South Carolina’s defensive struggles have obscured one of the best offensive starts in school history.
The Gamecocks have produced 2,382 yards this season, which is the highest mark after five games in school history (or at least since 1962, the last year for which full records are available).
“We’re running the ball decent and throwing decent and making some third downs,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’re scoring touchdowns instead of field goals most of the time. We’re playing pretty decent, but it’s early. It is only five games in. We’ve got to keep playing well.”
South Carolina is fifth in the SEC in total offense (476.4 yards per game) and ninth in the conference in scoring offense (31 points per game). They are fourth in third down conversions (52 percent).
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“The way it’s going right now, the offense has a lousy day, we could be in trouble,” Spurrier said. “But we should not have a real lousy day.”
Special teams snafus
As good as the offensive numbers look, the special teams numbers look just as bad. South Carolina is 12th in the SEC in punt returns, 13th in kickoff returns and punt return defense and last in punting.
“It’s very frustrating,” said wide receiver and kick returner Bruce Ellington, who fumbled a kickoff last weekend to set up a Kentucky touchdown. “Every game I go out and try to get a kick return. Fumbling the ball is something I do not want to do. It hurts. Every day we go out and continue to work hard. We go hard at practice. We just have to put it all together and go out on the field and use what we’ve got.”
Freshman wide receiver Pharoh Cooper worked as the first team punt returner at Monday’s practice in place of the injured Victor Hampton (thigh bruise) and could see more time as a Wildcat quarterback this week.
“Pharoh, we think is a good player,” Spurrier said. “He’s just now getting ready to go so he should be out there more.”
Cooper caught his first career pass and rushed two times for 26 yards against Kentucky last week.
“I think I should get more snaps at Wildcat given how well last week went,” he said. “I am hoping to get more this week. We are still running the same plays right now. We haven’t really switched anything up.”
Linebacker Kaiwan Lewis missed practice Monday and Tuesday and is questionable for Saturday’s game due to an infection in his leg that required IV antibiotics in the hospital Monday night.
“I don’t know how he will be by Thursday or so,” Spurrier said.
Hampton “should be all right” to play Saturday, Spurrier said.
Spurrier continued Tuesday to allude to shaking up the defensive lineup, but declined to mention specifics.
“We’ll have some different defensive guys out there. I don't think we'll announce it until later in the week or so. Yeah, we've got to try some new guys. That's coaching, first guys not playing well, give the next guy a chance. How can he do much worse? So we're going to experiment around.”
No issues here
Reports that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be added to the selection committee for the new College Football Playoff has drawn plenty of negative reaction, particularly for ESPN analyst David Pollack and former Auburn coach Pat Dye.
Spurrier, though, has no problem with it.
“Why not?” Spurrier said. “She's an honest, fair person I think. Stanford graduate. She plays a little golf. She's a member at Augusta National. I think she's probably as good as anybody.”