Losing Will: Disappointment, or Disaster?

hi-res-2996210a731944828b03df3d40d6a524_crop_northLet’s get my personal feelings out there first: I’m disappointed Will Muschamp is not coming to South Carolina to be our defensive coordinator. Not two-touchdown, fourth quarter lead blowing disappointed. Not losing to Clemson disappointed. Not Chick-fil-a forgot to put my fries in the bag disappointed. But disappointed nonetheless.

South Carolina football has been a wreck in 2014. The Gamecocks were picked to win the SEC East prior to the season but finished 6-6 and is headed to dreaded Shreveport for one final exercise in futility. Our defense is ranked near the bottom nationally and is the worst we’ve seen in Columbia since the 90s. Recruits have flipped, with threats of more flipping to come. Steve Spurrier seems disengaged, distant, lost. Things feel very, very bad for the program at the moment.

Change is needed, no doubt. And I think any amount of change from Spurrier stepping down to some minor staff adjustments is still on the table. I’m personally hoping for something somewhere in the middle. We need a new person running the defense at minimum.

But in reality I have no idea what is going to happen. And unless you are Steve Spurrier or Ray Tanner neither do you. We are mostly at the mercy of sites like The Big Spur or Gamecock Central, where we pay $9.95 a month to have them tell us everything and nothing all at the same time. They do a good job at both places, with good people working their asses off to get scoop to us that nobody else can. But at the end of the day they’re mostly subject to second hand information, and have to try to read between the lines to figure out what’s really going on and pass along that information to us with disclaimers peppered throughout. (Then there’s the Scout site who, damn the torpedoes, ran with one unreliable source and goodbye business plan.)

And message boards, hoo boy the message boards. The guy who knows the guy who is a realtor who knows another realtor who was helping Muschamp close on his new Columbia house. The words “done deal” associated with Muschamp over and over by people with anonymous screen names. Message boards are never more toxic than times like this.

But let’s step back and try to understand what has gone on since the end of November in regards to Muschamp.

  • After Clemson the HBC told us that everyone on his staff was safe. He did not say there wouldn’t be changes, he just said he wouldn’t be firing anyone.
  • I think we can safely say Will Muschamp was pursued by USC. How hard – how much money he was offered, what title he would’ve been given – is very much up for debate.
  • There were reports early that he would be offered a head-coach-in-waiting title. This was eventually de-bunked, I think, by Ray Tanner himself.
  • Spurrier said more than once that he hadn’t talked to Muschamp, and no offer had been made to Muschamp.
  • Muschamp was linked to us, Auburn, Texas A&M, Houston, and the NFL before ultimately choosing Auburn.

Do we really know much more than this? Yet people are screaming that Tanner and Spurrier botched this, that they didn’t work hard enough, are blind to our problems or aren’t committed to fixing them, etc.

Hogwash.

If it required a head-coach-in-waiting title to get Will Muschamp to USC, then I’m perfectly fine that we didn’t get him. I personally am not so desperate for something to happen that I’m willing to put a band-aid on a gaping wound.

Muschamp is a fine defensive mind by all accounts, one of the best in the college game. He wouldn’t have gotten the Florida job if he wasn’t. But need I remind you what happened to him at Florida, a failed tenure that ended just two weeks ago? Florida fans were begging for him to be fired. According to them he was a bumbling, meme-inspiring doofus that didn’t deserve to be on the sidelines at The Swamp. Would it really make you feel comfortable to have that guy in line as your next head coach?

Now people are acting like our football Jesus has forsaken us because our administration is either too stupid or doesn’t care enough. I’m not buying it.

If we made an offer to Muschamp, it was to to become our defensive coordinator/assistant head coach probably in the neighborhood of $1.2 to $1.6 million per year if I had to guess. Auburn offered roughly the same thing, and there was no chance in hell he was going to choose us over Auburn for a defensive coordinator position, for a variety of reasons.

I’m hoping beyond hope there’s a plan B in the works, and I’m confident there is. It won’t be as sexy as hiring Muschamp, but pretty much anything is a step in the right direction. Being patient is not easy, but I don’t really have a choice, do I?

Since the majority of you reading this are capable adults I’m in no position to tell you how you should react to this situation. Be disappointed, be devastated, it’s your call.

I’m gonna go have a cup of coffee and watch some cartoons. Maybe later I’ll check a couple of message boards.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Foto Friday: Things Dabo Cares About More Than Deshaun Watson’s Knees Edition

A list of twenty four things Dabo Swinney apparently cares about more than the long term health of his star football player, Deshaun Watson.

