One of the first and least fun things that happens after every South Carolina football game is a complete dissection of the things that gave the Gamecocks the most trouble that week.
The reason the painful process is so necessary is that college football is a copycat game, and that copycatting is happening at warp speed thanks to technology and access that allows everyone to see everything almost immediately.
If the Gamecocks can’t stop a certain play or move the ball against a certain defense in Week 3, head coach Will Muschamp expects to see that same thing by Week 4.
“Some teams are very rigid in what they do, but some teams are multiple enough to say, ‘We can change some things up to get to this,’ ” Muschamp said.
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The outbreak of mimicry in the game has made college football look astonishingly similar from coast to coast. Even Alabama has adopted the spread offense with the mobile quarterback that was once disdained by the game’s traditional powers.
Teams like Georgia and Michigan and Stanford, who still run a lot of pro-style, two-back offense, start to stand out as outliers, but Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart said this week at the SEC’s annual spring meetings that he’s more than willing to fall in line with everyone else if he sees something he likes.
“In May we spend a lot of time watching other teams,” Smart said. “You try to pick out the most successful offenses and defenses and special teams and you copycat. It’s what we all do. You say, ‘Who’s got two really good backs? Who’s got three really good backs? How do they use them? Who’s built like us defensively?’ ”
The rash of copycats is exacerbated not just by technology but by the chumminess of college football coaching staffs, ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill said. Groups of coaches visit other staffs during the offseason regularly with the express purpose of peeking into each other’s playbooks, which adds to the sameness fans see on Saturdays.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Luginbill said.
“I think it is what it’s always been, it’s just more magnified now because you have more mediums that can expose it,” he said. “In the old days, you had the single wing and people starting copying that and it morphed into the wishbone. The whole shotgun zone read spread phenomenon, all that is, is old school single wing football. You’re just putting the quarterback in the shotgun instead of under center. It’s the exact same offense.”