The last time South Carolina faced Missouri, the Gamecocks completed 21 of 23 passes and allowed one sack in a 31-10 victory.
When Gamecocks offensive line coach Shawn Elliott watches the No. 5 Tigers on video from this season, he sees a different animal. Missouri leads the SEC and is fifth in the nation in sacks with 3.29 per game.
“I think this defensive line is probably the best I have seen on tape in a long, long time,” Elliott said. “They rival LSU from a year ago. They are quick; they are fast; they are relentless. Just based on their stats alone, they scare you, so we have our work cut out for us.”
The Tigers are led by 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior defensive end Michael Sam, who is having a breakout season. Sam leads the SEC and is tied for the national lead in sacks with nine. On the other end is 6-5, 275-pound junior Kony Ealy, who has three sacks.
“They don’t have any big, fat guys, they’re all fast guys,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “They fly around and slant around. They’re real quick. We played them last year, and we hit a lot of passes. They play a good zone defense; there doesn’t appear to be a bunch of openings down there with a big pass rush. I’d say they’re the quickest group we’ve faced so far.”
The Gamecocks have allowed 14 sacks this season, which ranks eighth among the conference’s 14 teams. Arkansas, which is second in the SEC in sacks with 20, sacked South Carolina quarterbacks three times two weeks ago, and Tennessee notched four sacks against the Gamecocks last week.
“We have to play our best game of the year against the best defensive line we will face all season, I think,” Elliott said.
Sam and Ealy will put pressure on South Carolina offensive tackles Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell, who have struggled at times against speed rushers.
“If (Robinson and Shell) are playing their game, they are going to be good,” Elliott said. “If they are coming out there and they are motivated, they are going to get their butts out there and they are going to play well.”
South Carolina expects to have senior Ronald Patrick back at right guard this week. Patrick missed the Tennessee game because of an ankle sprain, and his experience will be invaluable Saturday against a constantly shifting Missouri defensive front.
“They rely on their quickness to make plays and get you out of position,” Elliott said. “There is very seldom a lot of straight rush. They are more twist schemes.”
South Carolina’s experience against that system from last year should help, junior lineman A.J. Cann said.
“Last year, they did a lot of looping around and twisting, and we sat back and picked it up pretty well,” Cann said. “We are going to do our best to pick it up this weekend.”
SEC SACK LEADERS
|Michael Sam, Missouri||9|
|Chris Smith, Arkansas||5|
|Dee Ford, Auburn||5|
|Kelcy Quarles, USC||5|
|Ray Drew, Georgia||5|