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Spurrier looking to change his offense?


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There aren't too many Gamecock foans here and the article is a couple of weeks old but considering how "popular" Spurrier is on these boards I thought some might find this interesting.

Steve Spurrier Changes His Ways

posted by Scott Hood, 1/10/2008 01:20:00 PM

Steve Spurrier s announcement Tuesday that he wants his quarterback to become more of a running threat next season caught more than a few people by surprise.

Has the offense formerly known as the #####-n -Fire died a tragic death?

In some ways, yes.

But don t expect South Carolina s offense to, all of sudden, start looking like West Virginia s under Rich Rodriguez. The spread option won t become the core of USC s new-look offense.

After three seasons at USC, Spurrier is finally convinced the pass-oriented offensive system he unleashed on the SEC in the early 1990 s is outdated and needs to be revamped to reflect the modern realities of college football.

What are those realities? Defenses are far more complex and aggressive than they were 15 to 20 years ago. Spurrier has often said that when he took over at Florida in 1990, most SEC defenses played a few basic sets and that was it.

Today? College defenses are known to throw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at opposing offenses.

Remember, even the most expensive automobile requires periodic maintenance.

So, Spurrier had to find a way to keep defenses back on their heels more. After surveying the landscape, he decided a quarterback who can run with the ball either as a called play or scrambling for a first down when the receivers are covered downfield - was the best solution.

In my opinion, Spurrier s decision to transition to a new offensive scheme is based on six sets of numbers:

-- USC s third down conversion rate decreased from 47.7 percent (72 of 151) in 2006 to just 35.0 percent (55 of 157) in 2007, last in the SEC. As a matter of comparison, Florida (56.3 percent) and Georgia (45 percent) were significantly higher than USC.

-- USC finished 12th in the SEC in rushing offense with an average of 113.7 yards per game. And it wasn t even close. The 11th place team (Ole Miss) averaged 131.5 rushing yards per game. Even when you take league leader Arkansas out of the equation, the Gamecocks had less than one-half the rushing yards of the second-place team (LSU).

-- USC allowed the second-highest number of sacks in the SEC (31), an average of 2.6 per game. Only Kentucky allowed more. The Gamecocks surrendered 24 sacks in 2006 while playing one more game.

-- USC punted the ball nearly twice as many times in 2007 as it did in 2006. The Gamecocks punted 59 times this past season after kicking the ball away just 30 times in 2006, one of the lowest figures in the nation.

-- Cory Boyd, now graduated, accounted for 66.2 percent (903 of 1,364 yards) of USC s total rushing offense in 2007.

-- USC s two main quarterbacks Blake Mitchell and Chris Smelley combined for negative-125 yards rushing in 2007.

Digesting these numbers, Spurrier came to one conclusion USC s offensive wasn t diversified enough in 2007, despite averaging 26.1 points per game, a decrease of only 0.5 points from 2006.

Spurrier saw first-hand in 2006 how effective a scrambling quarterback can be when he inserted Syvelle Newton into the starting lineup for seven games.

During that span, USC converted 47.6 percent (40 of 84) of its third down opportunities, including a combined 15 of 26 against Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

This past season, USC went 7-for-25 in third downs against the Wildcats and Commodores, including a dismal 1-for-12 against Vanderbilt Oct. 20 in the 17-6 loss that started the Gamecocks season-ending five-game slide.

In my opinion, Spurrier s decision to have the QB run more is also a product of a couple of other factors.

First, if you recall, the shift to Newton last season was based largely on the poor performance of the offensive line in the first couple of games. I believe the same dynamics are at play here.

Simply, Spurrier lacks confidence in the offensive line, unless and until it proves to him it can play at a consistently high level. Obviously, that didn t happen in 2007, which accounted for the constant shuffling at the two guard spots.

Also, the backfield is a question mark with Boyd gone. Mike Davis struggled down the stretch this past season as the coaches appeared to lose confidence in him. He carried the ball a combined four times against Florida and Clemson.

Spurrier knew he would get a pretty good performance out of Boyd each time out. Can he say the same thing about Davis? At this point, no. Davis will, of course, have spring practice to show his stuff now he s back to being the NO. 1 running back.

Behind Davis, there s plenty of inexperience. Brian Maddox is talented but unproven. Bobby Wallace? Taylor Rank? Who knows how they will perform. Wallace redshirted last fall and Rank played mostly special teams.

Eric Baker, a 2007 signee who was forced to attend a semester of prep school to get his academic in order, is scheduled to enroll at USC when classes start Monday. He could become a factor with a solid showing in spring practice.

It doesn t take a genius (and I m not one, just ask my wife) to figure out that Spurrier s emphasis on a running quarterback bodes well for redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia.

Spurrier has been enamored with Garcia ever since he signed with USC last February. He s had some issues off the field but there s no denying his QB talents. By all accounts, he drove the first-team defense crazy this past season as the scout team quarterback.

If he can do the same thing to opposing defenses next fall, he ll play a significant amount.

That raises anther question. What about Chris Smelley? He was a drop-back QB in high school and played well at times last season before senior Blake Mitchell took over for the final stretch.

Nevertheless, Spurrier sent a powerful and fervent message to his redshirt sophomore QB on Tuesday.

Start running.

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