USC defense’s biggest concerns against Tennessee
South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp will sometimes fall back on a football truism from the lips of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.
The Gamecocks are coming off their open week, ready to face the Tennessee Volunteers with a chance to jump-start offense and defense units that have both had issues. Their record sits at three wins, three losses, and some have internalized that Parcells mantra.
“We thought what we did, the first half of the season was OK,” linebacker defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams said. “We understand that it’s not. We’re an average team right now.”
Outside the program, this was expected to anything but average. The team returned a multitude of weapons, had another batch of Muschamp recruits in the mix and brought in multiple graduate transfers for immediate help.
But average might well be the best way to talk about the team. The offense isn’t bad, but hasn’t played well to start big games and leaves too many plays on the field. The defense may have been a little ahead of the offense, but it’s not been as tough against the run as last season and has been prone to breakdowns large (moments against Missouri and Texas A&M) and small (issues with proper structuring of run defense against Kentucky).
Allen-Williams said he takes it on himself to work harder, influence his team to practice harder because in that begins a turnaround. USC has committed enough fixable errors, not having to do with talent or effort, that a jump could come with cleaning things up.
But in Allen-Williams’ words, there are only six opportunities remaining to turn everything around.
“It’s got to be on us,” Allen-Williams said.
One other player pointed out that this is a self-made problem.
Even if the Gamecocks were at disadvantages in each loss, they compounded things with sluggish starts and falling behind. The Gamecocks let things get to this point, and now control how things finish out. The team has challenging foes in Florida and Clemson, inconsistent SEC challenges in the Volunteers and Ole Miss and likely a pair of non-Power Five teams still to go.
And despite all of that, linebacker T.J. Brunson feels he and his teammates are in a good position.
“I think that we, we made our bed and we have to lay in it now,” Brunson said. “We can control the rest of how everything else plays out. It’s not where we want to be, but we’re here right now so we’re going to do what we can to make sure it’s the best of whatever it can be.”