Heart or Head: Using Both to Project the 2015 Gamecock Season

Make or break for the HBC?

Make or break for the HBC?

I’m not big on predictions, because I rarely get things right. For instance, in 2014 I had South Carolina at 10-2 prior to the start of the season. To be fair, most of us did, but we chose to ignore and/or be unrealistically optimistic about our defense.

This year, as stated on our last podcast, we know less about our Gamecocks as any team in recent memory. There are days I think we can play over our heads and win nine games, and there are days I feel like we will win as few as five.  As I look at the 2015 schedule, my head tells me this year is going to be a struggle. But when I’m not looking at the schedule, my heart sees my beloved garnet and black running onto the field and stunning the SEC with a talented, overachieving, scrappy bunch worthy of their nickname.

So against my better judgment, I decided to let my head and heart go game by game and tell me how the season is going to play out. Here are the results:

North Carolina

Heart: We should never lose to North Carolina in football. We are the football school, they are the basketball school. They are a middling ACC team, we are a fair to middling SEC team. Advantage SEC and USC. Win. (1-0)

Head: UNC was good on offense last year and terrible on defense, as was USC. This season UNC will be just as good if not better on offense, and should be better on defense, while USC will most assuredly be worse on offense and better on defense. This tells me UNC has a good chance to win. However, my head also tells me that given the toughness of the schedule USC faces, this is almost a must-win game for the Gamecocks (strange to say for a first game, but true). Hopefully they will treat it that way. For that reason my head is saying win. (1-0)

Kentucky  

Heart: It’s at home, and it’s payback time. Win going away. (2-0)

Head: My head says we come out with our hair on fire, but struggle down the stretch and hold on for a closer-than-it-should-be win. (2-0)

@ Georgia

Heart: Georgia leads the series 47-18-2, but is only 8-7 in the last 15 games against the Gamecocks. I don’t like our chances, but think we still have a chance. Unfortunately this game is in Athens, and much like us against Kentucky, it’s payback time. Loss. (2-1)

Head: UGA’s defense is LOADED. Our offense is not. Georgia has Nick Chubb. We do not. (You will argue we have Pharoh Cooper, which is fair, but he will get half the number of touches as Chubb, if that many.) This game would be a blowout if they had a QB. It still might be. Loss. (2-1)

Central Florida

Heart: We should not lose to Central Florida at home. Ever. Win. (3-1)

Head: We should not lose to Central Florida at home. Ever. But something tells me there will be a point in the game where we have serious doubts. Still, win. (3-1)

@ Missouri

Heart: Missouri is somehow the back-to-back SEC East Champions. But they lost a lot of key players on offense and defense. This is finally the year that the Tigers are who we think they are. Win. (4-1)

Head: Missouri is in ours. They find a way to win no matter how bad we disrespect them, especially since it’s at their place. Loss. (3-2)

LSU

Heart: LSU has their problems, especially at QB. But they’re also always more talented than us from player 1 to player 85. We squeak one out at home. Win. (5-1)

Head: We have two wins over LSU in 20 tries, with the last one coming in 1994. Leonard Fournette is a freight train, and the Tigers always seem to be bigger and stronger than us, no matter how good we are. Loss. (3-3)

Vanderbilt

Heart: A good break between LSU and TAMU. Win. (6-1)

Head: We can never seem to dismantle these guys like we should, even when James Franklin isn’t their coach. Regardless, we’ll win, but somehow it won’t feel good. (4-3)

@ Texas A&M

Heart: In my heart I feel like we’ll take one of two between TAMU and Tennessee. Don’t ask how, that’s why it’s a heart thing. Win. (7-1)

Head: Home team in black uniforms. Halloween. We’ve seen this movie before. (4-4)

@ Tennessee

Heart: Well, we beat TAMU, and I said we’d take only one of these two. Loss. (7-2)

Head: Tennessee beat us on our home field with an inferior team last year. They will boat race us on their home field with a now superior team. Loss. (4-5)

Florida

Heart: With all their personnel deficiencies, a first-year head coach and them coming to W-B, I think we play well and get the win. (8-2)

Head: They will shorten the game and make us sweat, but for the reasons above I think we win fairly comfortably. (5-5)

The Citadel

Heart: Low-stress day. Win. (9-2)

Head: High-stress day. Win. (6-5)

Clemson

Heart: We’ll come out inspired, shut down Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson, and have one of our best days offensively. Win. (10-2)

Head: You might not like to hear this, but somehow, over the course of 21 months, Clemson has managed to completely change the course of the rivalry back in their favor. They are currently better than us in practically every aspect of their football program, and have gained national respect while we have tumbled back into mediocrity. We just have to hope we can figure out a way to get the momentum back as quickly as we lost it. Unfortunately it won’t be this year. Loss. (6-6)

Final Tally:

Heart – 10-2

Head – 6-6

Honestly, 10-2 is a pipe dream for the 2015 Gamecocks, and I will gladly print out this blog post and eat it if we get to that mark or better. We’ll have to be much better than our roster currently indicates, and at least two teams will have to be worse than they are projected to be.

