USC Gamecocks Football

The lesson Will Muschamp took from Bill Belichick about pass rush

The South Carolina football team has something valuable in Javon Kinlaw.

Not just a massive body who relishes commanding a double team, but a pass rusher who can make things uncomfortable right in front of the quarterback. He’s not the only Gamecock who can do that.

And talent at those spots helps with the way college offenses have changed. At least that’s what USC coach Will Muschamp picked up from the most successful coach in NFL history.

“I was talking to coach (Bill) Belichick in the offseason,” Muschamp said. “There’s so much less of an emphasis in the NFL because they’ve bought into our throwing game in college. The ball is out. And he talked in terms of how it’s so hard to pressure the quarterback from the edges and you always think in terms of edge rushers. He said, ‘We think in terms of guys who can push the pocket internally.’”

Belichick has six Super Bowl titles on his head coaching resume. He built the scheme that stunned Buffalo and Jim Kelly in the 1991 Super Bowl as a coordinator for the New York Giants and has been through multiple defensive evolutions in his time in pro football.

Belichick’s defenses have run both four- and three-down looks, relying on massive bodies such as Vince Wilfork or disrupters such as Lower RIchland product Richard Seymour.

At the moment, South Carolina has done a decent job pushing the pocket and is getting to the quarterback. The Gamecocks rank 32nd in the country in how often they sack the QB in FBS play.

That’s come from the middle and the edges. Starting Buck lineman D.J. Wonnum and end Aaron Sterling each has three sacks, while Kinlaw has four.

“He leads the SEC in sacks,” Muschamp said. “He’s been very disruptive inside, in a positive way. And Kobe (Smith) is playing his best ball since he’s been here. Those guys have really done a nice job of pushing the pocket.”

The team also has at least one hurry from reserve tackles Rick Sandidge and Zacch Pickens.

That interior rush emphasis isn’t a new thing and is a big part of countering spread offenses. Modern attacks are built so heavily on the quick passing game and run-pass options that the traditional edge rushers often don’t have the time to get around the corner.

“Edge pressure is not what it used to be,” Gamecocks defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “You don’t have time for that.

“Those guys pushing the pocket and condensing the pocket and making it uncomfortable for the quarterback is the best thing to do.”