1. Primal Scream Therapy

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2.  Pleated Front No Iron Cotton Dockers (TM):

Dabo Swinney

3.  Pointing at things:

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4.  Funny hats:

Dabo+Swinney+Auburn+v+Clemson+SHrHFNQTWl8l

5.  The start of fall practice:

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6. Eavesdropping on other guys coaching football:

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7. Simultaneously drinking a Coke Zero and holding a helmet while getting a belly rub:

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8. The Front Piggyback:

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9.  That girl named Vicki in 10th grade science class.  She was really cool.  I think she moved or something:

DaboSwinney

10.  The Bros always being there for you:

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11.  The Double Fist Pump:

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12.  Reminiscing about college days during a sleepover at Mom’s:

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13. Speed limit immunity:

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14. Golden showers:

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14.  Fruit:

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15.  The little front pocket you can improvise right behind your belt and above your junk:

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16.  Close talking:

Paul+Johnson+Dabo+Swinney+Clemson+v+Georgia+mGzoZ1PA4cAl

17.  The Big Three:  Gum, Whistle, and Important-looking-card-that-is-actually-a-grocery-list:

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18.  Stuffed animals:

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19.  The Original Fatz Triple Threat Sampler Platter (TM):

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22.  Carefully choreographed vignettes that suggest a faithful loyalty that gullible fans will fervently believe:

 

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21.  What this guy thinks about the job you are doing:

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22.  Finally getting a win against South Carolina:

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23. Job Security:

suit

24.  William Christopher Swinney:

Dabo Swinney

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The Gamecock Defense – A Reality Check

Photo: gogamecocks.com

Photo: gogamecocks.com

South Carolina was bad on defense this year.

Check that, South Carolina was very bad on defense this year.

It’s pretty clear to the entire fan base that a bad defense caused this team to finish 6-6 rather than 9-3 or 10-2.  While these are pretty obvious statements, the explanation as to why is not as simple as some folks are making it out to be.  Yes, coaching is likely a part of it. But this issue deserves a deeper look.

During the regular season and after it mercifully came to an end, the majority of the fan base zeroed in and pinned the defensive debacle on one man:  Lorenzo “Whammy” Ward.  And why not?  Isn’t he the coordinator of this bunch of guys who seemed to always be out of position and who bounced off ball carriers at an alarmingly high rate?  Shouldn’t the coordinator of a defense coming off back to back to back 11-2 seasons be better than that?  Well, yes and no.

As fans (and bloggers) we get the luxury of sitting back and playing Monday morning quarterback after every game and season. It’s pretty easy to say we should have blitzed more or played man to man instead of zone after watching the games. But what do we really know about this stuff? I’ve been an avid college football fan my entire life (to give you a clue, I was a Freshman during the “Rodney” game) and think that I know more about the sport than the majority of the folks who have never played or coached the game (of which I am one).

I know they can run a  base 5-2 (in the old days), a 3-4 or a 4-3. I know they can play man or zone. I know they can blitz or not. I know what a stunt is. I know what the Mike is and what the Will is. I know what a Dime package and a Nickel a package look like. I know what a prevent defense looks like (and boy do I hate prevent defense). I know who the boundary corner is and who the field corner is. In short, I know a lot of stuff about defense.

Even with all of my armchair knowledge, however, I’ll admit that I pretty much have no clue how to coach a college defense. So everyone pontificating about how crappy a job Coach Ward did coaching our defense this year needs to slow down a little bit. The guy coached us when we were good on D and has now coached us when we were bad on D (Note: the previous guy who coached us when we were good on D just got fired, again).  Did he make some bad coaching moves? Probably, but I’m not going to write that I know what those moves were. Why not? Because despite all of my observational knowledge of college football, I’m not qualified to do so.

Folks are going to say that Ward obviously sucks because the results are bad and this is a results business. I get that. There’s no trophy for 2nd place. But despite my feeling that we could use a little shake up on D, I’m not going to join in the mob who want to tar and feather Coach Ward. Like with most positions of high scrutiny, the defensive coordinator gets far too much individual credit when the D does well and far too much criticism when the D stinks.

So if it’s not all coaching, what else is it?

If you listened to our last TRC podcast, you heard Tbone and me having a healthy debate on this subject. While I’ve been following college football for a long time, I’ve also followed that other sport that goes hand in hand with it: recruiting. As most knowledgeable fans realize, recruiting is the lifeblood of a program. Without good players your team is going to struggle-it’s as simple as that.

Without reading ahead (no cheating), tell me what three things the following Gamecocks have in common: Jadaveon Clowney, Kelsey Quarles, Cliff Mathews, Johnathan Joseph, Victor Hampton, DeVonte Holloman, DJ Swearinger, Jimmy Legree, Stephon Gilmore, and Devin Taylor?

One: They all play Defense.

Two: They all hail from the State of South Carolina.

Three: They are all former Gamecocks.

I almost had a fourth thing to add:  The NFL. With the exception of Hampton and Legree, I believe that all of them have played meaningful snaps in an NFL game.

Have we had other defensive stalwarts who were not from South Carolina? Sure – a few actually (Antonio Allen, Melvin Ingram, Darien Stewart and Travian Robertson come to mind). This is also a nice list, but you’ll notice that it’s a much shorter than the other one.

So what, you might be asking? What does this have to do with anything?  Well, the “so what” is recruiting top-tier talent to complete with the likes of UGA, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Texas A&M and the other schools in our league is extremely difficult. The top players from the states near South Carolina (our recruiting territory) tend to stay in state to play football (or if they don’t stay in state, they go to a “superpower” or “brand” like Alabama or Auburn-and make no mistake, we are nowhere near superpower status despite our recent success). If we get a good player from another state it’s usually a guy who was undersized or under the radar (Allen or Eric Norwood come to mind, and no, UGA did not offer Norwood).  And we’ve benefitted greatly from a down cycle in the state of North Carolina (all schools) and at Tennessee, and therefore have been able to snag guys out of NC who might have stayed in state or called Rocky Top home (Ingram, Robertson, and Chris Culliver come to mind). Our state has a population base much smaller than Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina and produces far fewer D1 football prospects than those states. This is a simple fact. Steve Spurrier and company have done an outstanding job of corralling the home-grown talent  these past few years. One result of those efforts was a better defense. The South Carolina natives I listed above were stars at the college level. Some of these guys are starring in the NFL.