A 6-6 campaign or worse would be disastrous for USC in my opinion, and would probably lead to the end of the Steve Spurrier era. The most likely scenario is 7-5, with a ceiling of 8-4.

Prove me wrong boys, please prove me wrong. Go Cocks. 

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Guest Post: Billy Koehler Previews the USC Defense

Billy Koehler writes college football commentary and analysis. You can find him at ThirdDownDraw.com or on twitter @BillyKoehler.

If you listened to the latest TRC Unleashed you heard them mention that we may know less about the 2015 South Carolina football team than any team in recent memory.  Though true of the entire team this is especially true of the defense. Between new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke, closed practices and limited media availability, it’s tough to know exactly what the defense is going to look like, but here’s generally what to expect.

4-3

South Carolina will run its defense out of a base 4-3 set.  4-3 describes the personnel grouping that is on the field when the defense is in its main set. There will be four defensive linemen and three linebackers. This is very similar to the 4-2-5 that USC has been running for the last few seasons. The difference is that rather than having two linebackers and a Spur defender (who was a hybrid linebacker-defensive back) this defense will have three pure linebackers.

Nickel

In passing situations and against some offenses, notably spread teams, South Carolina will go to a nickel defense. A nickel defense is named because it has five defensive backs. To get the fifth defensive back on the field, South Carolina will substitute out a linebacker, and the resulting defense will look a lot like the old 4-2-5.

Picture #1

Personnel

The change from the 4-2-5 to the 4-3 isn’t a drastic one, which is good for South Carolina.  Whenever a new coordinator with a new philosophy comes in he often has to find players that fit his system. That will not really be the case with South Carolina and Jon Hoke.  Because the 4-2-5 and 4-3 are so similar, the players that have been recruited fit the new system just as well as the old system.

1 and 3 Techniques

Reports out of fall camp have talked a lot about the 1 technique and the 3 technique. These labels describe positions on the interior of the defensive line, specifically the defensive tackles. Numbered techniques, like the 1 and the 3, describe the position a defensive tackle lines up in.

A 1 technique lines up on the center’s outside shoulder. A 3 technique lines up on a guard’s outside shoulder. The 1 technique is a bigger defensive tackle who will be tasked with holding his ground and stopping the run, much like a nose guard. The 3 technique is usually a little more nimble, for a defensive tackle, and is more of a pass rushing threat.

Picture #2

One Gap and Two Gap

From a defensive perspective the spaces between the offensive linemen are called gaps.  (On offense they’re called holes.) In different defensive schemes the defensive linemen are responsible for either one gap or two. Typically when a defensive lineman lines up directly across from an offensive lineman, the defender has responsibility for the gaps on either side of the lineman, two gap responsibility. Conversely, when a defender lines up on a lineman’s shoulder or in a gap, he usually has responsibility for just that gap.

As you have probably guessed, South Carolina’s defensive lineman will have one gap responsibility. They will be able to simply charge up field penetrate into the backfield. If they penetrate through the gap, then they are controlling the gap. This is part of what Hoke is talking about when he says the defense will be more aggressive. It should result in more tackles for losses in the backfield and more disrupted plays.

Tampa Two

South Carolina will probably be predominantly a zone pass coverage team. They will be capable of playing man to man coverage, but Jon Hoke’s history suggests they will probably be in a zone most of the time. It has been rumored, and is quite possible South Carolina will end up running the renowned Tampa Two coverage.

To understand the Tampa Two, which is a coverage, not an entire defense, it is helpful to have an understanding of the Cover Two from which it was modified. Cover Two, in its most basic form, means two players in zone coverage split the deepest part of the field into two zones, one covered by each.

Picture #3

It is common with a cover two to have the cornerbacks and linebackers each cover zones in the shorter passing areas, as you can see above. The weakness with a cover two is the vast amount of real estate the safeties, who are usually the deep men in the coverage, have to cover. Typically receivers can get open in the middle of the field, deep and in the corners.  The Tampa Two seeks to take this away.

The main component of the Tampa Two is the middle linebacker dropping deep, very deep. When the defense reads pass they drop to their zones. The middle linebacker drops back almost as deep as the safeties, taking away the deep middle route.

Picture #4

The other two linebackers squeeze in to cover the space left by the middle linebacker. The corners have the same responsibility. There are nuances to each position, but that’s basically it for the Tampa Two.

