Josh Kendall

Will South Carolina run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense? Does it matter?

When South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said one of the reasons for hiring defensive line coach John Scott Jr. was Scott’s familiarity with the 3-4 defense, some Gamecocks fans wondered if that meant their team was switching up its style.

Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson hopes not.

“I think we have the talent to play four-man,” Robinson said during the first week of Gamecocks’ spring practice. “I don’t think we need much more three-man. I like what we’re doing from a four-down standpoint.”

That doesn’t mean South Carolina won’t use some three-man fronts. Virtually every defense in the country uses principles of both throughout games and throughout seasons. The evolution of offenses demands it, Scott said. (A 4-3 uses four traditional defensive linemen and three linebackers, while a 3-4 flips the personnel.)

“With what you are getting out of offenses now, you have to have the ability to do both,” Scott Jr. said. “Everybody does a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think that’s where the game is going.”

The Gamecocks “looked at some different things schematically that we want to look at and some things we know can help us moving forward with some opponents” during the break between the end of the season and start of spring, Muschamp said.

South Carolina’s defensive coaches visited with NFL staffs in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, Robinson said. The Buccaneers’ defense is coordinated by Todd Bowles, the head coach of the New York Jets when Scott was an assistant coach there and a proponent of the 3-4 defense.

“Three-4, 4-3, some call it ‘over’ and ‘under.’ We call it different [things] — they still line up the same,” Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians told reporters in January. “We’re going to attack. As long as our players attack — in today’s NFL, you’re in nickel defense 70 percent of the time, so you’re playing a four-man line. We’ll have odd-man lines, we’ll have four-man lines. That’s just schematics to me.”

South Carolina’s coaches will take more visits after spring practice, Robinson said.

“I would say we’ll probably be more four-man than three-man,” he said. “As an offense, it’s hard to prepare for both of those things, so that’s the reason why we do it. We aren’t going to change philosophies or what we think. That’s not going to happen, but there may be a couple of tweaks.”

Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.
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