Michigan Football: South Carolina vs. Michigan — Outback Bowl — A Look at the Gamecock Offense
Coach Spurrier, affectionately and willingly known as the “old ball coach” has always been known as an offensive innovator and pass happy, pass first, type of guy. But step back some and one can see that Coach Spurrier has morphed a little bit as his tenure at South Carolina has progressed.
The “old ball coach” at times ran into some troubles against tough competition during his tenure at Florida and lost a few key games because the Gators could not outscore the opposition.
Coach Spurrier and staff have assembled a first-rate defense at South Carolina and so the Gamecock offense may not be given the proper homage and aura associated with most Coach Spurrier teams. But this is a good offense.
One unforeseen contributor in this perceptual tipping balance of respect of the offense versus the defense was the loss of one of America’s premier players, Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a mid-year devastating knee injury, not totally unlike the injury to Michigan’s Fitz Tuossaint. Another hit the South Carolina offense has taken, but rebounded from, is the sore shoulder of starting quarterback Connor Shaw.
Take heed, the South Carolina offense has plenty of talent, is more than adequate, and has skilled players many programs would be elated to have. So, this group is capable of doing damage. Add into the scenario the strong South Carolina defense and a top ten-team has emerged.
With the injury to Marcus Lattimore, any discussion of the South Carolina must start with Quarterback Connor Shaw. Conner may not be a household name on the tip of every tongue, like the Heisman candidates, but watching game video indicates he is quite an athlete and a very effective quarterback. Even with an injured shoulder, Connor has sufficient velocity.However, Michigan needs to take note, and certainly has, of Shaw’s running and scrambling ability. He is averaging over six yards per carry. His ability in this realm can be game changing, and this is the type of play that can kill a defense. Shaw has good size and has been noted as having near 4.5 speed. Regardless, his running must be accounted for either by front four discipline in the rushing lanes, or through a spy that can play in space. Utilizing a spy with all of South Carolina’s spread weapons is difficult.
Shaw’s completion percentage, sixty-seven percent, and his rating, 161, are both excellent. He can throw the fly, the post, quick out, and about anything else in a typical passing offense.
The back up for Connor Shaw is sophomore Dylan Thompson. His numbers are not as gaudy as Shaw’s, but his play has been strong enough to carry the offense forward without a major drop-off in production. Coach Spurrier has stated both quarterbacks will play, and with a starting job on the line for next year both quarterbacks have clear motivation to show well.Two primary backs now man the running game: veteran senior Kenny Miles and the very talented freshman Mike Davis. Both are short powerful runners that can provide enough yardage to continue to make the South Carolina running game a threat defenses must honor. Davis will likely take over as South Carolina’s main go to guy next year and he is averaging over five yards per carry. Miles is good out of the backfield catching passes.
The passing game is spread out among a large number of backs and receivers, as one would expect from a Spurrier team. No single player has “wow” type of numbers, but collectively the team production is very strong with two hundred receptions.
Leading the way are sophomore Bruce Ellington and highly talented junior Ace Sanders. Ellington leads the team with 38 catches, followed closely by Sander’s 36 grabs. Both average over 12 yards per carry, and both are built in the Jeremy Gallon, Drew Dileo style, they are just used more than in Michigan’s offense.
One player that cannot be ignored is Damiere Bryd, another short roadrunner type, who is averaging 25 yards per catch. On third and long these three fast, shifty players present problems to a defense if the quarterback has sufficient time to sit, read, and throw. The antidote is a pass rush.
Two tight ends have contributed well to the South Carolina offense. Justice Cunningham is a monster 260 plus pound senior who has caught 22 passes and averages over 12 yards per catch. The other tight end of note is sophomore Rory Anderson. He is built in the Funchess mold but averages over 20 yards a catch. He gets down field and attacks the deep seam as well as the space between the deep safety and linebacker drops. His 6’ 5” height allows him to go up and get the ball.
These are the main cogs in the receiving corps, but keep in mind that if Michigan gets too blitzy, South Carolina has completed passes to 17 different receivers this season.South Carolina uses three wideouts, a tight end, and an offset back frequently in passing situations, giving the Gamecock offense all types of options.
The offensive line is massive and typical of SEC football. The average weight is around the 320-pound mark. The line has one senior, two sophomores, one junior, and one redshirt freshman. The red-shirt freshman is highly recruited Brandon Shell, one of 2011’s most sought-after recruits. As with most SEC offensive lines, the purpose is to maul and soften the defense for success and control later in the game. This is tough to do against SEC defenses, but South Carolina has had at least decent success running the ball.
This line has given up 35 sacks, a number that is about typical for most lines. But again, playing against SEC defenses must be factored. Michigan only achieved a very low 19 sacks. So, once again, a Michigan deficiency may not be able to take advantage of a potential weakness of the opposition.
The South Carolina offense is balanced and requires quite a bit of preparation from opposing coaches. This is not the fun and gun, turn it loose every game, style Spurrier demonstrated in Florida and ineffectively at Washington in the NFL. This is an offense designed to win games through control, balance, smartness, and versatility. There is a true offensive mastermind running the South Carolina offense and the guessing game between Coaches Spurrier and Mattison, if nothing else, should be interesting.
One thing for sure, the majority of the conversation centered on this game has surrounded the match-up between the Michigan offense and the South Carolina defense. But the reverse match-up is just as intriguing, at least to the GBMWolverine Staff. After all it does take two sides to make a coin.
Regardless, Michigan will have a daunting assignment on both sides of the ball.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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