Former Gamecocks wide receiver D.L. Moore never made the impact on the offense that he and many South Carolina fans hoped he would.
Gamecocks special teams coordinator Joe Robinson remembers him for something else he never did — let punt returner Ace Sanders get hit. Moore’s departure as a protector on the punt return team is one of the myriad issues Robinson is facing with two weeks left before the season.
While fans are focused on who will replace Ace Sanders as punt returner (Vic Hampton, Bruce Ellington, Shaq Roland and Pharoh Cooper still have a shot) and who will kick field goals (five guys are in the running, Robinson says, which sounds like a very bad sign to me), Robinson has plenty of other spots to fill, such as “three or four” on the punt return team.
One of those is Moore.
“He did a tremendous job last year as a protector,” Robinson said. “D.L.’s guy hardly ever got close to Ace.”
Those are the kinds of things fans (and most media, honestly) don’t notice, but that can make a huge difference on the outcome of games.
“I will tell you on punt return there have been a whole lot of special guys in the history of this game who have lined up back there and not been able to make a yard, and that’s because those other 10 guys are not doing their job,” Robinson said. “When those other 10 guys are doing their job, then you can start to see some of the qualities in a very special returner come to the surface. I know people don’t want to hear that. They just want to talk about the return, but those guys up front are the ones that really make it go.”
So, as you are keeping on eye on position battles, save space in your attention span to see who lines up in front of the South Carolina’s punt returner this year.
That job will determine if the Gamecocks can successfully replace Sanders — or not.