Our blogging buddies at Leftover Hot Dog (seriously, it's a USC fan site) pull no punches in assigning season grades for Carolina's offense and defense, while explaining why.
Overall Grade for the 2010 Offense
I feel the offense was a solid 'B' in 2010 due to the balanced attack in the run game and passing attack.
The reason for what many think is a low grade is the fact that it seemed when the run game was not clicking then the offense was not clicking as a whole. In saying that, the opposite is true as when the run game is going so is the overall offense. The key to the offense as a whole is Marcus Lattimore as he brings so much to the offense. He has the ability to gain those much needed yards and when you get him within 10 yards of the goal line, he is a beast.
The other two main weapons Coach Spurrier has at his disposal, both improved over last year, are Stephen Garcia (QB) and Alshon Jeffery (WR). Garcia has done really well in maturing as a quaterback and having the needed ability to manage the offense. When Marcus gets stuffed, Alshon is the go-to guy in the air. These three, and the entire offense, is only as good as the offensive line which has had their ups and downs. At times, they are what held the offense back due to lack of protection and inability to create holes for the run game. Just look at the losses that USC suffered and you will see that the offensive line play was the root. Again, a solid 'B'.
Overall Grade for the 2010 Defense
I would grade the Gamecocks Defense in 2010 as a "B-". The reason is not because of the defensive line as they did some really good things with pressure and sacks. The reason lies in the suspect production from the Linebackers and Secondary. They had good moments, and as a unit, played good but when they were off....they sucked. No better way to describe it. If you need evidence, then look at the Auburn game and how poor coverage and poor tackling past the line was horrible. There was good individual performances all season but with such high expectations in 2010...the question us Gamecock fans struggle with was the bar set too high? At times (see UGa, UF) the defense was stout but also in some games (see UK, Auburn) it seemed the defense forgot how to play.
Scheme: Lost amidst all the talk of the Fun ‘n Gun is the fact that coach Steve Spurrier really utilizes a pro-style offense that strives to achieve pretty close to a 50/50 balance between run and pass. Sure, Spurrier is known for a high-flying passing attack, but even at Florida Spurrier liked to open up a lead early via the passing game and then rely on the ground game to close things out. Don’t think this is the first year that Spurrier has relied on the ground game (think back to guys like Errict Rhett and Fred Taylor) to win ballgames.
The Gamecocks had a pretty solid year on the season, averaging 391 yards and 32 points per game while racking up a solid 6 yards per play. They most improved on the ground, where they averaged 155.5 yards per game after barely cracking 100 yards per game in many of Spurrier’s seasons at USC.
Personnel: At QB, junior Stephen Garcia finally seems to have come into his own. That doesn’t mean that Garcia (2,816 yards, 65%, 20 TDs, 11 ints.) hasn’t had his share of boneheaded plays and he was benched for the end of the first matchup with Auburn, but his overall body of work was much better this year than the previous two. Garcia can be rattled, but he can also be a good game manager and has toughness and scrambling ability. You just never know which you’re gonna get.
A big reason for USC’s success this year has been the emergence of freshman Marcus Lattimore. Named All-SEC First Team and the SEC Freshman of the Year, Lattimore (1,198 yards, 4.8 average, 17 TDs, 26 receptions, 364 yards, 2 TDs) proved to be a difference-maker from the start and powered the Gamecocks to victory in games against Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. However, when Lattimore was bottled up (see both Auburn games) or missed time due to injury (see the inexplicable loss to Kentucky), USC faltered. Senior Brian Maddox (338 yards, 5.5 average, 2 TDs) has been the main backup.
The Gamecocks feature a big, talented WR corps that is led by Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley. Jeffery (79 receptions, 1387 yards, 9 TDs) emerged this year as a big-play threat, but also as a go-to guy. He’ll be a handful. Gurley (42 receptions, 416 yards, 4 TDs) was the bigger threat last year, but has seen his impact diminish a bit this season. Still, he has the size and quickness to present matchup nightmares. True freshman Ace Sanders (24 receptions, 300 yards, 2 TDs) emerged from day one as a threat in the slot while sophomore D.L. Moore (15 receptions, 160 yards, 2 TDs) provides yet another big (6-4, 211) body. Senior Patrick DiMarco (15 receptions, 147 yards, 3 TDs) is a threat playing a TE/H-back role. DiMarco is a solid blocker and has good hands.
The least fun and most challenging part of your Atlanta trip will be getting to and from the bowl game. Finding a parking space near the Dome won’t be easy because of two other major downtown events on New Years Eve. A Zac Brown Band concert will pack Phillips Arena a block from the Dome. And thousands more people will crowd downtown for the annual Peach Drop, Atlanta’s version of the Big Apple event in New York. Here are your options for navigating it all.
