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CoverTwo 08-25-2014 01:28 PM

Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Well I am finally in the mood for football season. For what seems like the first time ever I haven't had football fever during the Summer. I'm guessing that is what the first 5 months of marriage do to you. Its also been an eventful Summer with the World Cup and 2 exciting Golf major championships. However, after watching Coach Spurrier's press conference yesterday, its finally hit me and since I don't really write too much anymore I just wanted to give me outlook for the team this year.

Offensively, as some are well aware, I don't think this year's team will resemble anything of the past 3 years. Now whether that is a good thing or bad thing, we will just have to wait and see. I think you can say that about both sides of the ball. The formula that USC has been so successful with recently, this team doesn't have the personnel to continue with. On offense, Connor Shaw's mobility and turnover margin was the lifeline to its success. Those crucial 3rd and medium range yardage conversions and being able to pick up small (or even big) chunks of yards on a broken play kept USC from playing behind the sticks. It also kept our defense on the sideline and a lot of the times those guys were fresh heading into the 4th quarter. In fact, the two games we lost, the opposing teams ran more plays than we did. That kind of stuff is what we took for granted and we will miss it this year.

The threat of him taking off force teams to play a lot of Cover 2 to keep everything in front of them. If you tried to blitz him and missed, the entire field opened up. His running ability also created a lot of opportunities for Mike Davis because Connor could manipulate the defensive end on the zone stuff. Well that is gone now. Dylan can run some of the zone plays but he isn't going to be much of a consistent threat in-between the 20's. When he has ran the football (quite well I might add) its been in the red zone. Also with the ongoing battle at backup QB, we don't have a backup plan if Dylan got hurt so we have to monitor how many times we call his number.

For the first time in a while, teams are going to be able to man up across the board against us and bring the blitz. This is troublesome because our highly thought of offensive line hasn't been the best at pass protection. For all the acclaim that Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell have received, they fall victim to the speed rush and overloads. But honestly, what OT out there these day doesn't? Defenses are just flat out fast now. Putting my garnet glasses on though, I see a unit that has 3 sure fire NFL draft picks. I see a potential for 5 if Stadnik and Waldrop continue to develop at Center and Guard respectively. I think its hard to find another line you can say that about in the SEC. Have to like the young guys behind them too and hopefully they can get some snaps against lesser competition on our schedule. If nothing else, our line has got to be able to move defensive fronts backwards and play with some attitude. I don't know whether its the scheme or just the players we have recruited in the past but sometimes I don't see that mean streak or intensity that you see from lines at LSU, Alabama, etc etc. Hopefully with this group, things will start to change a bit and flow down to the young guys in the future. That's really the one thing that has been missing and maybe it has to do with the zone stuff? Maybe getting under center more will be just what the doctor ordered? They sure looked like they figured it out against UCF.

But after the criticism, I do like a lot of things about this offense. First of all, Coach Spurrier should be more comfortable calling plays with Dylan Thompson. For all the good that Connor Shaw did, he wasn't perfect. He didn't have the best field vision and he didn't make some of the throws that Dylan is capable of. I think Dylan allows Spurrier to work sideline to sideline because of his ability to throw the deep curl, comebacks, square ins, and the back shoulder throws. This should open up the middle of the field where guys like Jerell Adams and Nick Jones can make a living. Dylan (and the offense in general) being so experienced in the system should allow Coach Spurrier to utilize his entire playbook (I don't mean trick plays either). We don't have to live in the shotgun 95% of the time anymore. Coach Spurrier mentioned that we will probably be more under center this year. I think that has to do with his concern about shotgun snaps by the center and the above. So we should see far more sprint draws and toss plays. Hopefully he and Coach Elliott have installed some more variation than just the off tackle we saw against UCF. If we can get the passing game going early, that sprint draw could be deadly with such an aggressive runner like Mike Davis. If you can get the rush up field and leave Mike with a one on one with a linebacker or safety before he breaks into the second level, that's advantage Davis almost every time.

I really like our skill positions because we have a mixture of every thing. We have our budding superstar, Shaq Roland, who can do everything. We have a stocky built slot receiver that can mix it up in the run game but also catch the football (Pharoh Cooper). We have probably our best B receiver of all time in Nick Jones who is just rock solid all around. We have arguable the best deep threat in the conference in Damiere Byrd, whom has also shown that he can not only play all 3 receiver spots but also make plays in the short, medium, and long passing game. Then fill in the gaps with the experience of Shamier Jeffery and KJ Brent who have been super in practice .. you just have to think eventually one of them is going to contribute before they leave. IMO, both of them just need one good thing to happen to set them off kind of like Moe Brown. Specifically with Shamier - we need to see one of those catches that make our DBs shake their heads in practice (he has had multiple ones).