So what happened? A talent drop, that’s what. The talent level in state is down and has been down for the last few years. If you follow recruiting, this is pretty obvious. There simply haven’t been as many elite level players being produced in the state for us to keep home and man our D (or our O for that matter: see Lattimore and Jeffery).

We had three guys from South Carolina play significant snaps on defense this year. Philip Dukes and two guys named Gerald Dixon. These three guys are decent players but nobody is mistaking them for Jadeveon Clowney or Devin Taylor. Here are the home states of some of our other contributors on D:

  • Georgia – Sharrod Golightly, TJ Gurley, Brison Williams, Rico McWilliams, TJ Holloman, Chris Moody, Marcquis Roberts, Bryson Allen-Williams, Chaz Elder, David Johnson, Darius English
  • North Carolina – JT Surratt (probably our best player on D this year with apologies to Brison Williams and Skai Moore), Abu Lamin
  • Alabama – Jonathan Walton, Taylor Stallworth
  • Florida – Skai Moore, Jordan Diggs, Al Harris, Chris Lammons
  • New Jersey – Kaiwan Lewis

Why have we gone out-of-state to recruit these guys? Because the guys in the state of South Carolina were not as good as them, that’s why. And when you go out-of-state you sometimes have to take chances on guys that are undersized, or on guys that are good enough but in danger of not making it academically. Some of these guys pan out, and some of them don’t. We’ve had a bad run of guys not panning out. We’ve had a bad run of missing on guys who had academic issues and couldn’t get in here but got in elsewhere (like Lorenzo Mauldin at Louisville, a probable 1st or 2nd round pick in the upcoming NFL draft).

The point I am making is that it is very difficult to pull elite level players out of other states when you are a school like South Carolina. You can get good players, but elite players from out-of-state almost always go elsewhere (one recent exception: Bryson Allen-Williams, a Ward recruit out of Atlanta, had offers from everyone but came here-this was a rare recruiting victory of its kind). Without elite talent, it’s tough to be consistently successful against the teams we play, no matter how good you are at scheming from the sideline.

So why did the talent in the state of South Carolina drop? There are no solid answers, you just have to chalk it up to a bad cycle. We have to hope that the in talent level gets better and that we are able to keep the guys home. Plus, we absolutely have to keep our current recruiting class in the fold. This class, composed largely of players who saw us go 33-6 during their high schools careers, are mostly from out-of-state (again, there’s very little elite talent in state this year). The only reason we got in the door with some of them is because we went 33-6, which looks “elite”. A 6-6 season put a big damper on the perception of our program. And know that the schools around us are seeking to take advantage.  This is one reason why Ward and the other coaches, the coaches who have the relationships with these recruits, are still on staff. Until we have something that they perceive as better to show them, this is absolutely the right move. You might ask how a school like Auburn can afford to fire its D-coordinator right after the season?  Because Auburn is a brand.

You might also be asking how a team like Missouri, who we out-recruit every year, is better on D than us. I’m not saying that coaching has nothing to do with it. I think Missouri has performed well on defense the last couple of years without guys who would be considered elite recruits. Coaching is a part of it and I think they have done a  great job with what they have. We certainly need some of that.

Lastly, it ain’t so easy to play defense these days with the new-fangled offenses and such. For you veteran fans like me, an Iron Bowl with a 55-44 final score is absolute blasphemy.  Bear Bryant probably turned over in his grave last week. Oh, and that was our former DC, Ellis Johnson, who gave up, or was blamed for giving up, the 55.

All this being said, do I want Will Muschamp on the sidelines running the D next year?  Damn straight I do. I hope he can coach up our guys and get us better on D.  With the guys we have returning and the talent coming in (if we keep it), the potential is there. Plus, the perception of long-term stability with Muschamp as the possible next head coach at USC can do nothing but help.

But Coach Boom knows the above described recruiting landscape a lot better than I do.  So color me skeptical until we see him announced in Columbia.

If he doesn’t come, don’t be too surprised if Coach Ward is running the D again next year.

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TRC Unleashed Episode 73 – The Streak Buster

Well, the streak of five straight wins over Clemson is done, and the TRC Unleashed crew gets together to recap how it happened, and how we can prevent it from ever from happening again.

Aside from the game itself, you’ll hear about possible coaching changes, bowl destinations, and the dreaded ACL controversy.

The first TRC Unleashed after a Clemson loss EVER is not as depressing as you might think, despite the NPR opening.

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

TRC-Unleashed-Button

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By Any Means Necessary

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Before anyone suggests this is a sour grapes blog post by an excuse-making Gamecock fan, let’s get one thing out of the way: Clemson beat us Saturday fair and square. They were the better team and deserved to win. It’s true and undeniable.

