David Cloninger

August 31, 2013

USC-UNC Report Card: Grading each position for Gamecocks

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.

David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.


Numbers were terrific and the performances weren’t far behind. I suppose some might criticize Connor Shaw for not sliding more, putting his body in harm’s way, etc., but that’s the kid’s game. I’ve never seen two quarterbacks play in one game and each of their first two passes become touchdowns – that’s something that even the makers of Madden don’t think of. There were times where Shaw could have stood in the pocket more, released quicker, but nothing to dock a grade over.

Running back
Have yourselves an evening, Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. The two didn’t back down from anything North Carolina did defensively, rushing through and over the Tar Heels until they were as black and blue as their uniform pants. Even Shon Carson got a couple of carries in a late-game situation. Not one thing to critique there.

Wide receiver
With Bruce Ellington hobbled (although he did catch one pass), the receivers knew they’d each get a chance. All of them accepted it. Nick Jones had some tough catches (leading the way with four), Shaq Roland got his sophomore year going with a 65-yard score and even Kane Whitehurst joined in. Roland did drop a touchdown, which prohibits a top-top mark, but otherwise, nothing to complain about.

Tight end
Busta Anderson was out, but Jerell Adams and Drew Owens were available. Only one catch (Owens for 5 yards). Could be a couple of things. One, Adams was gimpy on a sprained ankle, and USC didn’t need those guys in a goal-line set. Two, the running game was working so well that the tight ends (and USC ran some two-TE sets) were better off blocking. Or maybe it’s just they were being scaled back for the next game when it became obvious that they weren’t needed that heavily.

Offensive line
Cody Waldrop did well in his first game at center. The rest of the line – eh. Lot of jailbreaks at Shaw in the second quarter, but the rushing game was fine. Much of that was the backs fighting for yards after contact, some of that was the line doing what it was supposed to do. Only one sack allowed.

Defensive line
The spot with the most scrutiny, due to the criticism of Jadeveon Clowney. He could have played better, but it wasn’t anybody else that forced UNC to run its game plan away from his side. Missing starter Kelcy Quarles for a half, there were times where the D-line was just gashed by UNC’s running backs. But four D-linemen also combined for three sacks of Bryn Renner. Have to wait and see how it fares against a “traditional” offense before I see if it’s a real problem, but not outstanding so far.

Let me first offer that I have no idea what schemes USC was attempting to run or if guys were in the right places. All I know is that I didn’t see anybody with any glaring weaknesses in playing their spots, and only a couple of times where UNC receivers found holes between the second and third levels. Skai Moore played a very nice game, for a freshman in his collegiate debut. Marcquis Roberts also had five tackles, and a big stop. UNC lives in the middle of the field, where the LBs rove, and only had 293 yards of offense. A lot of that is the LBs, a lot of it was defense as a whole.

Defensive backs
Note – I usually group the spur in with the DBs, just to let everybody know. Sharrod Golightly had a fine game. Yes, there were times when those slants (like to Quinshad Davis) got off so quick that the best he could hope for was an immediate tackle. There were some players that got to the second level far too easily. Mostly, though, especially with Kadetrix Marcus out, the secondary played well. T.J. Gurley led the team in tackles and Jimmy Legree had five stops. If there was a gripe, it was that the DBs often were going straight for the man on a couple of balls that were tipped, and then those balls turned into could-have-been interceptions. They were playing they way they were taught.

Special teams
Didn’t see that coming, after an offseason filled with speculation, a key injury and the usual non-spectacularity of USC’s special teams. Elliott Fry was aces in his debut, Tyler Hull did well, Victor Hampton can be an explosive player on returns (if he cools it on the hair-on-fire technique). Landon Ard did kick one ball out-of-bounds, but otherwise had a touchback on six tries. No problems here.


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