Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 Keys to Gamecocks Success in 2009

I recently did a guest post over at SECRIVALS.com dealing with what I see as the "5 keys to Gamecock Success" for 2009 on the gridiron.
Here is what I wrote ---

Many Gamecock fans are beginning to become anxious to see Spurrier bring gridiron glory to Columbia, SC and this year will not be any easier. With one of the toughest schedules on paper and the loss of several key players to the NFL, Spurrier needs this year’s young team to step up if he is to catch UF in the SEC East. Spurrier has brought in five new coaches to help mold his team and has pledged a renewed emphasis on the running game to free up the passing attack. Will this help? Only time will tell but here are the five keys to the Gamecocks being successful in the powerful SEC East….

1. QB Play — All eyes on a right-hander from Tampa as he gets the keys to Spurrier’s Offense and with it the entire responsibility of the gamecocks winning against a brutal twelve game schedule. Spurrier has even gone on the record to say that success rests with Stephen Garcia in ’09. Garcia (Soph) has the talent and skills to lead the offense but the biggest question is “will he seize the opportunity?” Garcia completed 53% of his passes last fall when he was splitting time with Chris Smelley (transferred to Alabama for baseball). Garcia had 8 INTS, 832 yards passing and 6 TD throws. As stated, it is on his shoulders to lead the gamecocks to wins and to help improve Spurrier’s 28-22 record at USC.

2. Rushing Offense — Spurrier this past offseason has stated that he will rely more on the rushing attack to help free up his passing attack. Makes sense right? Well it is true that Spurrier loves to air it out but what makes his offensive strategy a success is a good running game which we have not had. The gamecocks have finished last in the SEC in rushing offense for 2 years straight. Not good. Yes we could have labeled this “improved offensive line” but that would be too easy to place blame and this is all intertwined anyway. USC ranked 112th out of 119 teams nationally in running yards per game with 94.1. Enter new USC Offensive line coach / running game coordinator Eric Wolford plus RB Coach Jay Graham. These two men are charged with getting better production of a talented group of ball carriers. To change things up the Gamecocks have put in a new one-back running scheme out of the shotgun formation. You will see deeper handoffs in the backfield in 2009 and most likely a running back by committee approach made up of: Brian Maddox, Jarvis Giles, Eric Baker and the occasional “Cocky Formation” with Stephon Gilmore. Let’s be honest it can only get better! And it has too for the gamecocks to have success this fall.

3. A Go-To WR to Step Up — After losing Kenny McKinley, the school’s all-time leading receiver, and the beast at tight end – Jared Cook – the likely targets are gone. Enter _____ ? That is right, no one has been cast as the successor of the “go – to” guy title. SC has guys that can fill the shoes with the likes of Dion LeCorn or Moe Brown but the experience question mark abounds when talking about the group.

Could see a surprise WR being the leading receiver with Tori Gurley and newcomer Alshon Jeffery, who passed on USC to come to USC. I think Jason Barnes will fill the shoes as he has the frame and athletics to get the job done for USC. The tight end position may not miss a beat after losing Cook to the NFL with Weslye Saunders filling those shoes. He is a big TE and can get the job done as he creates mis-matches in the secondary. Again talent is all over the place in the receiving corp but what the gamecocks must have is for someone to step up their game and seize the day to become the playmaker for QB Garcia.

4. Winning the TO game — the gamecocks have to do better in turnover margin in 2009. Last year the gamecocks turned the ball over 38 times, worst in the SEC. The quarterbacks threw 27 interceptions last year. Pathetic, oh it was the worst in the country last season. So if the gamecocks can correct this issue and not be TO happy then a bright season is ahead for Carolina. Along with this comes the defense stepping it up and getting the ball back with its share of forced fumbles or INTs. Playing smart and making plays and not being dumb is what it boils down to for the gamecocks to help their chances in 2009.

5. Carolina Defense must continue to dominate — Gamecocks defensive coach Ellis Johnson has done a fine job the last couple of years with putting a unit on the field that has kept Carolina in position to win. This must continue this upcoming season. Some will think that the USC secondary will be a weak point for USC this fall after losing several players from the backfield to the NFL. But Carolina has restocked the position and has guys filling those shoes like Gilmore, Auguste and safeties Culliver and Holloman. At least, we hope.

The ‘D’ is lead by All – SEC and future NFL star Eric Norwood at linebacker. Most offenses will attempt to stir clear of him this fall but the defense is littered with talent to close up holes and shut down opponents. One area on defense that Carolina must improve on is “red zone defense.” In 2008, the gamecocks allowed 23 TDs out of 39 total chances by the opposition. That must improve for the gamecocks to win games this fall. The questions that critics and fans have on the Carolina defense may be a little much as this unit has talent in place for this upcoming season the question is will they dominate? If they do then a winning season is down the road.

thoughts? What did I miss...


LeakBrewerGator said...

I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised with Jarvis Giles. I got to see him play a few times in high school and the dude is a beast!

All of Spurrier's great teams in the past had a solid running game. The establishment of the run will be pivotal to SC's success this season, especially if Garcia continues his erratic play.

LeakBrewerGator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.