Gamecocks hope to find answers to defensive questions Saturday

jkendall@thestate.comSeptember 12, 2013 

Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

The theories, like the points surrendered, are multiple.

Why did South Carolina’s defense look so bad in a 41-30 loss to Georgia last week? It depends on who you ask.

• There was a lack of intensity.

“We thought we were going to walk into Georgia, and they were going to hand us something,” junior defensive end Kelcy Quarles said. “We didn’t have any swagger about us. We didn’t have any intensity. We were out there looking like a deer in headlights. We played with no emotion, no intensity at all.”

• It was a defensive line issue.

“I think the point of emphasis this week is just to win the line of scrimmage, stop the run,” spur Sharrod Golightly said.

“I think they found a little weakness in the running game, and they pounded on us, kept running,” safety T.J. Gurley said.

• It was a secondary issue.

“We did not perform well as a group. I have to do a better job as a coach preparing my guys to go out and perform at a high level on Saturday,” secondary coach Grady Brown said. “If they did not perform well, then that means I did not do a good enough job as a coach preparing them to play. It was really poor.”

• The defensive calls didn’t come in quickly enough.

“Every time they get a big play, they would go hurry-up,” Gurley said. “We weren’t getting the calls out fast enough, and it was hurting us sometime. Vanderbilt is probably going to go up-tempo on us because they saw that we were getting killed on it last week.”

• Jadeveon Clowney was taken out of the action by Georgia’s game plan, and the Gamecocks did not compensate well for that.

“We need to line up on the other side and put about five guys over there and anticipate they’re going to run (away from Clowney),” coach Steve Spurrier said. “That’s what we should do, but we didn’t get lined up well the other day. That’s my fault to start with that we didn’t get lined up. After we get lined up, everyone has to play their gap a little bit better and do their responsibility.”

The Gamecocks, who have finished in the top four of the SEC in total defense in four of the past five seasons, gave up 536 yards to the Bulldogs and are 11th in the SEC in total defense (414.5 yards per game) after two games. The 5.35 yards per play South Carolina has surrendered rank 67th in the nation.

“We had a lot of breakdowns. We had a bad coaching game, as we all know,” Spurrier said. “It starts with me. I’m responsible for everything that goes on around here. We didn’t look very good. We’re going to try to get our guys lined up in the right place and let them go play.”

Spurrier promised defensive changes immediately after the game. Asked if the adjustments he wanted to see were working this week in practice, Spurrier said, “I hope so.”

“We will all find out when the ball game starts if we are sound and everybody seems to know where they are going, and they don’t have a bunch of guys running wide open,” Spurrier said. “If they make some catches and we are hanging all over them, that’s football but we can’t allow guys to just run wide open.”

The Commodores seem to be a good opponent against which to make adjustments. Vanderbilt is ninth in the SEC in total offense and has the second-worst rushing offense in the SEC.

However, this week is not about the opponent but themselves, Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and the players say.

“Regardless of who the opponent is, we need to be better,” Ward said.

“We have to go out there and have fun,” middle linebacker Kaiwan Lewis said. “That’s one thing we have to stress this week is to have fun. It wasn’t too much fun out there on Saturday.”

South Carolina has added “quick calls” this week in case Vanderbilt tries an up-tempo offense, Gurley said, but Quarles believes the only change needed is intensity. Asked what has changed about the defense this week, he replied, “Nothing.”

“We’re going to come back out here and play with more intensity, come out here and play with more fire,” he said. “We’re going to come out here and have a little life about ourself, and that’s the only thing you’re going to see change.”

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