USC Gamecocks Football

Bryan McClendon’s plan to keep Jake Bentley calm, boost Gamecocks run game

How Dan Werner, Bryan McClendon are encouraging Gamecocks QBs to throw deep

South Carolina Gamecocks football quarterback Jake Bentley said his coaches, Dan Werner and Bryan McClendon, are emphasizing the deep ball as USC prepares for the 2018 season
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South Carolina Gamecocks football quarterback Jake Bentley said his coaches, Dan Werner and Bryan McClendon, are emphasizing the deep ball as USC prepares for the 2018 season

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp promised a change in South Carolina’s offense, namely scaling back the run-pass option plays and calling more pure runs.

But as he filled in on Muschamp’s weekly call-in show, offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon said the change won’t keep the quarterback from having to make decisions about where the play goes. That’s because of a central philosophy in his scheme.

“No matter what, you do want to have the ability to make sure that you have the best chance to be successful, just based on numbers and angles,” McClendon said.

In the case of run plays, that means more than just calling a run. The quarterback has to be able to check to something different, to react to a defense. He said, going forward, there will be chances to check from one run to attack where the defense is weakest.

“When you call a play, whether it be RPO or even if it’s just a run play, you want to have the ability to check it, say, ‘OK, this run play isn’t very good. They’ve got a million guys over there. We’ve got to run it to the other side,’ ” McClendon said.

He explained one of the things South Carolina’s offense has run into is opponents going deep into their playbooks to confuse things. The USC staff has seen opponents break out coverages they’ve not used all year or looks specifically built to counter specific RPO concepts.

McClendon also made a point of defending the fundamental value of RPOs, specifically the ability to attack through the air when opponents stack the box and create openings down the field.

“We don’t win the Michigan game is it weren’t for big plays,” McClendon said. “We don’t win a lot of those games if not for the explosive plays. You want to maximize those opportunities too.”

He also addressed some of the challenges Jake Bentley has had this season. After USC’s last game, video of Bentley smashing a chair with his helmet went viral. He spoke about it early in the week, saying he has to balance exuberance and keeping an even-keeled approach.

McClendon had one other solution there.

“The first thing I would say is, catch the football,” McClendon said. “That would help a lot.”

South Carolina has dropped more than 20 passes this season. If USC fixed that alone, it would put Bentley at completing more than 70 percent of his passes.

But McClendon said there’s also a process of channeling a high-energy player, not just Bentley, though he has some of the most crucial decisions to make on a football team.

“He’s just a naturally fiery guy,” McClendon said. “And we just have to do a good job of making sure that he doesn’t work himself up into making decisions that aren’t real rational. I think we’ve done that, but the thing is, he’s one of those guys that he wants people to feed off his energy. He wants people to feed off his enthusiasm all the time.

“The one thing that will calm him down the most is everybody doing their job around the guy.”

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