With all of the zone play South Carolina’s defense should have more interceptions this season. All of the defense should be looking into the backfield and be able to break on the ball.

Zone Blitz

Given Jon Hoke’s defensive pedigree, it is quite likely South Carolina will be running some zone blitzes. Technically a zone blitz is any blitz in which the defense is in zone coverage behind it, but most fans recognize a zone blitz when a defensive lineman drops into coverage.

Look at the diagram above of the Tampa Two coverage. In a zone blitz one of those zone defenders, usually one of the three linebackers, will blitz and another player, usually a defensive lineman, will take his place.

Picture #5

The best case scenario for the zone blitz is not a sack but an interception. The defense wants the quarterback to recognize the blitzing defender and instinctively try to throw the ball to the area where the defender has left. Instead of finding an open receiver there, he should find a defensive lineman waiting to catch the ball.

So, better then?

Does a new coordinator with a modified scheme mean South Carolina’s defense will be better? Maybe, it would be hard to be worse. The Gamecocks will be employing a coherent defensive gameplan that has been successful before. If they aren’t effective or are beat, it will probably not be because of schematic deficiencies. Effectiveness will come down to coverage and tackling, but USC should be in position to be better at both.

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Buckshots: 2014 Gamecock Flashback

unnamedThis series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season and are sponsored by our friends at Blue Moon Disk. Use the promo code TRC2015 during the 2015 season and receive 10% off your entire order.

Buck takes us through the 2014 Gamecock football season – a season with historically high expectations, major disappointments, and a few bright spots mixed in along the way.

You can listen via iTunes here

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/trc-unleashed/id985866000?mt=2

You can also click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

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Buckshots: 2013 Gamecock Flashback

13-fb-mg-cover-300x388This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season and are sponsored by our friends at Blue Moon Disk.

(Originally published Aug. 21, 2014)

OK, you’ve been waiting all summer, and finally, HERE IT IS! No, not the trailer for some new comic book movie you nerd, it’s the 2013 Gamecock Flashback.

After doing 25 flashbacks covering 26 seasons last summer, Buck had all summer to work on one flashback, and we’re somehow certain there will be statistical errors and/or misrememberings and/or horrible edits. But, we’re the only ones doing flashbacks, and you love Gamecock football, so it will still be a good time. (Buck even added some of Todd and Tommy’s best calls from the season to break the monotony of his droning.)

Some highlights:

  • Lofty preseason expectations
  • The making and breaking of Jadeveon Clowney by ESPN
  • The emergence of Mike Davis
  • The heroics of Connor Shaw
  • The inability of ANYONE ELSE to beat Missouri
  • A fifth straight win over that team in the upstate

So click here or click the graphic below, and enjoy!

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TRC Unleashed 78 – Eve of Destruction

Use the promo code TRC2015 all during football season to get 10% off your entire order at Blue Moon Disk.

Use the promo code TRC2015 all during football season to get 10% off your entire order at Blue Moon Disk.

TRC Unleashed dives one last time into expectations for our football season before it actually starts, beating dead horses because hey, we gotta talk about something. This podcast includes:

  • The unknowns of this edition of the Gamecocks
  • Connor Mitch is #1, who is #2?
  • Will the defense really be improved?
  • What have we really learned since the beginning of practice
  • Is the pay site business model sustainable?
  • This Week In Dabo
  • Twitter questions!

We hope you enjoy this, you’re about to be hearing a lot more from us. Football season is upon us!

You can listen via iTunes here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/trc-unleashed/id985866000?mt=2#episodeGuid=2794005dcf19023589f5b251ae8f9d89

OR click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

TRC-Unleashed-Button

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Hey, Tarheels, the Phone’s Ringing . . . 

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Buckshots: 2012 Gamecock Flashback

2012 Gamecock Football Media Guide

2012 Gamecock Football Media Guide

This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season and are sponsored by our friends at Blue Moon Disk.

The year 2012 was another memorable one for the Gamecock football program, with a blazing start and a return to the top 5 around mid-season. Things would wobble at LSU, then we’d completely fall on our faces at Florida to temporarily derail things. A devestating injury to Marcus Lattimore against Tennessee put a damper on the season, and cast a pall over the entire Gamecock Nation.

But the team rallied and finished the season with a rousing Dylan Thompson-led victory at Little Death Valley, and then a last second victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. There weren’t any memorable plays from the Outback Bowl, but hey, a win is a win right?

Click here or click the graphic to listen to Buck’s final installment of Gamecock Flashback…

…and enjoy!

