South Carolina’s offense is fluid at the moment.
The transition from starting quarterback Connor Mitch to Perry Orth to true freshman Lorenzo Nunez has meant the Gamecocks’ playbook has evolved throughout the first four games of the season.
Who’s calling those plays and when they’re called is fluid, too.
“We have sort of a team effort right now, but ultimately I’m responsible for the plays,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “If it goes bad, I did it. And if it goes good, maybe we all did it. So that’s sort of where we are right now.”
Spurrier has called the offensive plays throughout most of his 11 seasons with the Gamecocks, occasionally handing off the responsibility for short stretches and then resuming the lead role. This season, it’s quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus who has emerged as the point man on play calling at the moment.
Mangus coached from the press box rather than the sideline for the first time in his tenure with the Gamecocks last week against UCF. That coincided with Nunez’s first start because Mangus is more familiar with the quarterback-run based offense dictated by Nunez’s abilities than Spurrier, Spurrier said. Mangus will remain in the press box this week.
“The offense that we’re in right now is not the one that I had helped create at all,” said Spurrier, who made his name running a pass-first system at Duke and Florida. “This is a little different for me.”
The Gamecocks’ offense with Nunez looks a lot like it did under former quarterback Connor Shaw, but Spurrier said there’s a key difference.
“We didn’t call a whole bunch of (run) plays for Connor Shaw,” Spurrier said. “He’d take off, certainly, in passing situations.”
Nunez, a four-star prospect as much for his running ability as his throwing, heard his number called on plenty of run plays last week. He carried the ball 18 times for a team-high 123 yards, and he leads South Carolina in rushing for the season with 30 carries for 239 yards. That’s where Mangus and offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, the third man in the play-calling committee, come in.
“Coach Elliott at Appalachian State, their quarterback ran as much as their tailbacks so he’s a little bit more familiar with this,” Spurrier said. “Coach Elliott calls half the runs probably. The head coach can override any play I would imagine at most schools – although at most schools, really, I think he just listens in. We’ve got sort of a group doing it right now.”
The Gamecocks (2-2, 0-2 SEC) are 11th in the SEC in total offense (367.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (22.5 points per game) entering Saturday’s game against Missouri (3-1, 0-1 SEC). South Carolina’s 630 total passing yards are the second-lowest total in the conference and rank 107th in the nation.
Mangus called the majority of the plays in the first half against UCF, and Spurrier called most of the plays in the second half, Spurrier said, but the entire game was a group effort. Most of the conversations about plays between Spurrier, Mangus and Elliott happen between offensive series, Elliott said. The pace of the game between plays makes it difficult to have any robust debate during a series, he said.
“I throw out suggestions. I see formations and techniques up front that I see where we can attack,” Elliott said. “We have a great camaraderie with our group. We don’t have a lot of bickering.”
Elliott will suggest a run play before a series begins and then chime in during the drive if he sees the defensive formation he’s looking for, he said.
“I’ll say, ‘Let’s see it right here,’ ” he said. “Everyone has suggestions and I think you have to work well as an offensive staff to do that, and I think every offensive staff does that. I don’t think there is one signal caller that makes every single play call throughout college football. There are always guys that have input through the course of the game. We work well together.”
Gamecocks vs. Tigers
Who: USC (2-2) at Missouri (3-1)
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
Line: Missouri by 2.5