David Cloninger

USC-Georgia Report Card: Grading each position for Gamecocks

David Cloninger looks at every aspect of South Carolina’s last game and assigns a grade. Go to the head of the class if the grades you assigned the Gamecocks match his.



Connor Shaw did exactly what he needed to do – controlled, dictated, made his throws and made his runs. I’m not sure how much more I can criticize Shaw for not staying in the pocket more – he plays so instinctually that scrambling becomes the right move 90 percent of the time. The only drawback was his fumble after he ran for a fourth-down pickup. That shot off the Gamecocks’ big toe.


Running back

Goodness, Mike Davis is a heck of a running back.


Wide receiver

Nick Jones hopefully set a trend, for himself or the receiver corps. If he keeps being the main target for USC (10 catches in two games), great. If it becomes a case of other receivers taking their turns being the breakout guy during one game, that’s great, too. USC is spreading the ball around and not becoming locked on one guy.


Tight end

Busta Anderson dropped a touchdown, but USC scored on that drive anyway. And with Davis running the ball the way he was, the TEs did well blocking for him. As for going out for a pass, trying to get open, there needs to be much improvement. Two guys that will play on Sundays (Anderson and Jerell Adams) are becoming non-factors.


Offensive line

Clayton Stadnik did well in place of Cody Waldrop, and the line as a whole mostly kept the Georgia defense off Shaw. The Bulldogs basically dropped eight on almost every play, and that definitely helped the line push forward and allow Davis and Shaw room to run. When Georgia did bring the pressure, I thought the line responded well.


Defensive line

Yikes. What was supposed to be the strength of the defense was full of more holes than the latest “Fast and the Furious” movie. Jadeveon Clowney played hard, but there’s only so much that he can do when all plays are being run away from him. The rest of the line is supposed to be picking up the slack, and it isn’t. There was zero pass-rush on Aaron Murray, and knowing full well that hitting him early was the key to stopping him, USC failed to do it.



Todd Gurley is going to run over a lot of linebackers before his career is over, so there is that handicap, and USC is also chock-full of youth and inexperience. What was concerning about the LBs against Georgia was that there was no adjustment. Nobody was filling gaps, nobody was playing closer to the line to try and at least hold Gurley up until a D-lineman could get him from the back. Yes, they’re young, and if Cedrick Cooper gets back healthy, that should help. But Saturday was very, very forgettable.


Defensive backs

Perhaps USC was expecting the pass rush, which was why Georgia’s receivers were given so much cushion off the line. If that was the case, I’m still scratching my head wondering why USC didn’t play further up to the line as the game went on and the pass-rush never came to. The jump-ball that Murray threw while getting tugged back by Clowney was allowed to be caught, and that set the tone for the entire game. Murray burned the Gamecocks all day with that 10-yard slant, and torched Ahmad Christian on two touchdown throws. I’ll say that T.J. Gurley is hustling on every play, and has made some fine stops, but his misses are becoming very, very apparent.


Special teams

Elliott Fry nailed another field goal, and only missed one PAT, on a bad snap. There is the school of thought that says nobody should ever miss a PAT as long as it’s at least set up, late or not, but I don’t know – freshman, etc. What concerned me was the return game, or lack thereof. Shon Carson didn’t do anything to get excited about. I realize that expecting another Ace Sanders is over-reaching, but there was no punch at all from returns.



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