Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missouri Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks: Connor Shaw to Start against ... - Garnet And Black Attack

AUBURN AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Backup quarterback Connor Shaw #14 of the South Carolina Gamecocks walks off the field after throwing an interception to the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After a few days of intense speculations among Carolina fans, Steve Spurrier has announced that Connor Shaw is going to start in this weekend's key contest against Missouri instead of Dylan Thompson. While some fans seem most comfortable with Shaw, most of us are probably questioning this decision. Let's take a close look at things and see if we can decide what the best plan of action really is.

Pros of Starting Shaw

--The main benefit of starting Shaw is that he's a proven winner in the SEC. Going back to last season, the only SEC contest Shaw has lost came against a top 10 Arkansas team. (It feels like so long ago when we could call Arkansas that. I guess it was only two weeks ago, though.) Shaw also played extremely well in key games against Clemson and Nebraska. I don't think that there's any question that the coaching staff has thought that Shaw--or, at least, a healthy Shaw--is a significantly better option at QB than Thompson. The staff has a lot of confidence that Shaw--again, healthy Shaw--should be our guy and that he gives us the best chance to win football games. And there's always the possibility that Shaw isn't as limited as some of us think he is. For one thing, he seemed to be settling into a rhythm late in first half against UAB. Moreover, Spurrier has said that they didn't really have to take him out of the game, but that they felt like they should because we were setting up to have a nice second-half lead by the time he got hit. Keep your fingers crossed, folks.

--Even granting that Shaw may be limited right now, it's almost certainly worth stepping back from the Thompson-ade until Thompson has proven that he can play at a high level against a talented SEC opponent. Thompson has looked good throwing the long ball against subpar competition, but that's about all we really know about him right now. Well, there is one other thing we know about him: He's a very rhythmic, sink-or-swim QB. Against Vandy, he couldn't buy a completion. Early on against UAB, he had the same problem. In fact, he was lucky he didn't get yanked from the contest, because he threw a couple of passes that should have been interceptions, and Spurrier had Seth Strickland warming up at that point. Fortunately for Thompson, he completed a nice pass to Bruce Ellington after those early mistakes, and the rest is history. But I'm concerned about what could happen if, particularly when he has his first experience of pressure from an SEC defensive lineman, Thompson begins making mistakes and gets shellshocked. That seems like a real possibility with him, and, due to turnovers, we could find ourselves in a deep hole really quickly if it happens. With Shaw, on the other hand, we can probably expect a largely mistake-free performance, even if it's not the juggernaut performance we're hoping for. That would allow our defense to win games for us, or at least we could hope.

--If Shaw is healthy enough to run, he's what we need to jump start our running game. The personnel we have on this team, including our star tailback, is designed to be most effective while running the zone-read. Shaw presents a running threat from that look that will open up the rest of that aspect of the offense. If we can get this part of our offense going, we'll be very dangerous, as a good running game is always a hot commodity in the SEC. That said, this is all assuming that Shaw feels up to running the ball frequently. Spurrier says that Shaw is, and although Shaw didn't look like it against UAB, that may have just been because the staff didn't want to risk Shaw's health in a game of little consequence. We'll see, though.

Cons to Starting Shaw

The principal con here is that just about everything positive that you can say about Shaw relies on the assumption that he's healthy, and that seems unlikely. An unhealthy Shaw has less zip on his throws, is hesitant and doesn't trust his arm, and is afraid to put himself in harms way as a runner. He's a shell of his former self. We can hope the staff is playing coy and that Shaw is in better shape than they're leading on, but so far, that doesn't appear to be the case. Even going back to before he hurt his shoulder blade, he hasn't looked comfortable yet this year. Moreover, while I'm not sure that Thompson is a better option than a hurt Shaw, there's a good bit of recent evidence that suggests that he is.


If Shaw is healthy, then I think this is the right decision. If he's not, which seems likely at this point, then I sure hope Shaw has a short leash in this game. Thompson may be an unproven quantity at this point, but if Shaw can't get the job done, don't you at least have to give Thompson a chance to show us whether or not he has what it takes in this game? Indeed, I'd probably most prefer to see us give Thompson the start so he gets that chance out of the gate, with Shaw available to come in and stabilize things if Thompson throws an early pick or two. Sounds like that's wishful thinking, though.