With that said, let’s get to the point of this post.

For years, all we have heard from the Upstate is that Dabo Swinney is a good Christian man who cares about his players above all else. He tells the mamas that he’s going to take care of their boys. On some level you have to hand it to Dabo and say job well done. He’s been able to convince the Clemson faithful and a bunch of talented recruits that he is doing it differently than the other guys; that Clemson is a special place with different priorities. A very large segment of the Tiger fan base (about 99% by my rough calculations), has eaten this fantasy up with a spoon.

But Dabo knows what all other coaches know: winning cures all ills and covers up all flaws. Fan bases are willing to overlook just about any transgression, fault, or risk if their team is winning.

Take Florida State for example. This year Jimbo Fisher has gone from a respected coach to an absolute joke for his repeated, uncompromising support of Jameis Winston, no matter what kind of crap Winston pulls. There is simply no way an average player gets the chances Winston has gotten. You know it. I know it. Every fan in America knows it.

Why does Fisher continue to support Winston and brush aside his transgressions?  Because he wants to win big and knows that he would not win big without Winston at quarterback. Winning trumps everything. In this case, winning trumps justice and the need to discipline a young man who is in desperate need of discipline. Winston has obviously been coddled his entire life by coaches and teachers in awe of this talent. This has continued at Florida State. Fisher has failed Winston the person. He may justify it by saying that he is taking care of it “off the field”. Well, the only way to affect someone like Winston, if that’s even possible at this point, is to take away the thing that’s most important to them. That would be football. And that ain’t happening.

 Which brings us to Dabo.  Blessed with a talented young quarterback but faced with a possible sixth straight loss to their hated rival, Dabo had to be feeling pretty good going into the Georgia Tech game. After all the Gamecock D had proven to be downright awful, and his talented young QB had recovered from an unfortunate thumb injury.

Then, out of nowhere, disaster struck. The young QB went down again, this time with a knee injury.  After the injury the Georgia Tech game turned from a likely Clemson win into a dumpster fire as Cole Stoudt scored a bunch of points for the other team. Dabo and his braintrust had to be shell-shocked. While Stoudt had struggled in prior games, it now became abundantly clear that there was no way they could enter battle against the Gamecocks and hope to win with this guy at the wheel.

After a couple of days of what appeared to be top-secret MRI exams, it was reported that young Mr. Watson did not have a dreaded ACL tear, but instead had a “strain” or “bruise” or something like that. As it turns out, it’s pretty clear that he suffered a partial ACL tear that he finished tearing in practice a few days prior to the Ga. State game. That’s right, in practice. Instead of resting his injured star, the player he promised mama that he was going to protect, he put him out on the practice field with a partially torn ACL to see what he could do. Well, what he did was finish tearing that sucker.

Now, faced the choice of playing Stoudt or a supremely talented but injured Watson, what did Dabo decide to do? Play Watson of course. Why you ask?  Because Dabo wanted and needed to win. The fan base would not have put up with a sixth straight loss, which would have been on the table with Stoudt at QB (Stoudt proved Dabo right in his limited playing time in the game, after an obviously injured Watson limped off the field when he wasn’t even touched).

What about the welfare of Watson you ask?  Well, what about it.  The party line out of Clemson will be that it was Watson’s choice and that he couldn’t hurt it any worse at that point.

Of course an 18-year-old kid is going to want to play. You can’t give the kid that choice. If he has any competitive drive at all he’s going to choose to play in his rivalry game every time. Coaches, the “adults” in the room, are supposed to intervene and make such decisions for the not fully-formed athletes in their charge. Today lots of doctors and former players (including Emmitt Smith, arguably one of the three or four best running backs in the history of the NFL), have come forward to say that Watson should not have played, that playing risked further injury and problems with the knee down the road.  Dabo and his folks surely knew this. Just like he knew that bringing Tajh Boyd back for his Senior year risked his draft placement.

Winning trumps everything. In this case, winning trumps the well-being and future of a talented young man.

Am I singling out Dabo?  No, I’m just pointing out that Dabo is just like most other coaches. They do whatever it takes to win.  Damn the consequences.

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Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Clemson Edition

Photo: gogamecocks.com

Photo: gogamecocks.com

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 35-17 loss to Clemson on Saturday:

Broken. The streak ended on Saturday, and based on what we’ve seen from the South Carolina football team this season it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Due to a stunning drop in talent level on defense and perhaps the worst collective coaching job of the Steve Spurrier era, the 2014 regular season came to an end with a resounding thud at Memorial Stadium.

After the Gamecocks’ initial touchdown it felt like what we’ve been saying all year long – “we’re in their heads”. Something about the block C and fighting Gamecock on the sides of those white helmets and the legendary HBC on the sidelines made the Tigers of Clemson quake in their cleats. The thought of another senior class not experiencing victory over South Carolina was running through the minds of all those in orange, and it was distracting them.

Except it wasn’t true. Not this time.

The game against Clemson on Saturday felt like something from the 80s or 90s, and it was something we haven’t experienced for a number of years. Clemson was the better team almost across the board – bigger, stronger, faster and more talented at most positions on the field, and it showed. Dylan Thompson ran for his life all day. We had lost yardage plays on first down seemingly every other set of downs. Our defensive ends froze while Artavis Scott of Clemson streaked by them on the Tigers’ horizontal “pass” play.

