We’re joined this week by James Shahid of SB Nation’s Garnet and Black Attack to discuss the Vols and Gamecocks:
1. What are your early impressions of Will Muschamp as the head coach at South Carolina?
Despite not getting the immediate results, for the most part, so far so good. I like what he and DC Travaris Robinson have accomplished with the defense and he motivates this team with a fearless approach to each opponent. However, the lack of production with the offense scares the crap out of me. There have been too many flashbacks to the Florida coached Will Muschamp teams of inept offense through the first seven games. Hopefully, we've put those demons to bed.
2. What do you make of Jake Bentley's performance against UMass and the decision to roll with the true freshman halfway through what was going to be his redshirt season?
If we're being completely honest here, I was ready to jump ship before Bentley debuted. The diehard Gamecock fans of the 90's are going to yell at me if they read this, but I was finished with the losing and was ready to put this program in the back of my head. Then Jake Bentley came out and now I'm reeled back in. The thought that we may have our QB of the future feels really, really, really awesome. Sure he wasn't perfect, but his poise against UMass resembled that of another #4 playing in the up state. After one game Bentley appears to be the real deal, albeit against a 1-7 opponent. We'll see of we feel after he battle his first SEC opponent.
3. On paper South Carolina has one of the worst rushing defenses and best passing defenses in the nation. Is the situation on defense more complicated than that, or can you easily identify what's gone poorly against the run and well against the pass?
Yeah. Sure we've looked terrible in run defense against the likes of Miss. St., UGA and UMass, but I think the stats make the overall look worse than it may be. As for the pass defense, the secondary has been a pleasant surprise. We know the linebacking corps would be the glue of our defense this year, but the secondary has been what's kind held this thing all together. The credit goes to their ability to create takeaways in the passing game.
Specifically, the run defense may be a fix that Muschamp has preached all season, and that's the defensive lines ability to get off blocks and find the guy with the ball. It's a technique that's been frustrating Muschamp and defensive coaching staff all year and one they've seen very little improvement in over the course of the season. Tackling was a slight issue, but I think for the most part the entire D has done a better job lately.
4. Carolina has been generally competitive with everyone and is yet to allow a team to score 30 points, but sits at 3-4 with the lone conference win over Vanderbilt so far. Has this team overachieved, underachieved, or are they about where you thought they would be?
Really, they're about where I thought they would be. That Vanderbilt game could've swung either way, and I think they blew the game putting there back-up QB in on the drive immediately following their touchdown. The Kentucky game was a disappointment, but that's mainly because we shouldn't be a program that losses to the Wildcats consistently, which seems to be the new norm.
To make this season more than just what we thought it would be, we need an upset. And as much as you might not like to hear, the best chance comes against the Vols at home this weekend.
5. What's the most important factor for South Carolina's chances against Tennessee on Saturday?
Keep moving the ball. We've relied too much on the defense so far this season, and have too much pressure on them to limit the scoring. I liked what I saw offensively against UMass in terms of taking chances downfield and getting a little more creative in packages and down and distance situations. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper needs to keep the creativity brewing to sustain drives this weekend.