USC Gamecocks Football

How much more man-to-man coverage South Carolina could play this season

South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson didn’t sound the most pleased with the number he was saying.

Man-to-man coverage is the ideal for a defense. It means defensive backs can win one-on-ones, hold their own when locked in with one receiver. It means RPOs are less effective and a team can send more pressure.

And last year, his beleaguered secondary couldn’t play it as much as he’d like.

“Probably about 35%,” Robinson said.

But that might change this season.

“Probably want to get that somewhere in 50-60% range of being able to play man a man,” Robinson said. “And if we’re really good at it, then we’re doing at 90% and we’re solid, I will do a 50%. So It just depends on how we’re playing and the team that we’re playing against.”

The key to unlocking all that is the pair of corners on the outside. Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu are tall corners with a lot of ability. Horn broke into the lineup as a freshman, and by the end of the season, Mukuamu worked in as well.

They give a defensive coordinator a certain luxury

“Obviously, those guys are long, they’re able to play a lot of bump and run,” Robinson said. They’re talented, they’re very confident in their abilities.

“It’s a different deal when you can play with corners, like these guys, these guys are lockdown shut down corners.”

That means a lot will be asked of them. They’ll be made to defend on their own.

And Robinson said the pair have handled business off the field well to, whether its in the classroom academically or going over football minutiae. They’ve also done a good job bringing along some of the freshmen.

Now, man defense isn’t a cure-all for everything. It means a lot of turning backs to the heart of the formation, which is an issue against teams running the ball. Robinson said there will be a mix, along with some zone pressure looks.

But man coverage could be more of South Carolina’s identity, certainly more than last year when a former running back was getting snaps in the bowl game. Horn said going against the likes of Bryan Edwards boosts the confidence in getting left on an island.

“If you look a lot of the other defenses, they’re able to play man-to-man real well,” Horn said. “Me and Izzy know that, so we’re just trying to attack it every day, getting better in our technique.

“That’s really the main thing playing corner on an island, confidence. You gotta feel like you’re the best, you gotta feel like you’re gonna win your matchup. So if we’re able to do that, I think we’ll have a really good defense.”