Then you look at the running backs and tight ends. Even more diversity. Mike Davis is the star. Violent runner, breakaway speed, great hands. The guy has it all but he needs to stay somewhat healthy. Shon Carson has shown some big play ability but is mostly dependable and won't lose the game for you. He has shown some spurts in his playing time but I'd like to see the Shon Carson that is talked about in practice more. Brandon Wilds gives you the physicality. He is a 100 yard machine when given the touches. Then David Williams is the home run ball. But outside of that, all 4 guys are able to catch the football. This is going to be pivotal this year because the check down option is going to be used a lot more than it was with Connor Shaw who would just pick up the yardage himself. I would estimate that these guys should have 50-60 receivers combined this year. Have to like the experience with this group too. I don't think breakdowns in blitz pickups will happen too often.

I don't see much changing in terms of production from the Tight Ends. Its possible they see a small spike in their production but I don't see neither Adams or Anderson eclipsing 25 catches. I do, however, expect their yards per catch to go up as I expect them roaming down the seam more. I also think the addition of Cody Gibson as the blocking tight end to pair up with Rory when we want to hammer away at defenses late in the game will be a welcomed sight.

Defensively, our bread and butter has been the pass rush. It has allowed us to drop a bunch of guys in coverage and force the QB to make the correct read or make a tough throw. We've been spoiled by that to say the least and its no secret how talented our defensive ends have been. However this year looks like we will finally show a chink in the armor barring someone(s) stepping up and out performing expectations. We got away with an inexperienced secondary 2 years ago when Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree were breaking in as new starters but that team had a tremendous pass rush spearheaded by Jadeveon Clowney and crew. This year, not only do we have a young secondary, but we are with an inexperience and possibly less talented at the defensive end positions. That just doesn't appear to be a winning formula, I would gladly trade having inexperienced corners but a veteran superior talented DE(s) or a veteran superior talented CB(s) and inexperienced DE(s) over what we have now.

I think the 3 man fronts will work eventually. We are loaded up with Defensive Tackles and hybrid DE/DT, DE/LB type players. But we are going to have to blitz and opening the field up with inexperienced corners is a big, big risk. I just think this unit is going to be out of their element for a while. I pray that the freshmen (Wes Green, Chris Lammons, and Al Harris) can tackle in open space. If I am a offensive coordinator, I'm throwing a crap ton of quick screens to see what they are made of. I also worry about those guys hitting a wall at some point this season. Harris could really use another year in the weight room, Lammons was a high school QB that is learning on the job and probably another year away, and Wes Green probably could use one more year too. But these are the cards we were dealt and Coach Ward / Coach Brown are going to have to make it work. I think ideally, we would like to see Rico McWilliams comes into his own and lock down one corner spot. I'm not really worried about Brison Williams playing corner. He is a veteran and has slimmed down. He'll be fine. Really like what we have at Safety with Elder, Moody, Gurley, and Marcus. Elder has a chance to be a superstar and the other 3 should be rock solid. Can't wait to see Chris Moody in his first legitimate action. It appears like the light bulb has popped on for him. I really was high on him coming out of high school.

Linebackers should be fantastic overall. I'm curious to see how much the rotation changes between now and the end of the year. All of these guys deserve to play and I'm guessing the depth chart will be a revolving door until (hopefully) players can start locking down the jobs. Looking at the 2 deep at all of those spots, you could argue a case for all of them need to play:

MIKE - Holloman / Lewis / Roberts
WILL - Moore / Walton
SPUR - Golightly / Diggs
BOB - Allen Williams / Bryant

I think the SPUR and BOB battles could be flip flopping every week. I don't foresee Walton moving to MIKE yet because of the experience there but we have to find ways to get him and Moore on the field at the same time. Someway, somehow.