Clemson Tigers taking notice of vaunted Florida State defense - The Herald |

â€" The numbers for Florida State’s defense are staggering through three games. But Clemson will be confronting football players, not statistical figures, when the Tigers face the Seminoles on the road at 8 Saturday night on ABC. The 10th-ranked Tigers (3-0, 0-0) have beaten Florida State two of the past three times, but they will face a different proposition this time from the fourth-ranked Seminoles.

“Very, very talented offensive football team,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday during his weekly news conference at Memorial Stadium. “Defensively, they’re probably as talented as anybody I’ve seen since we’ve been here. These guys are very deep at every position and they’ve got great talent.”

Florida State has put up big offensive numbers, but it is the defense that’s garnering worthy attention. The Seminoles (3-0, 1-0) have allowed their opponents a total of three points, holding Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest to an average of 1.9 yards per play. Jimbo Fisher’s defense is ranked first in the country in total defense and is limiting opponents to just over six first downs per contest. The Seminoles have only played red-zone defense three times this season, and they’re opponents have rushed the ball 85 times for a total of 101 yards.

There might not be much to glean from Florida State’s wipeouts of Football Championship Series teams like Murray State and Savannah State. But the 52-0 blitz of Wake Forest last week certainly was an eye-opener. The Deacons had beaten Florida State four of the previous six times they played, and were coming into the game with a solid ACC win against North Carolina. The Seminoles piled up more than 600 yards of offense, but just as importantly they held Wake Forest to just 126 total yards. Florida State’s defense didn’t produce a turnover; the Seminoles stopped Wake Forest consistently and relentlessly, forcing punts on 13 of the Deacons’ 15 drives.

The Seminoles stoppers present a serious challenge to Clemson’s offensive line, one increased by having to face Florida State on its noisy home turf at Doak Campbell Stadium. Clemson’s offensive line general, senior center Dalton Freeman, thinks the season-opening experience of playing Auburn at the raucous Georgia Dome will help the Tiger blockers Saturday.

“I’m hoping it gave our guys some confidence, because we were able to go in and play in a tough environment and we showed a lot of poise, and we’ve had two games experience since that,” he said.

The Seminoles put Wake Forest in a stranglehold quickly. It’ll be critical for Clemson to avoid falling behind early, allowing Florida State to build a lead and the Seminoles’ home crowd to feed the frenzy.

“That’s gonna be our mentality, to go out there swinging and hopefully put some points on the board early and get in a rhythm,” said Freeman.

“That’s really what our offense is about. The longer we sputter and the longer it takes to get points on the board, the harder it will be obviously.”

The Tigers have been using some of the usual preparation tactics to try to simulate Florida State’s home environs, especially blasting Florida State’s infamous war chant that blares often and early at Doak Campbell.

“The big thing for us is to handle the environment,” said Swinney. “Big crowd, great environment to play a college football game, but half the stadium is not for you, like it was in Atlanta. Handling that environment and being able to communicate and having good ball security and not having stupid penalties, that’s gonna’ be a big part of it.”

Even if the game was played inside a library, Florida State’s defense would be a formidable proposition. The Seminoles lost All-American defensive end Brandon Jenkins for the year with a foot injury, but such is the depth that his absence has hardly been noticed. Bjoern Werner, the other bookend on the defensive line, already has six sacks.

The Seminoles’ secondary also is stacked with future professional football players, namely lock-down cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The Tigers expect Florida State to press Clemson’s talented pass-catchers on the line of scrimmage, a tactic that so far has completely stifled opposing offenses. Last week, Florida State held Wake Forest’s leading receiver Michael Campanaro to two catches for 8 yards. He came into the game with 22 catches in two games, but he was clamped down by the defensive backs.

“You have to be able to beat man coverage against a team like this, otherwise it’s gonna be a long game,” said Swinney. “That’s what happened to Wake Forest.”

As daunting a task as facing the Seminoles on their home field is, the Tigers remember the success they had last year against Florida State. Junior quarterback Tajh Boyd helped Clemson post 443 yards in the 35-30 win, as did sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who shredded the Seminoles’ secondary for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Keeping that success in mind will be important for the Tigers even as word of how great Florida State is swirls about.