After the first Thompson turnover, it turned out they were in OUR heads. And it was there they set up shop all day.

What now, Steve? The next few days and weeks will be very important to the future of our football program. The fan base has been calling for the head of Lorenzo Ward for the majority of the season. Spurrier has been in Ward’s corner for most of the year, but when asked about staff changes yesterday he simply replied it “wasn’t the time to talk about that.”

Will Spurrier fire Ward and put on a full-court press to get Will Muschamp? Will he keep Ward and instead fire Deke Adams and Kirk Botkin as scapegoats? Or does he keep most of the defensive staff together for fear of losing members of his highly ranked 2015 recruiting class? I think the only thing that is certain is that he has to do something to show he cares about fixing this historically bad defense.

Of course, if you listen to perennial pot-stirrer Josh Kendall of The State, there’s still the issue of whether Spurrier is going to come back at all. Rumor has it Spurrier has turned over most of the play calling duties to Junior the last few games, a part of the game he has admittedly loved more than anything. Could this be a sign?

I doubt it. Spurrier is too much of a competitor to go out with a 6-6 team while he still has a breath in him. My belief is going into this season he felt like he had the program on solid footing and could just “roll the ball out there” and win 8-9 games going forward. After this year, he might have to work a little harder than he expected, but I fully expect him to do just that.

By “fully expect” I mean “I hope”.

Team Thompson. Dylan Thompson had a pretty bad game yesterday while becoming the Gamecocks’ single-season passing leader. He made some poor decisions and poor throws, but in fairness was under extreme pressure from the formidable Clemson defensive line all game long.

Still, there were people on our timeline last night bidding “good riddance” to Thompson, not for his performance yesterday, but for his performance all season. And I guess it finally hit me, Thompson’s biggest downfall this season was that he was not Connor Shaw.

He didn’t lead our team to a record number of wins. He didn’t lead a miracle comeback at Missouri. He didn’t make plays with his legs. He didn’t get aid from a stingy defense laden with NFL talent. He simply made the mistake of following the guy who did.

Look folks, if you have your mind made up about Dylan Thompson and haven’t changed it at this point, nothing you read here is going to help. But God help Connor Mitch next year if he isn’t Connor Shaw.

Pharoh. Didn’t get enough touches yesterday, it’s as simple as that. Going forward, I think there’s a chance he plays quarterback next year, but I really hope he doesn’t. If he does, we become a run-first and run-often offense, and that’s mainly because he can’t throw the football because his mechanics are awful. Please don’t take that as a knock on Pharoh either, he’s our offensive MVP. But as a wide receiver.

Damn lies and statistics. Bear with me for a moment while I go old man on you. Does it bother anyone else that Deshaun Watson gets credit for a completed pass on ball that could’ve just been an easily handed off? And I’m not saying this because it’s Watson or Clemson, this goes for anyone who runs that play.

Watson got credit for passing touchdowns of 53 and 70 yards for a ball he essentially flipped in the air in front of him. That’s 40% of his credited yardage and all of his credited touchdown passes. I mean, I get it, it doesn’t matter, they would’ve scored on a handoff just as easily. It’s just a statistical flaw that really annoys me.

Back in my day you had to actually throw the ball downfield to get credit for a touchdown pass. And yes we wore leather helmets then, but he point still stands.

The great ACL debate. It was revealed after the game yesterday that the aforementioned Watson was playing with a torn ACL during the game. There was a lot of Twitter outrage over playing a kid with an injury like that, but quite frankly I don’t think it’s as big a deal as most are making if out to be if he was cleared by a doctor and could stand the pain. BJ Symons of Texas Tech played several games his senior season with a torn ACL and set an NCAA passing record. Tennessee has an offensive lineman that has been playing with a torn ACL all season. Again, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t truly think Dabo Swinney would risk such a young, outstanding talent like Watson over one game. However…

Watson initially injured his knee against Georgia Tech. What was initially feared to be a torn ACL that would require season-ending surgery was ultimately revealed to be a knee sprain that would require treatment but no surgery. Watson then reportedly re-injured the knee at practice the week before the Georgia State game, and now will indeed need surgery to repair the ACL.

Is there a problem practicing or playing a kid who has a torn ACL and needs surgery? Probably not, as long as there is no fear of further injury. Is there a problem practicing or playing a kid with a knee injury that doesn’t require surgery with the possibility of further injury that could require surgery? Absolutely. There is a huge difference between non-surgical rehabbing of a knee injury and having major surgery to repair that knee.

That is something with which we should have a major problem.

Bowl Game. Birmingham anyone? Hahaha just kidding. But if I’m not kidding I’ll be very, very sad.

Go Cocks.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

TRC Unleashed Episode 72 – The Clemson Preview

TRC Unleashed returns from a two-month hiatus just in time to moan and groan about the upcoming Clemson game. Among other things you’ll hear the team discuss:

  • A few of the things we’ve missed over the last eight weeks or so
  • What we need to do to beat Clemson on Saturday
  • Why are Spurrier and Dabo being so nice to each other
  • Will Deshaun Watson pull a Willis Reed
  • Dylan Thompson’s place in USC history
  • Our favorite moments from the last five years of dominating Clemson
  • Your Twitter questions, including Pam Ward!!!
  • Our miserable basketball team, and our incredible women’s basketball team
  • If we win our sixth straight, some hand gesture ideas (seriously)

All this and so much more in our return to the air! Click here or click the graphic to listen, and enjoy!

