Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can Grantham's diseased run defense stop Gamecocks?

It wasn't as easy as the score indicates, but the South Carolina Gamecocks cruised to their first win last Thursday over North Carolina; and they did it with the help of two running backs - Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. On a night when the Ol' Ball Coach didn't take to the air too often, Davis, Wilds and quarterback Connor Shaw became the work horses, to the tune of 12 carries apiece for 222 yards. Collectively, that's a Lattimore-esque type performance.
"I think they're both very capable," Spurrier said. "We told both of them that somebody's going to start but that both of them would play, and that's how it turned out. I think they both had 12 carries on a hot, muggy night, and they'll both continue to play. If one is really hot and making stuff happen for us, he'll probably play a little more."
Davis racked up 115 yards on his 12 carries, with a chunk of that coming on a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that snapped the Gamecocks out of an offensive lull. The 5-foot-9, 215-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia got the start and had a 12-yard carry on the second play that helped set up a 65-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Shaq Roland on the ensuing snap.
Wilds, a 6-2, 223-pounder from Blythewood, S.C., had 64 yards and also had a 12-yard gain.
Davis and Wilds entered this season with some experience at taking over for Lattimore, who shredded Georgia with 467 yards in his three wins over the Bulldogs before leaving early for the NFL. Wilds signed in 2011 and was the fifth-string tailback entering that season but vaulted to the starting role following injuries to Lattimore (knee), Shon Carson (ankle), Kenny Miles (wrist) and Eric Baker (ankle).
All of that to say I was glad to hear that Richt is having the team go full tilt in practice, both yesterday and today, with pads to help correct some mental lapses in fundamentals such as wrapping up and tackling to the ground. Clemson's Roderick McDowell wasn't named ACC player of the week, but the Georgia defense made him a viable candidate as he easily eclipsed the century mark in just 22 carries.

Of course, getting Josh Harvey-Clemons (as well as Corey Moore) back will be a huge lift as it will add depth to the safety position but also allow Leonard Floyd to set up closer to the point of attack. Harvey-Clemons can play both strong safety in the base as well as the star position in the nickel, which helps both defending the pass and the run.
Cornerback Damian Swann said that Harvey-Clemons can cover better in space than Floyd “to where we won’t be a DB short on the back end. Now we can go out and call our regular stuff and really execute the defense.”
Opening up the defensive sets is a big plus for a unit that is struggling to find any kind of consistency in stopping the run. Since allowing only 75, 46 and 57 yards on the ground to Florida, Ole Miss and Auburn respectively last November, Georgia has surrendered an average of 279 yards rushing in the last five games. The first two of which were excused away because they were against triple option teams. Then Alabama proved that those games weren't just an aberration as they gashed Grantham's defense for 350 yards. Add in Nebraska's 239 yards and Clemson's 4+ yards per carry and you have a defensive epidemic.

We saw a number of different bodies along the defensive line of scrimmage last Saturday night in Death Valley. Containing Connor Shaw and disrupting these running backs' lanes will be a huge key towards stopping the South Carolina ground attack this Saturday in Athens.