“They’re probably the best defense I’ve seen on film since I’ve been here at Clemson,” said Freeman.

“But this is the team we’ve beaten two out of the past three years and really had a chance to beat them the last time we played down there, so we’re excited about the opportunity.”

Florida State’s vaunted defense playing at home helped establish Clemson as a two-touchdown underdog. That was no surprise to Swinney.

“I know we’re a big underdog going down there, but I don’t know anybody outside of (Louisiana State) and Alabama that wouldn’t be,” he said Tuesday.

“ESPN Gameday” will be camped out in Tallahassee, Fla., ramping up the hype surrounding the ACC’s ninth matchup of top-10 teams. Whether Clemson can prevent Florida State’s defense from strangling an opponent’s offense for the first time this season will go a long way in determining what kind of highlights the ESPN crew is showing after Saturday night’s game.

Bret McCormick 329-4032.

Missouri-South Carolina Preview -

James Franklin Injury: Junior QB Could Be Game-Time Decision - SB Nation Kansas City

Missouri Tigers quarterback James Franklin will once again be a game-time decision this week, according to Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, as the Tigers resume SEC play by traveling to the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday.

Franklin was a game-time decision last week in the Tigers' home game against Arizona State, following a re-injury to his shoulder against Georgia two weeks ago. After throwing for 269 yards against the Bulldogs, his ailing shoulder, which required surgery over the offseason, kept him out against the Sun Devils.

Missouri will prepare freshman Corbin Berkstresser for another start, after he led the Tigers to a 24-20 win by throwing for 198 yards on 21-of-41 passing.

Franklin has thrown for 400 yards and three touchdowns this season, with the junior tallying career totals of 3,371 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Check out Rock M Nation for more on the Missouri Tigers. Hit up SB Nation's college football hub for all your college football needs, as well as the SB Nation YouTube channel:

2012 College Football Week 3 Review, Analysis: South Carolina Gamecocks vs ... - Opposing Views

South Carolina crushed UAB 49-6 Saturday night in one of the closest 43 points blow outs I can remember. Steve Spurrier picked up his 200th collegiate win, and the Gamecocks extended their winning streak to 7 games. The streak is the second longest in USC history. The Gamecocks moved up one spot in each of the polls to #7 in the AP and #6 in the Coaches'.

The Gamecock offense wasn't very productive early and struggled to find a rhythm at several points through out the week. Connor Shaw didn't look as crisp passing the ball as we might have hoped, but he has been coming back from an injury and missed many, many reps the last two weeks. He re-aggravated his injury, so we'll be waiting out his status all week again.

Dylan Thompson played well in relief like he had last week. You can be sure there'll be plenty of talk about who should play given Shaw's slow start and Thompson's pretty numbers. When someone strikes up that conversation remember that while Thompson has set Conference USA defenses ablaze, Connor Shaw has beat SEC teams. Both quarterbacks have work to do, but both are capable of leading this team.

The wide receivers continued to assert themselves. Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders have emerged as the go-to guys and there's no reason to think they won't be productive the rest of the season.

Marcus Lattimore only carried the ball 12 times, and it seemed clear the coaching staff didn't want to overuse him. The strategy paid off because Lattimore finished the game as healthy as he started it, and he should have fresh legs for games in which we'll need him more later in the season. He also found time to put his name atop the all-time USC leader boards for rushing touchdowns and overall touchdowns.

Shaq Roland and Mike Davis, two talented and hyped freshman found some more playing time in the second half. Roland caught a nice touchdown pass on a post from Dylan Thompson. He may be able to emerge as the third receiver as the season progresses. Mike Davis looked dynamic and strong in his limited carries. I don't think there's any sense wasting a red shirt on him. He can help the team this season and may be the #2 running back in a few weeks.

The defense looked like they were going to get run through in the first quarter. They didn't give up many points, but they did give up over 100 yards. They adjusted and stymied the Blazers the rest of the night. For all of the yards UAB managed in the first quarter, they only finished with 267 total.

