South Carolina Football 2011: 4 Positives from First 2 Gamecocks Games
It hasn't been an easy battle for the Gamecocks as they are giving up, on average, 39.5 points per game. However, South Carolina is averaging 50.5 points per game thanks to brilliant play from some of its superstars.
Running back Marcus Lattimore, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, safety Antonio Allen and defensive tackle Melvin Ingram are guys who continue to impress the nation with their superb big-play capabilities.
South Carolina has some positive takeaways from the first two weeks of the season and the following slides will give you an idea of how the Gamecocks were able to start the season 2-0.
Marcus Lattimore and His Ability to "Take Over" for South Carolina
Marcus Lattimore is the workhorse of this South Carolina offense. The talented sophomore worked hard in the offseason to add weight to better handle the tough duties of being an SEC running back. The extra work has already paid off.
Here are Lattimore's stat lines from the first two games:
- East Carolina: 23 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns
- Georgia: 27 carries for 176 yards and one touchdown.
The key thing here is the yards he's gained in the second half for South Carolina. Against East Carolina, Lattimore picked up 71 yards in the second half while he gained 113 yards in the second half against Georgia. He had 94 of those yards in the fourth quarter alone against UGA.
Lattimore went to work in the second half and his running ability enables him to grind it out and pick up valuable yards for the Gamecocks.
A running back like that is extremely valuable and Lattimore can take over the game for South Carolina.
Creating Turnovers on Defense
Turnovers have played a big role for South Carolina in 2011. The Gamecocks have recovered six fumbles while intercepting two passes on defense this year. They have also scored defensive touchdowns in their first two games of the season.
SPUR Antonio Allen has scored defensive touchdowns for USC in both games this season. He had a 25-yard fumble returned for a touchdown against East Carolina and intercepted a pass from UGA's Aaron Murray that was also returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
Defensive tackle Melvin Ingram picked up a fumble from Aaron Murray and ran it in for another touchdown. Freshman Jadeveon Clowney forced the fumble for the Gamecocks on his second sack of the day.
Without these big defensive plays, it's hard to say where USC would be at this point.
Melvin Ingram's touchdown against Georgia was huge for the Gamecocks as it gave them a 10-point lead with 3:12 left on the game clock. Georgia would end up scoring again to bring the score within three points, but without Ingram's touchdown, this game could have ended up in the loss column for South Carolina.
East Carolina had a 10-point lead at halftime against South Carolina but the Gamecocks forced three turnovers in the third quarter and were able to build a commanding lead from that point forward.
The defense may not be perfect. It has done one thing, though, and that's make the play when it counts. These are perfect examples of big plays on defense for the Gamecocks.
Improved Special Teams Play
The Gamecocks have already accomplished something on special teams that they haven't done since 2003.
A special teams touchdown.
Led by new special teams coach John Butler, the Gamecocks special teams unit has been much improved in 2011. The return game has been helped with newcomer Bruce Ellington at kick returner and a more confident Ace Sanders at punt returner.
Sanders returned a punt 68-yards against East Carolina in the opener for a touchdown. The speed between these two and some solid blocking on special teams seems to give the Gamecocks a much greater chance at establishing better field position for themselves.
The kicking game seems to be on par with where it's been the last few years after losing Ryan Succop and Spencer Lanning. Field-goal kicker Jay Wooten looks solid so far in his kicking for the Gamecocks. His 49-yarder against Georgia delivered the deciding points. He's even been good at kickoffs for South Carolina with three touchbacks and an average of 62.4 yards.
Punter Joey Scribner-Howard is averaging 39.6 yards per kick with two punts over 50-plus yards and three inside the 20-yard line. This was an area of concern for South Carolina and things seem good so far for the Gamecocks.
Butler seems like a coach who will take a chance. The fake punt he called for Melvin Ingram was a thing of beauty. It was set up perfectly for the Gamecocks and Ingram raced 68 yards for the touchdown. You need a coach willing to make a call like that in a tight game and John Butler did just that. He's been a great addition to the South Carolina coaching staff.
The Reliability of Alshon Jeffery
Alshon Jeffery continues to be Mr. Reliable for the Gamecocks.
The South Carolina passing attack has underperformed in 2011. USC is averaging just over 135 yards passing per game with a completion percentage of about 40 percent. These are definitely not the statistics that Steve Spurrier expects from his Gamecocks.
However, the one constant has been Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is averaging five catches per game for 88.5 yards a game. He has a total of 177 yards receiving in two games and one touchdown.
Jeffery has been a reliable receiver for the Gamecocks in 2011. He's made some big catches for South Carolina and has been the only receiver to stretch the field for the team so far. The attention is on Alshon from opposing defenses but he can still find a way to use his body to gain position on the defender and come away with a catch.
He'll continue to be a big part of this offense going forward and should continue to be a reliable option for the Gamecocks.
Opportunity for Improvement There for South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina has been able to rely on Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery. It has made some big plays on defense and special teams.
The opportunity for improvement is there for the Gamecocks. This offense can play much better when it gets senior quarterback Stephen Garcia flowing with more precision passing. The defense can get better at run defense with solid tackling. The secondary for South Carolina can play better if it stays within its assignments and plays smart football.
There's plenty to work on for South Carolina ,so the chance to be a better football team awaits. Life looks a lot better, though, thanks to a 2-0 start.