Finally, the defensive line. A lot of people know my feelings about it. I don't see them changing unless Darius English is a manammal off the edge (can he play against the run at his new weight?). I think the best we can hope from him is between 8 and 10 sacks which should put him in all-conference discussion. I think Gerald Dixon is going to be rock solid. Not going to do anything flashy but he will play his assignment and won't get you beat. I love watching that guy play football. I also think David Johnson is going to have his moments. Undersized but can get after the QB. But other than that, I just don't know what we're going to have because honestly, there isn't much there. The defensive tackles are going to be phenomenal IMO. Dixon, Jr. and Surratt are just as solid as Dixon but the real playmaking ability is behind them with Lamin, Griffin, and Green. All explosive players that could provide game changing moments. Deon Green could be the surprise of the year if he gets some reps at DE. He has had such a good Fall camp from what I understand that one would think we have to get him out there to rush the passer. Hoping for a breakout season from Phillip Dukes as well. Now in his 4th year, its time for him to start coming on.

Now I've gotten a lot of questions about my attitude lately and why I have been a little more negative than in season's past. I think the best explanation I can give you is that I am quietly optimistic about this year's team. I guess its a creature of habit thing. We have been so successful lately doing one thing and now it appears we have to adapt to a new philosophy and that gets me worried. Its weird though because I've always been a proponent of us needing to open up the offense more. But I reckon I've gotten use to the way we have been playing. Sometimes its just hard for me to fathom that a team that has been an opportunistic ball control offense and a rush 4 + drop 7 defense is going to open it up offensively and use 3 man fronts w/ blitzing from the second level and keep the train going. But this is why Coach Spurrier and his staff are making the big money. If there is anyone that can make it work, its those guys. I'll be anxiously watching and cheering loudly just like the rest of you guys.

Here is to beating aTm on Thursday!

Legalman72 08-25-2014 02:17 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
A fantastic post. Great reading! Better than any football mag. Not that it matters, but I agree with almost everything you said.

Acockolypse Now 08-25-2014 02:37 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Nicely done, sums up my thoughts almost exactly.

Gamecockman12 08-25-2014 03:03 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Good stuff.

yazoo 08-25-2014 03:11 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
One of the more intriguing aspects of our game on Thursday is how we use the BOB. Cooper is in the mix at BOB along with BAW and Bryant.

I think it will be difficult for A&M in game 1 because they have little information about how Ward will employ these personnel. They don't even have good information on the personnel!

I'm also looking forward to watching English.

Coondog 08-25-2014 03:37 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
I'm not as concerned about the d-line as I am about the CB's. Unlike the corners our entire d-line has a good bit of experience. The Dixon brothers are solid and Gerald at DE played well last year. English has the potential to have a great season. He also played well when Clowney wasn't in and now with the added weight and from what I've read he hasn't lost a step in speed he should be the dark horse of the group. The LB core is stacked and should take a lot of pressure off the line against the run unlike last year where there youth killed us early on. I see the corners being a lot like the LB's last year where they will get burned early but by mid season should be really coming around and playing well, hopefully they won't give up too many big plays. I believe this is a huge part of Ward going to the 3-4 against spread teams giving the corners some help covering the middle of the field and disguising blitz packages.

The offense I think will be much like the ones Spurrier had at Florida. As great as Connor was he really didn't see the field all that well but made up for it with his feet. Dylan has a lot better vision of the field and scrambles a lot better than people give him credit for. Everything I've read says Dylan has really worked on his consistency and mid range throws and check downs. As hard as he and Connor worked last off season he has put in even more work this year. Spurrier has a ton of offensive weapons this year and I see him putting up big numbers like he did at Florida.

Anyway C2 that was a great write up and I can't really argue one single point you made. Thanks as always and I really appreciate your input going into the season.

CockFighter 08-25-2014 03:38 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Good post and I sure it will be a great game.

Regalcock 08-25-2014 04:36 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Nice job C2!

I agree with everything. I hope we get a surprise or two rushing the passer this year. I was hoping in the offseason that Washington was going to be that surprise but alas, he is hurt again.

The corners are going to get tested against A&M early and often on the screens. Hope they make some plays.

COCKYWOOD 08-25-2014 05:08 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
:woo::woo::woo: Hydrate. Pickle juice. It's going to be hot. We have to have overall better starting position offensively this year and less fumbles. I feel with the offensive philosophy being get rid of it quick our defense will be fine not bull rushing, but quicker to adjust . I think fast pace offense is going to demand a quicker paced defense. That's why the 3-4 is becoming more popular. :wink::wink::wink:

The Octopus 08-25-2014 08:49 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
With changes of Offensive & Defensive strategy, I'm hoping that Special Teams will have a big & consistent presence for us. You didn't seem to elaborate on the ST much. But from reading Spurt's practice reports, I'm hoping that our Punting game will at least be reliable. Could come in real damn handy when/if Spurrier tries to get a little too cute & then gets quickly frustrated with the offense, when things aren't executed perfectly, or if Ward needs a few possessions to adjust to something in-game with his Defense.

