It's time to get back to talking serious football. The Florida State Seminoles take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (the Peach) this Friday night. To find out more about the USCe, we turn to Garnet And Black Attack, SBN's excellent South Carolina site. Our questions appear in bold, their answers in grey. And please do head on over to check out our answers to their questions.
1. What has made the biggest difference in the South Carolina offense this year? Switch to the spread? Lattimore? New oline coach? Garcia?
All of the factors you mentioned have played a role in our improvement. I'd say the biggest factor, though, has been Lattimore. Like all great running backs, Lattimore is the kind of player who makes everyone else look better, the guy that makes a decent offense a very good or great one. The o-line has improved, but Lattimore makes it look better than it is by consistently running for three or four more yards than the average back would get. Similarly, having a reliable running game has made a world of difference for the formerly hit-or-miss Garcia. Last year, Garcia had to make the offense go, and he often wasn't up to manning that burden. This year, though, he's been much more efficient in a game-manager role, with Lattimore as the first threat. Lattimore was a program-changing commitment when he signed with Carolina.
2. USCe lost a lot of size in its front seven this year. How much of the secondary struggles are due to the Gamecocks overcompensating to stop the run with additional men.
Carolina has transitioned to playing smaller DTs and LBs this year, but I wouldn't very much attribute the secondary problems to that transition. First of all, while we've been somewhat more aggressive in run defense this year, we've generally been able to rely on the front seven to take care of business in the trenches. Second of all, most of the pass-defense miscues have been due either to scheme (running soft zone coverage against teams that nickel-and-dimed us to death) or player error (blown coverages, etc.). You can somewhat attribute the coverage schemes to over-reliance on run blitzes, but the player errors are mainly a function of depth problems. We have a very shallow rotation in the secondary, particularly at safety, and that's led to problems with fatigue late in games. That's where the secondary really suffers.
3. What are the injury concerns for South Carolina?
OL Garrett Chisholm is questionable with a knee. He practiced today but may have aggravated his injury. Chisholm is one of our best OL and has been a major part of the emergence of the Gamecocks' running game this season, so he'll be missed, particularly as we don't have great depth on the line. Other than that, we're pretty good. Garcia was banged up going into the SECCG, but I'm assuming he's all healed up now.
4. How have the Gamecocks compensated for the loss of Weslye Saunders? Who threatens the middle of the field in the passing game?
As you probably know, the Gamecocks played with one of the country's largest receiving corps this season. That's given us some TE-like options from the receiver spots, and Tori Gurley especially has been a reliable target over the middle of the field. Justice Cunningham and Patrick DiMarco replaced Saunders at TE, and while neither has been a featured receiver, both are reliable. They're also both better blockers than Saunders, and in that sense not having Saunders has benefited our running game.
A sincere Tomahawk Nation thank you to Garnet & Black Attack for their insightful answers. Please do head on over to check out our answers to their questions.