South Carolina’s offense would like to increase the number of explosive pass plays it makes this year, and even if it just increases the attempts it makes at those plays, there will be value in that.
The reason for that can be explained even by wide receiver coach Bryan McClendon’s grandmother.
“At the end of the day, defensive backs fear one thing, and that’s getting run by,” said McClendon, who also serves as the Gamecocks co-offensive coordinator. “My grandma doesn’t know a ton about football, but she knows when a No. 8 out there gets run by for a touchdown. The bottom line is (taking deep shots) puts in the fear of that… which opens up everything else.”
Kurt Roper, South Carolina’s co-offensive coordinator and play-caller, would like to take 10 shots at long passes every Saturday this fall, he said.
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“I got trained offensive football by a guy that likes to throw the football so I like to throw the football, too,” said Roper, who served under current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe on the way to becoming South Carolina’s offensive coordinator. “I think there has obviously got to be balance, but I don’t know that I think just throwing the football makes you aggressive. Explosive plays are a big part of offense, and it’s easier to get explosive passes throwing the football.”
Explosive is a key word in Roper’s playbook. The team tracks all of the plays that fit its definition of the term – passes of 20 or more yard and runs of 15 or more yards. Last year, the Gamecocks had 66 total – 42 through the air and 24 on the ground.
South Carolina was 11th in the SEC and 91st in the nation last year in plays of 20 yards or more with 58. Only Florida, Vanderbilt and Georgia had fewer in the league. The Gamecocks believe they can move up those rankings this year with quarterback Jake Bentley entering his second year as the starter and more experience in the system surrounding him.
Bentley had 24 of South Carolina’s 42 passes of more than 20 yards in the seven games he started last season. Seven of those came in the bowl game against South Florida in what the Gamecocks hope was a preview of what the 2017 offense could look like.
“I do like to throw it deep, but I’m just going to try to execute what coach calls,” Bentley said. “It’s good to take shots, but we also have to be able to run the ball.”
The thing about taking those shots is it will help the Gamecocks improve a run game that was last in the SEC last season in yards per carry (3.68).
“It gets guys off your run game,” Bentley said. “It makes them keep their safeties back. You have to be able to take those shots and keep them off your run game.”
Even Bryan McClendon’s grandma can tell you that.