So far, the USCe Gamecocks have only played two games, where most in CFB have played three. Hurricane Florence canceled their Week Three game against Marshall. Where most teams have found an identity on offense, the Gamecocks had one game against an overmatched foe and one game where the Georgia defense acted as a force of nature on the field, overwhelming the South Carolina offense.
Evidence of who they are this year is no concrete, but with a combination of last year’s performances (when they were all healthy), and flashes during non garbage time this year, there is an offensive identity emerging.
6’4” 224lb JR Jake Bentley is Muschamp’s guy. He came in early from HS and started as a true freshman. Last year he 245 of 394 for 62%. Being over 60% in CFB is roughly over the Mendoza; meaning he was above average but not great. He finished the year with 2794 yards and 18 touchdowns and 12 INTs. His QBR was 130.7.
This year Bentley is 52 of 76 for 519 yards and nearly a 70% completion. He averages 6.8 YPA with five TD’s and two INTs and passer rating of 142.
Against UGA, Bentley threw more than normal because the Gamecocks were down 14-0 in the first quarter, partially due to a pick six. Although, the pass was deflected and fell into a defender’s hands. Not all interceptions are created equal.
Bentley was 30 of 47 for 269 yards, one TD, and two INTs.
His tendencies thus far are to throw on first and second downs. He has thrown 48 times on 1st or 2nd down and 8-10 yards. His five TD’s came on either first or second down. Three of the TD’s came when winning by 15+ points, which can be considered garbage time depending on the quarter.
He has thrown twenty times on third down and completed fifteen of them for 6.75 YPA. This is remarkably high for the number of attempts, and it shows Muschamp’s confidence in his passer to give him the ball to throw on all three conventional offensive downs.
The Gamecocks have three explosive and capable pass catchers in Bryan Edwards, Deebo Samuel, and Shi Smith.
Last year, Byron Edwards (6’3” 216 lbs JR) caught 64 passes for 793 and five TD’s. This year, he has caught 11 passes for 164 yards and three Touchdowns. Two of his TD’s came against UGA, neither in garbage time.
He is a chunk yardage receiver, targeted most often between the 20’s, where 10 of his 11 receptions have come. Ten of his eleven are on first or second down, showing his is a trusted and important weapon to get in front of the sticks and move the ball down the field.
The stand out WR of the group is Deebo Samuel. Samuel is 6’2” 210 lbs SR who only played three games last year. Those three games were explosive and solidifying him as a legitmate threat for South Carolina. He caught 15 passes for 250 yards and 3 TD’s before being injured for the rest of the year.
This year, Samuel is second fiddle (so far) to Edwards. He has caught 13 passes for 89 yards and one TD. He had six catches against UGA for only 33 yards. He was targeted, which shows his importance to the offense, but he couldn’t break out against the stout Bulldog D.
His only TD came in garbage time against Coast Carolina, when the Gamecocks were up 22+ points.
But, he has catches from all over the field with targets and catches inside his own 20 to inside the opponent’s 10.
He is targeted primarily on first down with 8 of 13 catches, and has one catch on 3rd and 11+.
The #3 WR, Shi Smith, is a 5’10” 190lbs Sophomore is a skilled pass catcher who is a trusted receiver catching five of six passes inside his own 20-40 yard line, and three of them on third down.
Last year, he caught 29 passes for 409 yards and three TD’s. This year, he caught 6 passes for 71 yards with a long of 20 and no TD’s. Against the elite UGA defense, he had only two catches and one came in garbage time.
At the Running Back position, South Carolina has two feature backs, Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams. Dowdle is a 6’0” 218 lbs Senior and Williams is a 6’0” 217 JR. Both can get the tough yardage and break off intermediate runs. Neither is a home run threat.
Last year, Dowdle ran 66 times for 266 yards and two TD’s. This year he has had 22 carries for 123 yards and one touchdown. Against Coastal Carolina, he was 15 for 105 with a 29 yard long and one TD.
In 2017, Williams took 95 carries for 488 yards and 1 TD. He was bottled up against UGA with 6 carries for 26 against UGA. But the rushing attempts went way down due to the game circumstance.
Against Coastal Carolina he took 11 carries for 82 yards and a TD. He has had long runs of 17 and 21 and 1 TD, both on 1st and 2nd down.
South Carolina’s OL will be the best line the ‘Dores have faced thus far. All are over 6’4” and all over 300lbs. They are returning three starters should provide good pocket protection for Bentley.
In short, South Carolina is a potentially potent offense with explosive WR’s and a QB with a big arm, who has a tendency to overthrow WR’s. GABA says he gets too amped up trying to make a play. Edwards and Samuel are big and fast and all three WR’s are reliably pass catchers capable of running past the defense with or without the ball. Both RB’s get the tough yards and can break intermediate runs, but neither seems to be a home run threat.
It is too early to tell this year because the ‘Cocks have only played two games, one against an easy foe and one against a dominating UGA defense that took the team out of their game plan.
This Saturday, look for a more balanced attack that moves the ball but scoring plays come in the air.