South Carolina's college football season kicks off Thursday night when Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks take on Bryn Renner and the North Carolina Tar Heels. In a battle between the Carolinas, both teams will need their star players competing at their full potential.
Clowney has made it known that he will be striking fear into opposing quarterbacks throughout the season. The season-long mission begins with Renner.
Renner is a 6'3", 223-pound gunslinger quarterback who has a lot of experience as he enters his senior year. That big frame helps him to manage the pocket with ease.
Coming off a 28-touchdown season in which he only threw seven interceptions, Renner will be a challenge for Clowney and the South Carolina. Slowing him down is no easy task.
Here are three things Clowney and the defense need to do to stop the Tar Heels quarterback.
1. Apply pressure early.
Early on, the Gamecocks need to make Renner feel uncomfortable. When a quarterback, especially one like Renner, has all day to sit back and throw in the pocket, it becomes a long day for the defense.
Knock Renner around early in the game.
Clowney needs to be the first player to do this. Clowney needs an early sack or at least an early hit on Renner. This will have Renner thinking and can create some discrepancies in the offensive line.
The rest of the defensive line is very good, so once Clowney gets pressure and receives added attention, the other players can step in and keep pressuring Renner.
2. Work the "Rabbit" package and other difficult-to-read schemes.
South Carolina runs a four-defensive end heavy pass-rush package known as the "Rabbit".
With Clowney, Chaz Sutton, Darius English and other pass-rushers on the line, Renner will be pressured to release the ball quickly. A line like this is scary for a quarterback.
This formation can also have ends drop into coverage.
Mind games with the "Rabbit" package and other blitz schemes can make it difficult for Renner to read those formations.
Getting inside the poised quarterback's head will be key for the Gamecocks' defense.
3. Stick to your man.
Renner's passing abilities will test the South Carolina secondary.
Hampton is the leader back there. His squad around him will need to have tight, consistent coverage on the Tar Heels' wide receivers. If players aren't open, this allows the defensive line a little more time to land some hits and post some sacks.
Clowney and his squad will not object to some more time to get to Renner.
This secondary needs to have good coverage, and Renner will have a long day of getting hit by Clowney and the defensive line.