 points to Auburn and 18 points to Georgia in their two losses.  In their four wins, they have yielded 43 points (10.8 per game).

 

Here is a look at USC's defensive statistics for the season:

 

Scoring Defense: 14.2 points per game allowed ranks 4th in the SEC and 18th in Division I-A

 

Vs. The Run: 149.0 yards allowed per game (3.9 avg) ranks 10th in the SEC and 82nd in Division I-A

 

Vs. The Pass: 152.0 yards allowed per game ranks 3rd in the SEC and 13th in Division I-A.  The Gamecocks allow just 47.0% of enemy passes to be completed and allow 6.9 yards per pass attempt.  They have intercepted 5.3% of enemy passes.

 

Quarterback Sacks: Carolina has recorded 15 sacks in six games which ranks 5th in the SEC and 26th overall.

 

Opp. Passing Efficiency: 100.40 ranks 3rd in the SEC and 18th in Division I-A

 

Opp. Total Offense: 301.0 yards ranks 8th in the SEC and 39th in Division I-A

 

Tackles For Loss: South Carolina has recorded 38 TFLs this season which ranks 6th in the SEC and 33rd in Division I-A

 

Turnover Margin: -.17 per game ranks 5th in the SEC and 51st in Division I-A

 

Defensive Line

 

Nose Tackle Stanley Doughty (6-0, 331 Jr.) is a bit slow when having to pursue laterally, but if you run directly at him, he's going to win the battle almost every time.  He stops the run when teams are foolish enough to challenge him, but he's virtually no threat on passing plays.  He doesn't pressure quarterbacks.  Backup Joel Reaves (6-1, 271 Jr.) is a much better pass rusher than Doughty but he can be moved out of position on running plays, especially draws.

 

Tackle Nathan Pepper (6-1, 285 So.) is the rock of the defensive line.  He is a consistent force against both the run and pass.  Pepper has registered 15 stops with three for losses, and he has a sack.

 

The anchor positions are manned by a couple of new starters this year.  Ends Casper Brinkley (6-3, 250 Jr.) and Ryan Brown (6-0, 258 Jr.) have combined for 33 tackles, 6.5 going for losses.  Both are better run stoppers than pass rushers.  They are more than adequate forcing running backs to the inside where the linebackers can become heroes.

 

Backup end Eric Norwood (6-2, 258 True Fr.) is a designated pass rusher.  He leads the Gamecocks with four sacks and three QB hurries.

 

Linebackers

 

Most teams that run a 4-3 defense want their middle linebacker to be the star.  South Carolina is no different in this respect.  Jasper Brinkley (6-2, 250 Jr.) [twin brother of Casper] leads the Gamecocks with 44 tackles, with 3.5 for losses and 1.5 sacks.  In pass coverage, he's knocked away two balls.  Backup middle linebacker Curtis Rice (6-1, 242 Jr.) is more mobile but lacks the strength of Brinkley.  He is a better pass defender than run stopper.  Rice has one of Carolina's seven interceptions.

 

Outside linebackers Rodney Paulk (6-0, 212 True Fr.) and Cody Wells (5-11, 212 Jr.) are not as talented as Brinkley, but they have speed and can pursue better than the average linebacker.  Backup Marvin Sapp (5-11, 215 So.) is actually the team's second leading tackler with 30.  He has 2.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback sack. 

 

Secondary

 

South Carolina wasn't supposed to have an overly talented secondary, but this unit has proven to be a pleasant surprise for Coach Spurrier.  It all starts with All-SEC cornerback Fred Bennett (6-1, 198 Sr.).  He is one of the top 10 cover corners in the nation.  His size allows him to get his hands on many passes, and he leads the Gamecocks with six passes broken up to go with two interceptions.