PageUSC 08-25-2014 09:05 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Regalcock (Post 4235660)
Nice job C2!

I agree with everything. I hope we get a surprise or two rushing the passer this year. I was hoping in the offseason that Washington was going to be that surprise but alas, he is hurt again.

The corners are going to get tested against A&M early and often on the screens. Hope they make some plays.

English and David Johnson will supply the pass rush

kingofnerf 08-25-2014 10:17 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
This year's team will have more balance to it. Good players, but no NFL draftee distractions, which is the way the 1984 team was if you stop to think about it. Nothing fancy. They just got it done when they needed to, things fell their way, and they were in the hunt for #1 before we knew it.

Having said that, I hope we are over-exposed on TV this season because we beat everyone we play and a fair amount of people get jealous about that.

Here's to being hated just like HBC's Gator teams were not so long ago because they were so consistently good.

There, I said it. :cigar:

Order 66 08-25-2014 10:50 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Great post from one of our most knowledgeable posters. A lot of reality checks in there.

eightohhthree 08-25-2014 11:04 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Best write up I've read this year.

cockybusiness2 08-25-2014 11:07 PM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Great post, C2... I am wondering if the plan is not to just out score them until the Secondary can grow into their roles, like the linebackers did last year.

I know I once asked you about your negativity this year. But you have a lot more insight than I do. Maybe, I just need to take off my garnet glasses.

Anyway, just to let you know, I do appreciate your posts and input.

jellafever 08-26-2014 08:09 AM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
tl;dr

LegalCock 08-26-2014 08:39 AM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
It would be interesting to see three of the beefy but get up field/require double team type DTs out there in the 3-4. I am confident ward and brown will get the back end settled but there will probably be some rough edges early in the season. I'm less confident about the front end just because deke is unproven in that respect here at Carolina, but I have a lot of confidence in ward to get it figured out.

crowcutta 08-26-2014 09:03 AM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
excellent read, the margin of error for this team probably wont be as high without shaw and clowney. what we need to do to counteract that is be better on special teams (field position) and more consistent. having cooper on returns should help, though i want to see someone emerge as viable alternative. we've got the athletes so theres no excuse for coverage to be subpar.

on offense last year i thought we were very good, even great at times but we werent as consistent as i would have liked. out of first 10 games last year only 3 times did we score double figures in both halves. while it wasnt always pretty vs clemson we had 3 straight games with multiple td's in both halves to close out the season.
our offense and defense were too often starting with their backs against the wall because of field position, if we can somehow get at least to the point where we're average its a giant step up and should help with the consistency of both units.

along with the consistency im not sure we can afford to fall behind like we did at times last year. we fell behind 14 at georgia, 10 at ucf, 10 at tennessee, 17 at missouri, 8 vs florida. the positive is that in each one of those games we were able to wipe away the deficit and at least tie the game, but ended up losing two.

yazoo 08-26-2014 09:17 AM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by crowcutta (Post 4236191)
excellent read, the margin of error for this team probably wont be as high without shaw and clowney. what we need to do to counteract that is be better on special teams (field position) and more consistent. having cooper on returns should help, though i want to see someone emerge as viable alternative. we've got the athletes so theres no excuse for coverage to be subpar.

on offense last year i thought we were very good, even great at times but we werent as consistent as i would have liked. out of first 10 games last year only 3 times did we score double figures in both halves. while it wasnt always pretty vs clemson we had 3 straight games with multiple td's in both halves to close out the season.
our offense and defense were too often starting with their backs against the wall because of field position, if we can somehow get at least to the point where we're average its a giant step up and should help with the consistency of both units.

along with the consistency im not sure we can afford to fall behind like we did at times last year. we fell behind 14 at georgia, 10 at ucf, 10 at tennessee, 17 at missouri, 8 vs florida. the positive is that in each one of those games we were able to wipe away the deficit and at least tie the game, but ended up losing two.

SEC Media Days posted a graphic that shows we were one of the worst in the country for starting field position and field position given up. Considering our record last year, that is pretty surprising. Maybe if we improve in that area of ST, we can make up some for the loss of Connor's 3d down scrambles.

Tony 08-26-2014 11:06 AM

Re: Some thoughts about our team heading into the season
 
Agree Special Teams need to pick it up, but I would like to see the defense put some points on the board. I don't think the D scored last year at all.


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