It was clear when South Carolina took the practice field Tuesday morning which Gamecocks had experience facing an option offense.
“Sherrod Greene, who is from Rocky Mount High School in North Carolina and faced the option about six times last year, his reads were a lot quicker than some other guys,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “There’s not as many teams running option football anymore at whatever level they may be on. Certainly, you can see the guys, in our preparation for this ball game, whether it was in training camp or our open week, to see guys that were a little bit more accustomed to playing it and understood a little bit more about the angles and the ball distribution and things.”
The reason this is important this week is that Wofford in coming to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game against the Gamecocks. The Terriers (9-1) have run the ball 527 times for 2,602 yards this year, and they do it out of the triple option offense.
It will be the first time South Carolina has faced an option attack since 2015, when The Citadel used the system to beat the Gamecocks 23-22 in 2015. This will be the first time Muschamp has coached the team against an option offense, and he’s been working on it since the beginning of this season.
South Carolina spent two days during preseason camp on the Wofford offense and another two days during its bye week last month.
“We don’t really have anything to draw off of with our players here because we haven’t faced it,” Muschamp said. “It’s just so different from what we normally see, you have to expose your players to it.”
The buzzwords for the Gamecocks defense this week are “assignment football.” Every player has a responsibility against an option offense, and they better make sure they are covering their proper gap no matter what, Muschamp said.
“There can’t be any ‘I thought he had the ball’ or ‘I thought he pulled the ball,’ ” Muschamp said. “That’s when you get yourself in a lot of trouble. You have certain assignments, and if one guy doesn’t do a job, the other guys are executing their responsibilities, and that’s when you create a big play.”
When Muschamp began his coaching career in 1998, option offenses were much more prevalent, meaning players were more versed in the responsibilities as a matter of course.
“Everyone had an option responsibility on every single play, because you faced it so much,” he said. “I used to coach in the Gulf South when I was at West Georgia and Valdosta State, and we faced probably five, six teams a year a team that ran some form of double slot or veer option or triple option principals. So, every defense we installed, that’s what you taught and you don’t really do that much anymore.”
South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore said “making sure you are looking at the right things” will be the key to defending the Terriers. Wofford is second in the Southern Conference in rushing with 260.2 yards per game.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to making sure you are doing your job and everyone is on the same page doing their job,” Moore said. “You have your keys in a specific call, and as long as you are on your keys, you won’t have an issue. You just have to do your job.”