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TRC Straight Poop – Inside the Insiders

SCOOP: At least two of these guys will NOT be named starting QB (Photo: thestate.com)

SCOOP: At least two of these guys will NOT be named starting QB (Photo: thestate.com)

Here we are, just a little over a week away from kickoff, and we’ve let you down. You expect to come here and find deep insight into the South Carolina football program, and the best we’ve been able to give you is a puppy on a brick wall. (the little rapscallion, so cute)

No more, fair reader. We’ve taken it up a notch. We’ve paid handsomely contacted some of the most knowledgeable people deep within the bowels of the football program to bring you the most inside of the inside information. So here it is, the TRC Straight Poop:

  • Our sources tell us that Connor Mitch is going to be named the starting quarterback for the UNC game any day now. Heck, maybe any minute. It’s possible he’s being named the starting quarterback RIGHT NOW. If so know that we were typing this information at 8:13 p.m. on August 24 so we had the information before anyone else.
  • Mitch might get the start, but he will be on a short leash. He threw two interceptions in the scrimmage on Saturday, and in football turning the ball over is bad. So if Mitch does bad things like turn the ball over or not complete passes, it’s possible he could be replaced.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Gamecocks try to establish a running game against UNC to make things easier on Mitch. You don’t know this because you’re not privy to behind the scenes info like we are, but establishing a running game helps take the pressure off a young quarterback making his first start.
  • Also expect to see Lorenzo Nunez play some at quarterback as well. He’s very young and doesn’t know the playbook well. But don’t tell anybody, that’s some serious down low information that we don’t want to get out to the competition.
  • Brandon Wilds will get the start against UNC at running back, but don’t be surprised if David Williams gets several carries as well. Sit down for this one – but Shon Carson might even get to carry the ball if the situation calls for it.
  • Our insider tells us Elliott Fry is poised for a big year kicking the ball, because word out of camp is he is good at kicking the ball.
  • Shon Carson may or may not return kickoffs this year. He is ready either way, because he’s Shon freakin’ Carson.
  • On the defensive side of the ball, now that Jon Hoke is calling the shots, look for the Gamecocks to run different schemes and alignments that we used last year. Hoke teaches a more “ATTACK!!!” style defense, but occasionally asks his defenders to “read and react”. We’re not sure which he prefers, but you can expect to see one of those two things.
  • Several players have lost weight and are in the best shape of their careers. Our 7-6 record can be directly attributed to how fat our players were last year, so it’s good to hear they worked out during the offseason and maybe had a salad.
  • The Gamecocks are going to try to limit the amount of penalties they commit. That is an area that has been talked about some. Not sure exactly how much, but I’m sure it’s come up.
  • If USC wins the opening toss against UNC, we’re told Steve Spurrier will elect to receive. But don’t be terribly surprised if he defers until the second half. Our sources tell us Spurrier sometimes changes his mind about things.

Again, please, please don’t share this information anywhere else on the internet we will get in so much trouble with Mr. Tanner our contact. We trust you.

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Buckshots: 2011 Gamecock Flashback

2011 Gamecock Football Media Guide

2011 Gamecock Football Media Guide

This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season and are sponsored by our friends at Blue Moon Disk.

After a long-awaited breakthrough year in 2010, the question for the 2011 Gamecock football team was whether it could match or surpass the previous team’s accomplishments.

Despite falling short of an SEC East title, the 2011 team became the first ever USC squad to win 11 games in a season. They also gave us many exciting moments, including the greatest special teams play in the history of the program, and win streaks over Georgia and previously (seemingly) unbeatable rivals Florida and Tennessee.

A season-ending knee injury to Marcus Lattimore put a damper on the season, but with victories over Clemson and Nebraska to close things out, we finished with our first top 10 finish ever.

Listen along as Buck takes us through all the highs and lows of the 2011 season. Click here or click the graphic below to listen, and enjoy!

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Buckshots: 2010 Gamecock Flashback

2010 Gamecock Football Media Guide

2010 Gamecock Football Media Guide

This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season and are sponsored by our friends at Blue Moon Disk.

On the heels of the commitment of Marcus Lattimore, USC’s National Championship in baseball and the launch of The Rubber Chickens blog, 2010 was setting up nicely to be a big year for Gamecock football. Which it needed to be, as the Steve Spurrier era had been average at best through 2009.

After a season-opening win over the fighting Larry Fedoras, Lattimore took over the annual battle against Georgia with perhaps the greatest single-game performance in school history. A tough loss at Auburn preceded a monumental win over #1-ranked and streaking Alabama…but then Kentucky.

Fortunately that game didn’t derail our march to the SEC East title, which was clinched with our first ever win in the Swamp. A ho-hum victory over Clemson came right before our first SEC Championship Game, which was a tremendous experience despite the lopsided outcome.

Relive all the magic from 2010 with Buck in this edition of Gamecock Flashback. (Bonus: Justin King videos from the season are here and here.)

Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

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