Many, many defenders played superb football for four quarters, but they seemed to be placed in inadvisable positions early. Especially on long yardage downs the coverage seemed to be way too soft and something akin to a prevent. As a result UAB converted more long downs than they should have. Luckily Lorenzo Ward made a change and those conversions slowed considerably.

D.J. Swearinger continues to assert himself as a leader of the defense, and the fumble he picked out of the air to return for a touchdown might very well be the difference between a comfortable 49-6 win and a closer and less impressive 35-20 win. He's a game changer.

The defensive line continued to get stronger and stronger as the game wore on. Jadeveon Clowney was held on almost every single play, and he still managed to record 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Instead of a sophomore slump he appears to be ready to break out as an All-American performer. The rest of the line including Devin Taylor played exceptionally well.

Freshmen played early and often. It looks like Ahmad Christian, Stephon Diggs and T.J. Gurley are going to be part of the defense, and not just in garbage time. They are going to get significant playing time and are going to be the future of this unit.

The Red Zone defense merits a mention as well. UAB made it inside Carolina's 20 yard line 3 times. They came away with only one field goal. Andy Demetra pointed out on twitter just how good the red zone defense has been. Opponents have run 17 plays for a total 4 yards.

Special Teams continue to need work. The opening kick off was terrible in every way imaginable. For one the coverage was converging on the left side. Two, rather than kick it to the end zone, Carolina tried to pin the return team deep. Three, the kick only traveled to the 15 yard line, and four the kick was to the right side of the field. The one smart thing about that kick coverage set up was putting Damiere Byrd on the field. He managed to run down the returner; otherwise that's a quick 7-0 UAB lead.

Hopefully Joe Robinson learned his lesson. He seemed to for this game. After that dumpster fire of a kickoff to start the game he made some changes. He inserted Adam Yates to kick the ball into the end zone. That worked perfectly every time except for when Yates hooked the ball out of bounds.

Kicking it out of the end zone is what we need to do. The reward we get in terms of field position in kicking it short and covering it is entirely too small to risk the big returns we will give up against strong return teams. We can screw around with the East Carolinas of the world, but the LSUs and Floridas will run those kicks back and run our season. Kick the ball out of the end zone. Period. Let's not have to revisit this issue again.

Speaking of kicking, the punting game is awful. Officially South Carolina averaged 37.5 yards per punt. That includes one beautiful 18 yarder. It also includes a punt that went 35 yards and was inexplicably not caught. Instead it rolled for 16 yards. If we take the UAB mistake out of the equation, South Carolina's punting average should have been 34 yards, which is terrible. Either that needs to be fixed, or Carolina needs to go for it on fourth down a lot more.

That's a lot of complaining for a 43 point win, but I like to think this program is on the verge of accomplishing much more. If some things can be corrected, this team can be great. If they can't we'll have an entire off season to talk about what might have been and console ourselves with fond memories of dominating C-USA teams with less than our best stuff.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.

Monday, September 17, 2012

2012 College Football Week 3 Lessons Learned: South Carolina Gamecocks vs ... - Opposing Views

By now you know that the South Carolina Gamecocks won the game against the visiting UAB Blazers. The score looks good, 49-6, but at times it was tough for USC for some reason. One thing is certain, the Gamecocks can not come out slow to start a game in any of the remaining contests. USC now begins a seven game SEC stretch that will require them to play complete football and will determine their goals for 2012.

We will talk about those games in future blog posts, for the UAB win we highlight below the five things we learned about the South Carolina Gamecocks football team in their most recent win against the Blazers:

1. USC's Defense is stout - Going into the season, there were some question marks but go ahead and erase those from your mind. This defense is nasty especially upfront. Yes, the secondary could get a little bitter but I never said they are perfect. They are stout and USC can be in any game because of them. When you have the defense forcing turnovers, forcing three-and-outs and scoring points...well, it is a boost for the offense.

2. Clowney and Taylor are the Best DE combo in college football - USC fans need to count their blessings as Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney are special talent. Having both of them strikes fear in the hearts of opposing offenses. They both have had a excellent start to the 2012 season as both are very disruptive.

