The football parlance is 12 personnel.
That’s one running back, two tight ends. By process of elimination, two wide receivers. Eleven personnel, it follows, is one back, one tight end, three receivers.
South Carolina’s offense in 2016 was almost entirely 12 personnel, in many ways because of the bodies available.
Deebo Samuel was dinged up on the first drive of the second game. Bryan Edwards missed some time and was a true freshman. Every other first-year receiver had to burn his redshirt as the Gamecocks threw bodies in.
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And USC will probably get relief from that in 2017, with a roster suited to playing a third receiver often.
“In order to do that, you have to have the bodies and you have to have the ability, to be honest with you, to be able to win both inside and outside,” South Carolina wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon said. “I do think we will have guys with that ability. So we’ve just kind of got to bring those guys along.”
When healthy last season, Edwards and Samuel took the vast majority of snaps at those outside spots. Tight end K.C. Crosby often worked at an inside receiver spot, with Hayden Hurst and sometimes Kiel Pollard getting work there.
Samuel, who with his skills could thrive most anywhere, said he should see more time inside this season. Four-star freshman Shi Smith is the kind of small, quick player who could play the spot, not to mention a few second-year guys who could play inside and outside.
Edwards is likely to stay where he was, but the addition of 6-foot-4, four-star freshman OrTre Smith and maturation of 6-foot-2 Chavez Dawkins suddenly gives USC more outside guys to keep things flexible. Some of the most prolific players in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s Duke attacks were smaller inside receivers.
Although the addition of two or three well-regarded freshmen could change things for the group, McClendon said the biggest gain for his position comes with familiarity and comfort with what the staff wants.
“It’s different,” McClendon said. “This year you have, not just those guys that are there and the guys that are returning.
“I feel like we do have a good group of young guys that’s coming in. But of the returning guys, it’s not level one anymore. Not so much teaching them exactly what to do and then rush in there and teach them exactly how to do it at the exact same time. I think that kind of stunts growth on both ends.”
Last season, receivers not named Samuel and Edwards caught 20 passes for 198 yards. Dawkins, Randrecous Davis and Korey Banks all got their feet wet as true freshmen. Terry Googer played a good bit when the starters were hurt, and Jared Washington got some work in the spring.
They and the newcomers have the say if South Carolina can depart from being a two-tight end offense out of necessity and gain the flexibility a third receiver brings. If they can show the talent, the skill and the knowledge of the offense, things open up for the Gamecocks.
“Now they have a good idea of the offense and a good grasp of kind of the whole concept of things,” McClendon said. “So now just trying to make sure that the finer details are brought out. They say the devil’s in the details, and I think that’s where the biggest growth needs to take place.”