My takeaway(s) from the Arkansas game.
Overall I have to say that this is easily the most complete game we have played this year. In all facets of the game it was easy to find things to feel really good about. We didn't look like world beaters out there on Saturday but we don't have to look like world beaters, just playing like SEC beaters will be satisfying enough for me.
The defense is coming along fairly well I believe but there is still plenty of room to improve on that side of the ball. Still I found the effort out there yesterday to be an improvement over any time prior to yesterday. Some of the things that bothered me on that side of the ball are listed below.
All too often I see our DE's taking inside rush lanes without regard for maintaining "contain". Doing that opens us up to reverses which I did see gash us pretty badly out there yesterday. That just comes down to coaching the fundamentals of the game and drilling it into the heads of those guys.
I still see our LB's taking the wrong steps and leaving huge holes in our defense sometimes. But maybe that will become less frequent with more reps on the field for our relatively young group of backers.
I still don't understand how we can fail to generate serious pass rush pressure on QB's on a consistent basis. That's probably the biggest surprise to me this season. I thought our D line would be a force to be reckoned with in the passing game this year but that has yet to materialize thus far.
On offense I am far more optimistic based on the things I have seen thus far. Connor is the steady hand that guides this team through troubled waters whenever we seem to be struggling. He's never been a particularly flashy type of guy or one that will just jump off of the screen at you but Connor has been a very fine leader for our team and he will be difficult to replace when his time here has run out.
Our receiving corps seems to be coming along fairly well lately with Jeffery beginning to contribute, Byrd beginning to become a legit threat and so many of the other guys filling their roles so nicely. My biggest issue with the passing game is the almost total absence of our tight ends in the passing game. I mean, I think we are stacked at that position with Buster, Adams, and Drew all available and seemingly capable of making teams tremble in their boots when one of those guys get to catch a ball and begin to run with it. I hope there is a real effort going forward to get those guys more deeply involved in the passing game soon. We could even line up with all three of them on the field and just play a great game of smash mouth football while also keeping the threat of throwing it down the field to cause serious damage to the opposing teams.
Our running game is humming along like a well oiled machine and that is something that we have not seen in a while around here. I mean Marcus was always going to grind it out and put the team on his shoulders if needed but this year we have an EXPLOSIVE starting RB who is damned near perfect when we use him like we should.
And while Brandon W. is definitely a solid backup I was very impressed with Shon in the Arky. game. He didn't look hesitant at all about running to contact and then using his strength to drag opposing players for a few yards more.
And then there is the O line. I feel very comfortable saying that South Carolina has now truly created and SEC caliber O line capable of creating openings for our rb's to run through. This is the biggest surprise of the season to me. We've been lead to believe we were going to have a good O line for so many seasons only to see pretty much the same stuff season after season. But this year will be seen as the year in which Carolina actually stepped up and put a dangerous offensive line on the field capable of winning in the trenches consistently.
Provided this team does not self destruct down the stretch, I believe I am going to enjoy the second half of this season greatly. We may not be able to win out, I don't know. But I do know that we are clearly moving forward in some of the most important aspects of the game. And as long as I see us playing hard and improving I think I can live with us possibly not going to Atlanta, or maybe losing a game here and there prior to season's end.
It just seems to me that we are now coming into the timeframe in which "it's a great day to be a Gamecock" will actually be true.
Thank you to coach Spurrier and the coaching staff and thank you to all the young men who have chosen to don the Gamecock logo.