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South Carolina Gamecocks Offensive Preview

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An offense that utilizes the ground game to stay ahead of the chains and knocks you out with explosive plays if they fall behind schedule. Sound like any other opponent we’ve played this year?

NCAA Football: Alabama at South Carolina
I will use any opportunity possible to post sweaty pictures of Will Muschamp
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

A personal note before we start: I am so excited that we are back to playing FBS teams, not just from an entertainment/competitive standpoint, but from a “reliably finding depth charts and stats” standpoint as well.

However, despite pointing that out, I do have to mention that Will Muschamp is protecting his depth charts like they’re the codes to a nuclear arsenal so I’ve been scrapping together old depth charts and stats to cobble together what I believe to be a reliable depth chart. If I’m wrong, let me know, and I’ll reimburse all the money you spent on this article.

South Carolina just got done taking their ritualistic paddling from Alabama so, if you subscribe to the “body-blow theory” — that Alabama is so much better that any other team that their opponent is more bruised and banged up and performs worse the following week — then you are in luck! Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilsinki, stepping in for the now-football-dead Jake Bentley, played admirably, but this team is predicated on the ground game, just the way Muschamp likes it. From an advanced statistical standpoint, Cocky plays a lot more like Wyoming, except a little more efficient, with a little more passing, and less reliance on turnovers.

That’s what we want, right? Another game like Wyoming?

...anyway, here is the (possible) starting eleven for Saturday:

NCAA Football: Alabama at South Carolina
Ryan Hilinski
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback

Ryan Hilinski – FR: 60-87 (69% [nice])/606 yards/4 TDs/2 INTs/10.1 ypc/3.3% sack rate

Dakereon Joyner – FR: 1-1 (100%)/0 yards/0 TDs/0 INTs

The matchup: The freshman vs. The experience

I ended up watching a good chunk of the Bama/Cocky matchup last week and - no doubt about it - Hilinksi can make some excellent (and risky) throws. However, those 606 yards he’s accumulated over two starts? Well... they weren’t earned in an equal manner.

Let’s play a game! It’s called, “Guess which team was FCS and which was Alabama!” You ready?

Hilinski vs. Team A: 24-30 (80%)/282 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/0 sacks/9.4 ypa

Hilinski vs. Team B: 36-57 (63%)/324 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/3 sacks/5.3 ypa

Team B is, of course, Alabama. More yardage, yes, but so many more throws to do so, while getting smacked around way more frequently.

We’re only three games in, true, but at this point, South Carolina is in a weakened state if it’s forced to throw. They only have a 43% success rate through the air and are neither efficient (84th) nor explosive (104th). Their completion rate is a solid 44th, but that’s only so good if the throws aren’t deep or if your receivers aren’t shaking any tackles. And with the 71st-ranked sack rate in the country, Cocky is going to do whatever it can to protect Hilinski and keep ahead of the chains: their passing downs success rate (2nd/3rd and 5+ yards) is only 25%. That’s definitely something the experienced Missouri secondary — with their 10th-ranked defensive passing success rate — can feast on.

NCAA Football: Alabama at South Carolina
Rico Dowdle
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back

Rico Dowdle – SR: 33 rushes/251 yards/7.6 ypc/2 TDs/6.14 HLT/66.7% OPP rate/57.6% success rate

Tavien Feaster – SR: 29 rushes/169 yards/5.8 ypc/1 TD/5.98 HLT/48.3% OPP rate/41.4% success rate

The matchup: Efficiency vs. explosions

I know this doesn’t jive with the “BARRY ODOM’S DEFENSES ARE GARBAGE” crowd but... we have a solid defense (18th), that - as mentioned previously - keeps passing success rate incredibly low and keeps opposing ground games in check with their NINTH-ranked defensive rushing success rate. The issue, as you may recall me pointing out previously, is the explosive plays, where our defense ranks ... (pulls on collar)... 104th. To explain that in simple terms, you won’t be able to move the ball on the ground on the Tiger D, but if you do, it’s going a long, long way. South Carolina, by the way? 20th in rushing success rate, 22nd in rushing explosiveness. The Gamecocks will get the yards on the ground in some fashion and it would behoove them to consistently test our defense on the ground until they land some hay-makers. If Missouri limits the explosive rushes to one or two, they’ll have a chance to put a stranglehold on the South Carolina offense. If not, it’s going to be a long day.

NCAA Football: Charleston Southern at South Carolina
Bryan Edwards
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receiver

Bryan Edwards – SR: 25 targets/15 catches (60%)/198 yards/2 TDs/52% success rate

OrTre Smith – SO: 7 targets/4 catches (57.1%)/42 yards/0 TDs/42.9% success rate

Wide Receiver

Josh Vann – SO: 14 targets/9 catches (64.3%)/62 yards/0 TDs/28.6% success rate

Jay Urich – SO: 1 target/0 catches (0%)/0 yards/0 TDs/0% success rate

Slot Receiver

Shi Smith – JR: 20 targets/13 catches (65%)/158 yards/1 TD/45% success rate

Randrecous Davis – JR: x

Tight End

Kyle Markway – JR: 15 targets/11 catches (73.3%)/120 yards/2 TDs/60% success rate

Nick Muse – JR: 8 targets/5 catches (75%)/43 yards/0 TDs/62.5% success rate

The matchup: Slots vs. Nickels

As a unit, the Missouri secondary is excellent, but any weaknesses we have are in individual matchups. After the Wyoming game, I mentioned that the only success the Cowboys had through the air were their slot receivers and tight ends beating man coverage by the linebackers and safeties. Neither West Virginia nor SEMO could exploit that matchup, but South Carolina absolutely can:

South Carolina Slots/Tight Ends: 58 targets/40 catches/383 yards/3 TDs

All other South Carolina Receivers: 56 targets/37 catches/365 yards/2 TDs*

*25 targets/15 catches/198 yards/2 TDs of that is one guy, Bryan Edwards

Bryan Edwards can - and will - destroy a secondary if you let him, but I’m more concerned on the inside matchups. Is that because I have too much confidence in DeMarkus Acy to shut down a #1 receiver? Yeah, maybe it is. But it’s also because offensive coordinators who are much smarter than me can also recognize Missouri’s issues with the inside receiver matchup and will work to exploit it.

NCAA Football: Georgia at South Carolina
Sadarius Huthcerseon (50) and Donell Stanley (72)
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Left Tackle

Sadarius Hutcherson – JR

Jakai Moore – FR

Left Guard

Donnell Stanley – SR

Jordan Rhodes – SO

Center

Hank Manos – R-FR

Vincent Murphy – FR

Right Guard

Eric Douglas – SO

Jovaughn Gwyn – R-FR

Right Tackle

Dylan Wonnum – SO

Eric Douglas – SO

The matchup: Protection vs. Pressure

In the running game, Cocky’s line is elite: 17th in getting the running back 5-yard gains, 17th in avoiding run stuffs, 36th at converting 3rd-downs with short yardage to go.

In the passing game, Cocky’s line is vulnerable: 71st in sack rate, 105th in converting passing downs.

Get them to throw, please. It’s basically a guaranteed way to limit their ability to move the ball at all.