TRC-Unleashed-Button

 

 

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Snap Judgments – 2014 South Alabama @ USC Edition

Photo: gogamecocks.com

Photo: gogamecocks.com

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 37-12 victory over South Alabama on Saturday:

Yawn. On Saturday South Carolina played like a team that had just come off a remarkable, emotionally draining overtime win at Florida. They also played like a team that might have been peeking ahead to a huge rivalry game next weekend.

In a year of uneven performances by the Gamecocks, this one might have been the most excusable. On top of what happened last week and what’s coming this week, you had Senior Day, which is always an emotional time for those Gamecocks playing their final game at home.

For those of you thinking there’s no excuse for turning the ball over five times, you are probably correct. Lack of concentration at that level is troubling, especially heading into the Clemson game. But I submit to you that the game prior to the rivalry game with the Tigers should not necessarily be an indication of how we will play against them. After all, we played pretty poorly in 2011 (The Citadel, 41-20) and 2012 (Wofford, 24-7) and still handily dispatched of the Upstaters.

On the flip side, while I think we are capable of putting together a good game next weekend, there is enough evidence on both sides to suggest we could crap the bed and see an end to our historic streak.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, forget about yesterday. And forget about the previous ten weeks. When the Gamecocks and Tigers get together this year, truly just about anything can happen.

Progress. South Alabama gained 133 yards on their first two drives of the game, and it looked like the same old same old from the Gamecock defense. But Lorenzo’s crew held the Jaguars to only 156 yards the rest of the way, and kept their second consecutive opponent under 300 yards. They also forced five turnovers, including two interceptions apiece for Skai Moore and Brison Williams.

I know, I know, those two games were against two of the worst offenses we’ve faced this year, but it’s progress. We still have no pass rush, and our young corners still look way too lost way too often. But our adjustments at linebacker have paid off and we still have Williams patrolling the secondary to take some heat off the youngsters.

The hope is next week we can continue to force turnovers, and make just enough stops to give our offense a chance.

Team Thompson. Yesterday Dylan Thompson became only the fourth quarterback in school history to pass for more than 3000 yards in a season, joining Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill and Stephen Garcia. Currently he is sitting at 3031 yards, good for fourth all-time. With two games left and only trailing Ellis’ all-time record by 176 yards, he should easily set the new record.

Thompson is also currently tenth in career passing yardage at USC, and should be able to pass Bobby Fuller and Phil Petty to move into eighth by the end of the year. Two more touchdown passes will get him to fifth all-time in Gamecock history.

All of this might seem rather unremarkable to you since our quarterbacking history is rather thin. But keep in mind Dylan Thompson is a first-year starter, and has played significant snaps in only twenty games in his career. Included in that is one nine attempt game. In contrast, the guys who hold most of the passing records for South Carolina played in at least double the number of games – Ellis played in 43, Taneyhill played in 42 and Garcia played in 40.

I think most of you have come to appreciate Dylan Thompson for what he has accomplished, but there are still detractors our there. All I can say is, he is appreciated very much by this blog, and we’re going to miss him greatly.

Phay-roh. After the game yesterday Steve Spurrier called Pharoh Cooper “one of the best players in the country”. I’m hoping beyond hope Connor Mitch grabs the starting QB job by the throat next spring, but if he doesn’t it’s good to know we have Cooper as a back-up plan. Although I’d much rather see him at wide receiver.

Disappearing acts. It wasn’t a surprise to not see Shaq Roland on the field after his performance last week. Honestly I believe his days in a Gamecock uniform may be numbered, which is unfortunate given his immense talent.

Another guy whose days are numbered is Mike Davis. While we’ve known for a while he was probably going to bolt for the NFL after this season, we didn’t think he was going to check out before our season was over. He didn’t start yesterday, and then fumbled on two of his three touches when he did get in the game. We didn’t see him in the second half, and then he reportedly didn’t stick around for the alma mater after the game. It will be interesting to see what his role is next week and in the bowl game.

Wilds Thing. On the flip side, Brandon Wilds hinted that he was “not ready” for the NFL and would return to the Gamecocks next year. We’ve heard this before (see: Ace Sanders), so at this point you have to take it with a grain of salt. But I really think he could help his stock by returning next year and having a big season.

A Wilds/David Williams combo could be a lot of fun.

Seniors. A hearty thank you to all the guys who walked yesterday. Thank you for your contributions to one of the most successful runs in Gamecock football history.

Hate Week. Well, it’s here again. I must admit I’m not very confident heading into next Saturday, but then again I never really am. Clemson probably has the better team for the first time since 2008, but not so much better that the Gamecocks can’t win their sixth straight.

Clemson’s defense is very, very good. Maybe the best we’ve played all year. “But Buck!” you say, “They haven’t played any good offenses!” This is very true, but that doesn’t mean we’ll march up and down the field all day. They have NFL talent sprinkled throughout their defense, and Spurrier will have to call a great game to keep them off balance. If we can get to 28 points I like our chances, but that won’t be easy.

