Versatile Offense Awaits Wisconsin's Defense

Having a month to study and prepare for South Carolina, Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda sees a Gamecocks' offense that has many different looks yet simple concepts.

ORLANDO, Fla.- Dave Aranda knew he had his homework cut out for him.

Not only did Wisconsin's defensive coordinator need to pinpoint why his defense gave up 465 yards of offense in an uncharacteristic performance against Penn State, the Badgers needing to prepare for a South Carolina offense averaging 435.5 yards per game.

With a month to prepare for Wednesday's Capital One Bowl against the Gamecocks, Aranda has been pleased with how the defense has been practicing during their bowl preparation.

"On defense, the practices have gone very well," Aranda said Monday. "The first 10 days or so has been more or less a spring ball or fall camp and it was good to see our young guys compete and get our older guys all healed up and ready to roll. These last couple weeks have been very productive in getting the correct looks we need versus South Carolina. They're very multiple on offense so we've tried to build get all of our looks to our defense and I think it's going well."

While watching game film of the Gamecocks, senior linebacker Chris Borland sees certain elements of every team the Badgers have faced this year, but he likens them the most to Ohio State and Brigham Young due to the fact that both are run-first teams with a dual-threat quarterbacks.

"I think we've stopped the run," Borland said. "We've done a great job of that all year. Our front seven is the strength of our defense and that's going to be important against South Carolina. They like to be physical and run the ball, and that's usually the most important thing in a game is stopping the other team from running the ball."

South Carolina brings a versatile offense that Aranda says can go into different formations on offense – wildcat, spread, power, empty set, etc. - to find what works, and then stick with that while the defense races to adjust. With that amount of flux, Aranda credits starting quarterback Connor Shaw as the team's difference maker.

"The thing that's striking about the offense is the quarterback," Aranda said of Shaw, who has thrown for 2,135 yards and only one interception this season. "He runs it, he is the heartbeat of it, and he's the guy that we're going to have to try and stop."

With the athletes the Gamecocks have on offense, the Badgers will rely on two of their better athletes in the secondary in Sojourn Shelton and former Gamecocks quarterback Tanner McEvoy to try and slow down the passing attack.

With McEvoy injuring his wrist during fall camp it prevented him from winning the quarterback battle, McEvoy was willing to make the switch to safety, which has benefitted both parties.

"I know that early on in camp, just seeing his athleticism and seeing him move … we sure could use him on defense," Aranda said. "He was able to make the transition over to defense and we're thankful that he did because it didn't take very long for him to be in the starting spot. As the season has gone on, he's woven himself more and more into the defense. So he's playing man to man, he's quarter run support, he's blitzing, he's playing the post and he's doing it all. So it's been a credit to him, a credit to our coaches in the secondary."

A 31-day layoff from the Penn State game has allowed Aranda to reach out to people that he knows to get tips about how to try and slow down the Gamecocks offense. Aranda learned that it's the simple concepts that they run and they have the ability to just run it better than you can defend it.

"I think there's times where you will know something's coming but you still have to stop it," Aranda said. "The other thing that comes to mind is the gadgets and the unpredictable plays. I think he (South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier) does a great job of mixing things in kind of lulling you in your sleep and hitting you with a double pass or hitting you with a reverse or hitting you with a reformation, seeing if you're going to leave that single receiver in the field manned up or doubled and all those things. It's a challenge and that's been echoed from other coaches throughout."


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