 

Carlos Thomas (5-10, 179 So.) is the weakest link in the secondary, but he isn't a weak player.  His strong point is coming hard on the corner blitz, and Vanderbilt will have to keep an eye on him ruining running plays.  If Marlon White or Sean Walker and Earl Bennett line up wide and go deep with someone keeping the safeties occupied in the deep middle, Nickson is going to find a Commodore receiver open 30 yards or more downfield in this game.  A long pass off play-action could sucker Thomas just enough to pick up a quick six.

 

Rover Chris Hampton (5-11, 184 Jr.) began the season with interceptions against Mississippi State and Georgia.  He also has two broken up passes.  The Memphis Melrose High School graduate is highly intelligent and has been called "another coach on the field."  Hampton is third on the team with 19 tackles.

 

Free safety Stoney Woodson (5-11, 190 So.) has two interceptions, one coming against Kentucky.  A former cornerback, he is a force on the safety blitz.

 

 

Special Teams

 

South Carolina has the best punting team in the SEC and the second best overall nationally.  Punter Ryan Succop (6-3, 215 So.) averages 45.1 yards per punt, and the Gamecocks have a net punting average of 42.2 yards!  Some of this inflated average might be attributable to weather.  USC's opponents have averaged almost 44 yards per punt.

 

Succop is an exceptional place kicker as well.  He has connected on all 13 point after tries this year and is 8 of 9 with field goal attempts.  His only miss came on a 51-yarder, and he's 4 of 4 from 40 to 49 yards.  His kickoffs frequently make it to the end zone.

 

The rest of the USC special teams are average or slightly better than average.  Wide receiver McKinley returns punts.  He gets about 5-10 yards when he doesn't call for a fair catch, and his long this year is just 13 yards.  Cornerback Thomas is the chief kick returner.  He's averaged 23.8 yards per return with a long of 51 this season, and he took a kick back for 79 yards last year against Troy.

 

Carolina's kickoff coverage is above average but not on par with Vanderbilt.  They have stopped some teams inside the 20–yard line, but they have given up an equal amount of 20+ yard returns.

 

Summary

 

This looks like another Arkansas game in the making.  South Carolina is a little more talented than Vanderbilt overall, but any home field advantage (somewhat reliant on an excellent homecoming turnout) will neutralize that advantage.  The key to beating South Carolina is to control the ball and overpower them with the run.  Tiny Wofford almost pulled off the upset by doing just that, while Georgia and Auburn followed the same blueprint.  21 points is the magic number.  If Vandy can score three touchdowns plus anything else, they should win the game.  Anything in the teens or lower will probably end in a tearful homecoming for the coeds.

 

Defensively, the pass rush has got to be on this week.  Newton cannot be allowed to get in a rhythm, but at the same time, when Vandy rushes hard, someone has got to stay back and mirror Newton to keep him from breaking loose.  Jonathan Goff should be that man.

 

For an in-depth comparison of the teams and prediction of the outcome, check back Friday morning.

 

For Comparison Purposes, here's how Vandy ranks in the offensive and defensive statistical categories.  The first number in parentheses represents SEC rank and the second number represents D1A rank.

 

Scoring Offense: 21.6 ppg (9 & 79)

Rushing Offense: 150.0 yds per game (5 & 52) and 4.7 avg (5.1 w/out sacks)

Passing Offense: 166.7 yds per game (10 & 94)

                              55.6% completions and 6.6 yards per attempt

Passing Efficiency: 121.4 (9 & 69)

QB Sacks Allowed: 9 in 6 games (4 & 30)

Total Offense: 316.7 yds per game (9 & 83)

Turnover Margin: -0.14 (7 & 67)

Scoring Defense: 17.6 ppg (6 & 33)

Rushing Defense: 146.7 yds per game (9 & 79) and 3.7 yards allowed per rush

Passing Defense: 166.1 yds per game (7 & 24)

                               Allows 57.7% completions and 7.8 yards per attempt

Passing Efficiency Defense: 132.5 (9 & 78)

QB Sacks: 13 in 7 games (9 & 66)

Total Defense: 312.9 (9 & 46)

TFL: 39 in seven games


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