In his first game as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator, Lorenzo Ward watched his unit give up 109 yards of offense and 13 points in the first 15 minutes of the game. The Cornhuskers didn’t score again and had only 144 yards of offense in the final three quarters, and Ward’s momentum has carried on from there.
Since being named to replace Ellis Johnson in the week leading up to the Capital One Bowl, Ward has received rave reviews from his players and boss Steve Spurrier. Ward sat down with GoGamecocks to discuss what his first offseason in charge will look like, among other topics.
QUESTION: Head coach Steve Spurrier often says you and he have the same philosophy about defense. What does that mean?
ANSWER: I think when Coach Spurrier is talking about our philosophies being the same, if you’re going to blitz them, then you need to be sure you are bringing more than they can block. Otherwise, it’s just pressure. If you’re going to blitz a person, you have to bring more than they can block. His philosophy is don’t just pressure to pressure. If you’re going to blitz them, blitz them. I think we both have the same philosophy in that sense.
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Q: When you say your defense will be simpler than last season, what does that mean?
A: In the past, we have had a lot of different adjustments to a lot of formations or sets based on different coverages. We are not going to run as many coverages as we have done in the past. That’s going to make it simpler and we’re going to try to tie in some of the things that we do on defense in certain situations so that the kids know the adjustment like clockwork. It’s not one adjustment this week and then a different adjustment to the same deal the next week.
Q: And the idea behind that is to get players reacting rather than thinking?
A: We recruit speed so we want to play fast and the only way you can do that is eliminate them thinking.
Q: How much attention have you paid to the recent concussion studies and do you have any fears about the long-term health of the game or of the players who play the game for a long time?
A: Society has changed. Medical studies have changed. Even when I played, concussions were not a big thing. I had a couple myself. You were cleared and you were able to play the next week. I think they are taking a lot more precautions now because there are so many things that are going on pertaining to young men having concussions in the game of football. As things continue to happen in the NFL, it’s going to trickle down to the colleges and the high schools. I think our medical staff does a great job when a young man does get dinged. They run him through a series of tests before he can even practice again, much less play. You’re going to see a lot more protection.
Q: Who is your most physical defensive player?
A: In the perimeter, I would say D.J. (Swearinger). He’s pretty physical. (Jadeveon) Clowney is a physical kid.
Q: What is the offseason like from a coaching standpoint?
A: We look at some of the things we did on defense this spring and make sure they are the things we take into fall camp. We address the first four opponents of next season.
Q: So by the time you start practice Friday, you will have the outline of a game plan for your first four opponents?
A: We will have broken down film on them for sure, probably our first six opponents but we’ll do the first four for sure. After four games, teams have played three or four ball games so you can look at what they have done that particular season.
Q: You have been one of the most active and successful recruiters on this staff. Has your recruiting role changed any now that you are the defensive coordinator?
A: My area has shrunk. I used to go from inner city Atlanta down I-85 to Columbus and down I-75 to Macon. I won’t go outside of the perimeter very much. I will still have Fulton and DeKalb County, and I will have Conyers and Jonesboro outside of Atlanta. I will also have the area in (South Carolina that Ellis Johnson) had, up I-77 to Rock Hill, South Pointe area, down through Camden.I’ll have that loop of about 25 schools.
Q: Do you have any true freshmen who you think will play significant time this season?
A: You evaluate the young men when you recruit them and you hope that they can. We will have to have some come in and play in a backup role, if not a starter’s role. Especially in the perimeter, we feel like we signed five or six good players, smart kids that can come in (and play early).
Q: Do you think anybody in the country has two defensive ends as good as Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney?
A: I am sure there are teams that are very excited about the young men they are playing with, but I will take the two that we’ve got any Saturday against the rest of the country. Those two young men at LSU are really good players also, but I’ll take my two.