DRIVE & PARK
Parking spaces are limited for The Georgia Dome (part of the Georgia World Congress Center and Phillips Arena complex). There’s a total of only 5,168 spaces in official decks and lots (colored and numbered spaces on the map). If you hope to grab one, arrive at least a few hours before kickoff. The outer lots charge $8-$10; the ones adjacent to The Dome (brown, orange, silver and red) will cost $10 or more. There are several gypsy lots in the area, but expect to pay plenty and walk several blocks.
Our suggestion: Get a parking space early, then spend a fun afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium (in the upper right corner of the map). It’s billed as the world’s largest aquarium, where you can get up close and personal with whales, sharks, coral reef marine life and tons more. And if you have more time to kill, the World of Coke is a cool family attraction that’s a bit more affordable ($15 for adults, $10 for kids). Tickets available on line at each website.
TAKE MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority)
Ride a MARTA train to and from the Dome/CNN Center/Phillips Arena station (see the arrow on the route map below). Get a temporary Breeze Card for 50 cents from the vending machines at any station. Load it with at least $4 so you'll have a roundtrip ticket (one-way tickets are $2) and avoid long lines in the station after the game. Each ticket includes transfers -- and you’ll need a transfer to change trains at the central (Five Points) station. Check the route map after the jump.
About the only interesting media quote Jimbo made Tuesday:
“He’s ready to go. I declared him yesterday. He’s practiced well for two days. He’s made all the throws. There’s been no swelling. His body is sorer than his elbow is. He’s been sitting on his tail for a month.”
FSU practiced Monday at the Falcons indoor practice facility in Flowery Branch, north of Atlanta. The Noles will workout inside the Georgia Dome for the remainder of the week. The team was originally scheduled to practice outdoors at Georgia Tech this week, but nasty weather altered those plans -- even though daytime temps in Atlanta will climb from the 30s to the 50s during the week. The change works out to the Noles' advantage. Getting acclimated to playing indoors eliminates all the distractions of a whole different atmosphere -- from the artificial surface to the lighting from above. Well, everything except the acoustics of crowd noise. That's where South Carolina has an advantage after their SEC title game in the Dome.
Who's lining up at TE? FSU media relations told us it'll be Ja'baris Little (6'3" junior) and/or Jonathan Johnson (6'7" redshirt soph). They have zero catches this year between them. Matt Dunham as an H-back provides another option. Chances are good, though, that none of them will start. A TE hasn’t actually started in half the games this fall. The bigger question, of course, is blocking. Can Little, Johnson or Dunham duplicate what Reliford did in that area? One thing is for sure. The FSU spokesman says there's no chance Fisher will burn the redshirts of freshmen TE's Will Tye or Tank Sessions.
Getting a kick out of the indoors. FSU's kickers have had no problem kicking with a roof over their heads. Media Relations told us that “Hopkins was killing it today.” And as hard as he tried, Shawn Powell couldn’t hit the roof.
This excerpt from a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal story also reveals that Tommy Tuberville demands extraordinary loyalty from his coaches. Merely talking to Will Muschamp about the UF job was a firing offense.
The Avalanche-Journal learned Sunday night Willis was talking about a job with the University of Florida and Tech coach Tommy Tuberville found out through third parties. The two came to a mutual agreement Willis should leave Tech.
FSU has a few juniors -- Nigel Bradham, for one -- who, though unlikely, might decide to pass up next season for the NFL draft. Here's what Jimbo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about players considering coming out early.
"We’ll make a judgement when they get their information (about their draft prospects) back. If they think it’s the right thing for them to do and if they think they’re going to be a high pick, then I’m all for them."
Starting for the injured Xavier Gibson, Bernard James made the most of his second start of the season by scoring a career high 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
But it wasn’t just James who helped Florida State in an upset win, 68-61, over 15th ranked Baylor.
Derwin Kitchen led the ‘Noles with 19 points and Chris Singleton recorded another double double with 17 to go along with 10 rebounds.
Following the Butler loss, Leonard Hamilton said he needed to find a way to convert the numerous good scoring opportunities his struggling offense had in the previous two games in the Diamond Head Classic. Apparently that solution was putting more ball handlers on the floor as he combined Kitchen and Luke Loucks on the floor together for much of the game.
The result was 17 assists on 24 made baskets and 44% shooting.
“I could see the focus … the body language before the game”, Hamilton said. “We learned a lot from Butler and moved the ball making the extra pass tonight.”
“We played with offensive confidence we have not always had this season.”