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South Carolina at Clemson Preview: Depth Chart Blue Chip Analysis

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NCAA Football: Western Carolina at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Gamecocks have me hot under the collar this week. There I was in the back seat, headed home after a division clinching win over Wake Forest. I figured I’d go ahead and start putting together the depth chart for this week’s analysis of the Gamecocks. I was sorting through the unofficial Gamecocks depth chart I found online (OurLads.com) and was impressed. They had a few more four star players than I expected. I figured the narrative of this week’s article would be about how the Gamecocks have a good bit more talent than some of the middle to lower tier ACC teams we’ve faced like NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, etc.

Then I noticed something odd.

A starting linebacker was listed as backup for the two other linebacker positions. Hmm, they must be thin there I reasoned. Then I saw the second-string safety was also a second-string at CB. The starter at nickelback was listed as the other second-string safety. It all seemed like a strange shell game, so I waited for the official depth chart to be released by the school.

For the first time all season, our opponent did not release a two deep depth chart. They only had starters listed. That’s when I finally realized how this team that seems to have some decent players is as low as they are in the advanced stat rankings and is mucking it up with Mizzou, Kentucky, Georgia, and Vanderbilt in one of the worst divisions in P5 football. They aren’t too deep. They’re not even two deep!

Gamecocks Depth Chart
Credit: ClemsonTigers.com

Normally, we compare the starters on the O-line and QB, and the two-deep at the other positions. The Gamecocks basically have no back-ups, so we’re going to do them a favor. We’ll keep doing what we do with Clemson. Charts reflect only the starters at QB and the O-line. For the offensive skill positions (save QB) and defense we’ll inspect the two-deep. For the Gamecocks, however, we are only looking at starters. We have no choice. They listed no backups. We’ll see if the Tigers still score better on recruiting metrics even when we narrow our gaze to only the Gamecocks starters, but first our usual caveat...

There are always players who over-perform their original star rating (e.g., Hunter Renfrow, Lamar Jackson) and as well as those who underperform their star ratings. As such, this is only one portion of the analysis we will publish on the upcoming game, but we hope this is an informative one.

On to the offense:

South Carolina burnt the redshirt on their 19 year old QB Jake Bentley. In an age where star players rarely stay for five years, burning a redshirt is a bit less aggressive and bold than in years past (see Ole Miss burning QB Shea Patterson’s redshirt).

Bentley performed very well in his first three games, all wins, against UMass, UT, and Missouri. In those three games, he recorded 6 TDs and no INTs. Since then he hasn’t been as sharp. Against UF and Western Carolina, he failed to throw a touchdown and threw his first INT. His completion percentage and passer rating has also taken a dip. The Tigers defense is comparable to the Gators (#6 and #5 respectively in the S&P+).

A quality performance against the Tigers #4 pass defense (S&P+) followed by a win in a mid-tier bowl (e.g., Belk Bowl) would make for a relatively impressive year one for Muschamp given the lack of depth Spurrier left for him.

The Cocks list only two WRs on their depth chart. One is Bryan Edwards, who the Tigers offered as a safety. Edwards chose the Gamecocks because he could play WR and start immediately. His decision (and decent production, 486 yards) underscored the vast gap in depth between these two offenses.

S&P+ has nothing nice to say about the Gamecock offense. Their offense is ranked behind South Florida, Southern Miss, South Alabama, and Georgia Southern. You have to travel pretty far south down the list to 114th to find them.

On to the defense:

The Gamecocks have some talent in their starting lineup, but as we discussed, they have no depth. This is where you’d love to see the Tigers utilize some tempo, which we saw a bit of in Winston-Salem, to keep them on their heels.

The Gamecocks are respectable-ish on defense. They are 51st in the S&P+ defense rankings. Their pass defense is better than their rushing defense, which allowed 236 yards on the ground to Western Carolina last week (only 131 passing).

Normally, we provide a third chart that shows an area to exploit, but of course, the Gamecocks had to ruin that too. Did they have to ruin everything? There isn’t a big mismatch at the position units we show. Rather there are three things to watch:

  1. Do the Tigers expose the Gamecocks lack of depth using tempo while avoiding foolish turnovers?
  2. Can the Tigers finally string together consecutive games with a competent looking rushing attack. Gallman broke out against Wake Forest, running for 161 yards, and getting the offensive player of the game from Dabo Swinney and much more importantly STS writer Matt Goldin. Watson looked pretty speedy, using his legs to pick up some big conversions and 2 TDs. He finished with 47 yards. If there was ever a time for the smashmouth spread to return, please be now.
  3. Finally, the Gamecocks have to be watching how Bentley responds to a night game in Death Valley. He’s beaten UT and played at Florida, but a solid performance, even in a loss would be encouraging for Cock fans moving forward. How will he perform?