The days of decoy routes at South Carolina are over.
That’s quarterback Jake Bentley’s belief headed into Bryan McClendon’s first season as the Gamecocks offensive coordinator. McClendon, who served as South Carolina’s wide receivers coach the last two seasons, was promoted to play-caller by head coach Will Muschamp in the offseason.
“The biggest change I have seen is that when guys are running a vertical, instead of just trying to stretch out the defense, it could really be a play that goes for a score, because when he sees the one-on-one he wants me to throw it,” Bentley said. “He’s just very aggressive, has a very aggressive mindset.”
That aggressive mindset is a big reason Muschamp gave McClendon, who had never called plays in a game until the Outback Bowl in January, a shot at the full-time job.
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“I would describe him as more of an up tempo, aggressive mindset (than former offensive coordinator Kurt Roper),” Muschamp said. “Since he’s taken over as coordinator going all the way back to the bowl game, he’s done an outstanding job with our players.”
Muschamp and Bentley believe that aggressiveness will come out in McClendon’s play-calling in the form of a faster tempo and more shots at big plays.
“He wants to score as many points as he can, and the guys really bought into that,” Bentley said.
The Gamecocks finished 12th in the SEC in scoring last year with 24.2 points per game, or “not enough,” as McClendon described it.
“I feel like, in order to score points, you have to try to score points,” he said. “That’s going to be my mindset as far as going out there and calling it. Sometimes I’m going to have to get reeled back a little bit, and I’m OK with that. We want to be aggressive in everything we do.”
The Gamecocks were 12th in the SEC in yards per game last year with 337.1 per game. Their 5.5 yards per play ranked 86th in the country. McClendon coached wide receivers at Georgia for current Miami coach Mark Richt and current Colorado State coach Mike Bobo before coming to South Carolina, and he’s ready to take over an offense now, a former Georgia teammate said.
“He’s bided his time,” said ESPN college football analyst D.J. Shockley, who was McClendon’s quarterback in 2005 when the Bulldogs won an SEC title. “He’s been around a couple different coordinators and seen a couple different systems, and he kind of knows what he wants and how he can get the most out of his players. He knows exactly what he wants to do with an offense now. I talked to him a couple years back and I said, ‘You’re ready to be an OC, right?’ He said, ‘No, not yet, I’ve still got a couple things to learn.’ ”
McClendon is ready for the opportunity now, South Carolina senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel said.
“I saw this coming. He’s always had input in the offense,” Samuel said. “He’s still been the same person, nothing has changed.”