Just what will life be like without Jadeveon Clowney on the South Carolina defensive line?
It could be different—very different.
The departure of Clowney, fellow defensive end Chaz Sutton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has left head coach Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward with a shortage of defensive linemen and a glut of linebackers.
As a result, Ward told Josh Kendall of GoGamecocks.com that he is considering implementing a 3-4 alignment either on a permanent or semi-permanent basis.
I won’t say it’s definitely a 3-4. It’ll be more like how we used (Eric) Norwood in 2009 when he was here. He could put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer and create four down linemen or we could stand him up and be an outside linebacker.
It'd be a great move for the Gamecocks.
Bleacher Report's Brian Leigh did a great job of profiling defensive end Darius English earlier this week. The 6'6", 235-pound rising sophomore has the speed to be an effective pass-rusher off the edge in a 4-3 system, but the frame to grow into a role as a 3-4 end who isn't relegated to simply occupying blocks.
If that happens, it could push Cedrick Cooper back to a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role similar to the one Ward referenced regarding Norwood.
Cooper was moved from linebacker to defensive end prior to the Capital One Bowl and his versatility would be incredibly beneficial if South Carolina moves to a 3-4 permanently or in certain situations.
Any 3-4 defense has to be built around a nose guard who can eat some space and South Carolina has options in that department with J.T. Surratt (305 lbs), Phillip Dukes (322 lbs), Gerald Dixon Jr. (325 lbs) and Kelsey Griffin (305 lbs).
With options at linebacker including Kaiwan Lewis, Skai Moore, T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton, why not tinker with some options this spring?
Be married to winning, not to a system.
Sometimes, especially in college football with fluid rosters, the best path to winning is when a coach adjusts to his personnel and not vice versa.
If Ward catches lightning in a bottle with either players who thrive in a different system this spring or the scheme as a whole, that can be used during the regular season.
It's all about creating options, and now's the time to do it.
If Ward doesn't see the progress this spring that he'd like to see in order to implement some 3-4 concepts this fall, then he can scrap the plan entirely with little to no impact on fall camp.
It's all about fit, and if Ward thinks that his players may fit better in a 3-4 scheme, it's his job to explore that option.
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