As far as Deshaun Watson goes, I’ll tell you exactly what is going to happen. He’ll be questionable all week. He won’t start. The Clemson offense will sputter. We’ll get 1000 shots of Watson on the sideline, and another 1000 “when will Dabo Swinney go to Watson” comments by the announcers. Watson will come off the bench after 2-3 series and the Memorial Stadium crowd will go bananas.

After that I have no idea. It all depends on how healthy he is and how our defense responds. Just be prepared for that to be the dominant storyline all week.

Don’t hate. Have fun this week. Engage in some good-natured banter, but don’t take things too seriously. It is important to all of us, but it is still a football game.

Go Cocks, BEAT THE TIGERS!

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What Spurrier Said, and What Clemson Heard

I didn’t watch the Steve Spurrier press conference after the Florida win on Saturday. I usually just keep an eye on Twitter to see if he says something interesting, and from what I could tell he didn’t.

Unless you’re a Clemson fan.

Josh Kendall, Gamecock beat writer extraordinaire, got things started with two sensationalist and context-free tweets from the presser:

Saturday Down South immediately picked up the tweets and ran them under the headline “Steve Spurrier took a shot at Clemson after Florida win”.

I still didn’t watch the press conference video because I’m a busy man with Saturday afternoon naps and sorting the mail and the like. I figured if it was anything important the Clemson fanboy community would get a hold of it, and hooboy did they ever. The first tweet I noticed was from our good friend William Qualkinbush (I’m just kidding, he hates us) after the announcement that Deshaun Watson didn’t have a torn ACL, only a sprain.

Hmmmm, I was really curious now. What was I missing. It was late Sunday by now though, and I desperately needed to rest up from that afternoon nap I had taken, so once again I didn’t watch the presser.

Then, this morning, I saw a retweet from something called “The Clemson Insider”, wherein their Monday Morning Quarterback blog (what an original title!) the writer advised “Steve Spurrier seriously needs to shut his mouth and worry about his own team”.

Wowza! The HBC must’ve really gone overboard this time if they’re making “Will Vandervort” that angry! So I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about. Watch the video below, courtesy of gogamecocks.com. The Watson/Tiger bashing starts at about :19.

I watched the video about a half dozen times because I thought I had the wrong one. Surely nobody was upset by this, right? Then it hit me…translation.

What normal people hear and what Tiger fans hear are completely different things. Especially when you’ve lost five straight football games to your hated rival, your brain gets a little extra twisted so Dabo rants sound Patton-esque and innocuous Spurrier quips are like RPGs aimed at Tillman Hall.

So let’s go step by step and try to understand what normal people heard, and what the wad-pantied Clemson fan sites heard. Follow along.

What Spurrier said: “I guess the upstate team got beat today, is that correct?”

What Clemson heard: “Word has it those inbred redneck cow-tipping sacks of toe fungus got beat today, is that correct?”

What Spurrier said: “What was that score, Georgia Tech game?”

What Clemson heard: “How bad did those pocket protector-wearin’ highwaters beat ‘em?”

Reporter: “They lost their quarterback.” (Note: no mention of what the injury was.)

What Spurrier said: “He got hurt again?” 

What Clemson heard: “That China doll get busted up again? Kid needs to playing tiddlywinks or what not I guess. Doesn’t seem cut out for a man’s game.”

Reporter: “Tore his ACL.” (Kind of obvious Spurrier didn’t hear this comment, or did a fantastic job of ignoring it.)

What Spurrier said: [nothing]

What Clemson heard: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS??? A DIBILITATING KNEE INJURY??? THAT. IS. AWESOME!!! AND ONLY TWO WEEKS BEFORE OUR GAME?!? SA-WEET!!!

What Spurrier said: “What was the score?”

What Clemson heard: “Hey jackass, I asked you a question! I’m the reporter now!”

Reporter: “28-6.”

What Spurrier said: “Oh was it?”

What Clemson heard: “Holy…what? They got beat by three touchdowns by that junior high wing-T offense? Ha! How pathetic is that?”

What Spurrier said: “OK. Well, that game, looks like we’re in better shape than we were two weeks ago, right?”

What Clemson heard: “We’re going to kill them. Then burn the campus down and steal their girlfriends.”

What Spurrier said: “But [laughs] anything can happen as we all know.”

What Clemson heard: “Only one thing is going to happen as we all know – the destruction of everyone associated with Clemson and everything and everyone they love.”

What Spurrier said: “Thanks guys.”

What Clemson heard: “Tell that sack of crap Dabo that SIX is coming. Peace.” [Stands up, grabs crotch, flips the bird.]

OK, so I made up that last part, but the rest feels pretty accurate.

In all seriousness, sometimes I wonder what they are hearing that I am not. Steve Spurrier can be a  real jackass, I get that. He’s hated by many members of a select few fan bases, including Clemson. And he’s earned it.

My advice to the fan base over there is to not read something evil into everything Spurrier says. If you want to get bent over him not saying your name and calling you “the upstate team”, I get it, that would piss me off too.

