South Carolina is 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. They have wins against Charleston Southern, Kentucky, and Georgia. One of those things is not like the other. They have losses to UNC, Alabama, Mizzou, Florida, and Tennessee. Hhhhmmm. Inconsistency is the name of the game here.
In eight games played, they have amassed 3,243 yards on 581 plays (5.58 yyp), and right at 405 yards per game, for 69th in the country. That’s just below average in DI. They also are averaging just over 21 points per game against Power 5 opponents, and haven’t scored more than 27 in any game.
They snap the ball plenty, and don’t sit on it like say another Saban assistant turned head coach who happens to be coaching in Athens. But they aren’t very effective at moving it or scoring.
They throw more than they run with 304 pass attempts to 277 rushing. Maybe it’s because their OL is better at pass blocking than run blocking? They like to spread it out and find favorable match ups in the secondary. However, with inconsistent QB play, that can lead to stalled drives.
Ryan Hilinski, a 6’3” 230lbs Freshman has shown flashes this year, but it’s hard being a freshman QB in the SEC. Against conference opponents, he’s at a 56% completion rate with 1,200+ yards and six TD’s and only two picks. However, against ranked opponents, he has completed 60% of his passes for four touchdowns and one interception. That’s the minimum for being an effective passer.
As far as trends go, he throws it about 25% more in the first half than the second and nearly twice as much when the Gamecocks are behind. This isn’t unusual, nor surprising. It confirms that when they have the lead with a freshman QB, the old adage is true- when you pass the ball, three things can happen, and only one is good.
Interestingly enough, of the 140+ attempts, 60 have come on first down. That means that USCe sees their advantage in the passing game when teams have to account for both the running back and the quarterback. They average 8 yards per play when passing on first down, three yards more than any other down. That’s a significant trend, and one that bears watching for.
His top pass catchers are Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith, and his TE Kyle Markway. Edwards is 6’3” 215 lbs Senior. He is an imposing body against smaller defensive backs, and he is a good runner after the catch. However, when matched up with a similar sized corner, Edwards is not nearly as effective. But in conference play he has 42 catches for 468 yards. That’s 11 yards a clip. His long is 75 yards, so he is a home run threat.
Smith, a 5’10” 190lbs Junior has been relatively quiet this year. Last year he had 45 catches for over 600 yards, but it wasn’t until the Tennessee game that he made a splash. He caught 11 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. His long was 75 yards. It wast till a loss, though. Smith is targeted primarily on the Gamecocks’ side of the field, and up until the red zone. But of his 36 receptions, only three have come inside the 20.
Markway is a a big body at 6’4” 250lbs. He has 17 catches and is targeted almost exclusively on first down and third and long. Though he isn’t targeted as much as the other receivers, he does have a 11 yards per catch, so when he is catching passes, he is an effective tool. He’s not used enough to be a safety blanket for Hilinski, but he is significant enough in the offense to be accounted for.
Tavien Feaster is the bell cow for the Gamecocks. He spent three productive years at Clemson and then transferred as a graduate down the road to Columbia. He has 101 carries for 527 yards. That’s more than two of his three years at Clemson, then again he shared the backfield with Travis Etienne, so you can see why he wouldn’t get all the touches.
Feaster was the #1 all purpose back out of high school, and is used at every down. He’s 6’0 221lbs, so he can run past you and through you. He also is a big boy who can block when necessary.
USCe’s offense isn’t Big Dumb Will Muschamp football, but it’s also not the up tempo spread that they wish it to be. I suspect if they had a more accurate quarterback, then it would fire on all cylinders.