USC Gamecocks Football

One key spot where Will Muschamp needs more plays

USC defense has been simplified to ‘the bare minimum’

USC head coach Will Muschamp said his defense is at a "bare minimum" during his weekly press conference leading into the Missouri game.
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USC head coach Will Muschamp said his defense is at a "bare minimum" during his weekly press conference leading into the Missouri game.

It seemed as if South Carolina might have the pieces to weather the loss of Skai Moore at the linebacker spot.

They had some young, up-and-coming players, potentially more depth. No one had quite the skill set he boasted, but the pieces there were promising.

Through four games, Will Muschamp gave a harsh assessment of the group led by T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene.

“Not where it needs to be,” Muschamp said. “I think those guys would tell you. We haven’t been as consistent as we need to be, as far as disengaging, getting off blocks.”

On the season, Brunson leads the team with 23 tackles, but has only half a tackle for loss and one pass broken up. Greene, working at the weakside spot, had 16 tackles, but no other statistics of note.

There have also been a few miscues, including Greene appearing to lose his man in the red zone against Vanderbilt.

Overall, USC has allowed 4 yards per carry, not a bad mark, but it was much higher when the games were competitive against Georgia and Kentucky.

That pair might have to carry much of the weight going forward, as injuries and other situations have eaten into the team’s depth at linebacker. A shoulder has sidelined Greene’s backup Eldridge Thompson. Brunson’s opening-day backup Rosendo Louis hasn’t seen the field in the past two games.

Starting strongside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams has been pulled to Buck nearly full-time with D.J. Wonnum’s injury.

And another element of the Gamecocks’ defense didn’t help last weekend against Kentucky.

“We didn’t do a good enough job on the first level in our last ballgame of keeping people off the linebackers,” Muschamp said. “And that was an emphasis going into the game.”

In that game, the Wildcats put up a strong rushing performance in the first half, leaving USC in a 24-3 hole it couldn’t climb out of.

But beyond that, the Gamecocks haven’t forced turnovers at their usual rate, slipping from top 10 in the country into the 80s.

Some of that falls on other levels of the defense, which are having their own struggles, but the linebackers also bear a heavy burden there.

“We need to make more plays,” Muschamp said. “We need to be more productive at the position.”

The State’s Josh Kendall and Ben Breiner preview and predict the South Carolina football game against Missouri.