But trying to say Spurrier is “taking shots” at a kid who just possibly suffered a major knee injury is just flat out disingenuous. Poking fan bases or opposing coaches is one thing, but going after opposing players for little or no reason is simply not his MO.

Final thing – let the anger go. It’s not good for you, and we’re worried about your health.

In the fabricated words of Steve Spurrier, “peace”.

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Snap Judgments – 2014 USC @ Florida Edition

"Hey guys! Guys! Check it out, I scored a rushing touchdown!" (Photo: wltx.com)

“Hey guys! Guys! Check it out, I scored a rushing touchdown!” (Photo: wltx.com)

Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 23-20 victory over Florida on Saturday:

Redeemed. So many times this season our beloved Gamecocks have given us moments to breathe easy. Admit it, you know it’s true. Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee – in every one of these games, at some point in the fourth quarter with a two-score lead you’ve taken a deep breath and thought, “ok, we’ve got this”.

Then, inexplicably, we’ve blown each game in colossal fashion. The kinds of losses you typically experience only once every few years, and we’ve experienced three in one season. Following each loss the analyses flowed – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – all blamed at one time or another, some blamed every time, and some deservedly so.

On Saturday, the eulogy for the Florida game was written. We had blown our lead early, and the Gators were lining up for the field goal that would put the game out of reach with a little over three minutes left. After all, we haven’t remotely shown the ability to rally from one score down, much less two.

A series of events ensued that amounted to a 30-minute roller coaster ride:

  • We blocked the field goal
  • Then, we moved into Florida territory, but on fourth down a bizarre bad snap and tipped pass that was almost caught ended the drive
  • Then, we forced a three and out by the Gators and had a chance to get the ball back for one last desperation drive
  • Then, we blocked the punt (!!!)
  • Then, we ran an option with no timeouts (???), fumbled, recovered and scored the tying touchdown
  • Then, in overtime, Dylan

Many times we were as good as dead on Saturday in Gainesville. But all of those things we’ve complained about this year – the defense, the offense, special teams, coaching, the HBC, Coach Ward, Coach Robinson, Dylan Thompson – contributed to keeping us alive.

In the end, in a season gone south, we got some much-needed redemption.

Team Thompson. If you’ve read this column regularly you know we’ve been staunch defenders of Dylan Thompson for most of the season. Despite one of his worst passing games of the season yesterday, he showed Shaw-like toughness in the face of a fierce Florida pass rush.

Dylan had a signature win against Georgia earlier this year, but our late-game collapses since had diminished the importance of that win. He needed, and deserved, another “moment” with this team, and he got it yesterday.

Here’s to at least one more “moment” to come.

(BTW, Thompson has finally passed the benched Kenny Hill as the leading passer in the SEC.)

Whammy. I’m not going to get too crazy in praise of our defense, but Lorenzo Ward’s defense held only its second opponent below 300 yards this year (Missouri was the other). Florida has struggled most of the year moving the football. However, the Gators’ Treon Harris was a scary proposition given our struggles containing running quarterbacks this year.

Our defensive line seemed to get more push than it’s gotten all year, and the combination of Jonathan Walton and Skai Moore at linebacker showed some promise. Our corners are still mostly young, and still play like their young. But overall the tackling to my untrained eye was the best it’s been all year.

So very special. I wonder what the odds of us blocking a field goal and a punt in one game would’ve been in Vegas? Especially knowing our special teams history? Hard to say, but I think it could’ve made us all rich.

Bet it was a good day at the Robinson household.

The HBC. Facing second and goal with :17 left and not timeouts, I was thinking the same thing as this randomly chosen tweeter:

I mean, he’s right, right? If you get stuffed on a run play there is almost NO WAY you have the time to line up and either spike the ball or run another play. It’s not smart to even think about a running play.

Enter the HBC:

It worked, but it’s still a dumb play and I’m not changing my mind.

And I love Steve Spurrier.

The HBC II. Brilliant, brilliant, call on first and goal in overtime. Running the keeper on first down was the most unexpected down to do it, and it showed based on the reaction, or lack of, by the Florida defense.

Shaq Non-attack. On the downside, what in the world? I’m sad when I think about how much talent Shaq Roland has and he can’t seem to get out of his own way. He can, however, get out of the way of a defender and almost end Brandon Wilds’ season.

I hope he can get it together, and not for the football team, but for himself.

Rival Report. Terrible news came down for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, both of whom tore ACLs on Saturday on non-contact plays. For Watson, it’s the end of a season. For Gurley, it’s most likely the end of a tumultuous season and his collegiate career.

I will say this about Watson – I feel bad for the young man and hope he heals and comes back 100%. He’s a talented, talented player and has and extremely bright future ahead of him if he can stay healthy.

On the flip side, I’m glad we don’t have to face him in two weeks. I’m not a “want to face them at full strength” guy. Beating them without Watson will not diminish it one bit for me. Like we’ve had to do in the cases of Connor Shaw (2012) and Marcus Lattimore (2011, 2012), they’ll have employ the “next man up”. If their next guy isn’t good enough, so be it. Not our problem.

Update: Reports came in Sunday night that Watson does not have a torn ACL, only a sprain. Great news for Watson, but it remains to be seen if he will play against USC, and if so how effective he will be. 

Go Cocks, beat Alabama!

What? Oh right, South Alabama!

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