South Carolina Football: 3 Things We Learned About the Defense vs. Georgia
South Carolina fought valiantly against Georgia in the big showdown in Athens, though the Gamecocks could not find a way to end up on top.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray stepped up in the monumental game to lead his team to victory as he found a way to slice and dice the South Carolina defense.
The Gamecocks' three-game win streak over the Bulldogs comes to an end with the loss and leaves South Carolina to reassess some of the approaches with the team; specifically, the defense.
South Carolina's defense struggled at times and showed some of its early-season flaws.
Here are three things we learned about the defense from the game against Georgia.
1. Clowney's Struggles: The Defense Needs Creativity
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Jadeveon Clowney is still a star of the Gamecocks and of college football.
He is a freak athlete and a great leader. But he has a lot of weight on his shoulders, and it is starting to show.
Clowney registered one sack and three tackles, a mediocre game by his standards.
Georgia constantly mixed up blocking schemes and took Clowney out of his element to the point where his frustration became evident after the game. They ran play after play away from Clowney by keeping him on the backside. Credit Georgia for disrupting Clowney's rhythm, but we learned that as good as Clowney is, he needs some help.
Clowney told ESPN News sources after the game:
"Very frustrating," the star defensive end told reporters. "I told the coaches you got to put me somewhere else -- in the middle if you want to -- somewhere I can make some plays [to] help my team get in position to win. But [Georgia] took me right out of the game."
The Bulldogs played great. The line slowed down Clowney and Murray evaded Clowney for the most part, especially on the big 85-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley.
We learned the Gamecocks need to get creative.
When Clowney gets slowed down, he needs to be shifted around. South Carolina must flip the odds in its favor by confusing opponents right back.
Move Clowney around. Line him up in various spots. Don't let teams get comfortable.
South Carolina's defense cannot sit and wait for Clowney to make the big plays in these sets. He can't do it right now because all of the attention is on him.
The defense can take pressure off of Clowney by shifting him around and setting him up for success.
2. The Secondary Needs Help
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Georgia lit up the South Carolina defense through the air.
Murray only threw the ball 23 times, though he had 17 completions totaling 309 yards. That gave Murray an average of 13.4 yards per completion, which held up to Murray's standard of making plays downfield.
Add in the four touchdown passes, and Murray had a memorable game against the Gamecocks. Murray finally got over the hump by beating South Carolina for the first time in his career.
Some credit goes to the senior quarterback, yet the Gamecocks secondary had holes.
Part of the issue was the team sat cornerback Victor Hampton due to a first-half suspension. As the team's best cover-corner, his presence is important on the field.
Outside of the Hampton issue, the secondary let receivers behind them, especially on the 85-yard touchdown pass. The coverage was bad as a whole, and the young secondary needs some help.
Time will give these players experience, but the Gamecocks' secondary needs to get their act together quickly.
We learned the talent is still there, though the level of play has a long way to go for the secondary to have lockdown capabilities.
3. The Defense Might Be Too Young
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Expectations were exceedingly high for the South Carolina defense and team altogether coming into this season. Maybe a little too high.
The defense showed its youth throughout the game, and head coach Steve Spurrier is starting to recognize that the bar might have been set too high.
Spurrier told ESPN:
"I look out there and I see all those either redshirt freshmen or second-year guys and I'm starting to wonder if we were expecting a little bit much out of all those guys," Spurrier said. "But it is a freshmen-laden defense out there, and they're going to take their lumps, I guess."
The bottom line is that this is a young defense, and age is important on that side of the ball.
Realistically, the defensive line should be very strong, and they need to step up.
Outside of the line, the linebackers have minimal game experience, and as I said before, the secondary is also young.
Talent is always important, yet age and experience are invaluable.
This game was a tough loss, but it could be considered as a huge building block and learning experience for the young defense as South Carolina looks ahead toward the rest of the season.