3. USC special teams must improve - The Gamecocks really need the special teams unit to improve going forward. There is good talent in place, they just need to execute in their roles. The punter should be consistent, the coverage units need to tackle and the team must make field goals no matter the situation. Yes, the kickoffs in the endzone are a big plus and great to do given rule changes in 2012. Also the punt return game is improving but still needs to make a difference in a positive manner in the future as a overall special teams unit.

4. Lattimore is 100% - Don't let anyone tell you different. He had some great runs that had both power and great cuts. He is back and also seems a little quicker in 2012.

5. QB Depth is not a issue - For the second game, Dylan Thompson acted like Batman and came to the rescue. Depth is not a issue but we maybe the question is who deserves the start.....

The Gamecocks will return to SEC play next Saturday as they host Missouri. Kickoff is set for 3:30 ET and the game will be televised on CBS.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Defense stepping up for South Carolina Gamecocks - The Augusta Chronicle

South Carolina hasn’t allowed a team to score a touchdown in the red zone and is ranked seventh in the nation, allowing 10 points a game.

Ward had plenty of talent left over from last season’s defense under Ellis Johnson that was ranked third in the nation, allowing just 268 yards a game. Ward, who took over when Johnson became coach at Southern Miss, has his defense giving up 316 yards a contest so far in 2012, but it also has made more big plays, collecting 14 sacks and forcing seven turnovers.

“We want to be able to create plays for our offense, whether that’s causing a turnover or putting them in great field position,” Ward said after South Carolina’s 49-6 win over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday.

South Carolina’s stout defense has taken a load off of head coach Steve Spurrier, who has plenty to worry about on the offensive side of the ball. Starting quarterback Connor Shaw has been knocked out of two of three games with a hairline fracture on his throwing shoulder. Spurrier said the team will have to wait and see if Shaw can start next Saturday against Missouri.

“This is not a surgery type injury,” Spurrier said of Shaw’s shoulder. “It’s a small, little fracture, they call it, or like a bone bruise of some nature, and it’s just painful. It’s not going to get worse, they say.”

Spurrier is also worried about his offensive line, even though his team is running for 172 yards a game.

“We’re always looking at it. We’ve got maybe two to three guys that we know are going to start, but there’s maybe a couple in there we need to look and see if someone can do better,” Spurrier said.

Spurrier these days doesn’t mind leaning on his defense when he needs to.

“That’s sort of what we expect from our guys,” he said. “We think we should be that kind of defense most of the time.”

Ward’s more aggressive approach is most evident when teams start facing obvious passing situations. That’s when Ward sends in his rabbit package, putting four defensive ends on the line. They usually cause havoc in the backfield, with sophomore Jadeveon Clowney leading the charge,

“It’s pretty fun. You’re in go mode and you’re after the quarterback. And that’s one of the things I like to do, make sacks on the quarterback,” said Clowney, who had two sacks and two additional tackles for loss against UAB.

The rabbit package also impressed UAB coach Garrick McGee on Saturday night.

“’’I think there defensive front is one of the top defensive fronts in the country,” McGee said. “I think at some point in the game they are going to put pressure on any quarterback in the country.”

The pressure then allows the Gamecocks secondary to make plays, too. Cornerback Jimmy Legree had a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown against East Carolina, and free safety D.J. Swearinger returned a fumble 65 yards for a TD against the Blazers.

Perhaps the proudest accomplishment for South Carolina’s defense is no one has scored a touchdown after getting inside the 20 against them. Vanderbilt’s only touchdown came on a 78 yard pass, East Carolina’s lone TD was a 34-yard pass and UAB never got in the end zone at all. The Gamecocks are one of four Football Bowl Division teams that haven’t allowed a red zone touchdown this season.

“We want to protect our home. When we get in the red zone, we want to try to raise our level of play,” Ward said. “If we can’t keep people out of the end zone, we don’t have a chance to lose a lot of football games.”

When Ward watches film, he expects to see every player’s helmet on the screen if the ball is moving forward when the offensive player is tackled. The players also responded to his more aggressive style. During drills where balls are fired at them to practice interceptions, anyone who drops a pick has to do 15 push-ups, Swearinger said.

“We are enjoying the way he is calling the defense,” Swearinger said. “It gives us a little edge on defense when we know we are going to have fun out there.”