Special teams top Spurrier's list of concerns

Coach almost content to down kickoffs in end zone

dcloninger@thestate.comSeptember 15, 2013 

Steve Spurrier wrapped up the win over Vanderbilt on Sunday.

JEFF BLAKE — Jeff Blake

Steve Spurrier said he had not yet looked at the film of Saturday’s 35-25 win against Vanderbilt, so he couldn’t get too specific about what was right and what was wrong. The coach had some recruiting to take care of Sunday morning, and he wanted to watch the tape with the entire staff.

But he was at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday and knows that the No. 12 Gamecocks’ special teams, particularly on kick return, must change.

“I’m at the point now, I’m about ready to tell those guys just stay in the end zone,” Spurrier said during his weekly teleconference Sunday. “We can’t get back to the 25. The other teams, they’re running right through us, we’re not blocking very well up front. Maybe we need to put somebody back there to just catch it and stay in the end zone, to tell you the truth.”

Redshirt sophomore Shon Carson had two kickoff returns for 31 yards on Saturday but fumbled twice. He recovered one, but Vanderbilt took the other at the Gamecocks’ 19-yard line.

USC has not gotten much from the return game this season, and since Carson seemed to use up his chance on Saturday, the Gamecocks could be holding auditions for new returners before kicking off at Central Florida on Sept. 28.

“Let’s be smart,” Spurrier said. “How many people run it past the 25 when it’s a good high ball down to the goal line? They’re doing it against us, because we’re not covering very well right now. At some point in life, you have to say, ‘Hey, what’s the percentage, what’s the best thing to do?’ Right now, I’m sort of thinking, ‘Let’s catch that ball in the end zone, and start on the 25, instead of the 10, 15, and stuff like that we been doing.’”

The Gamecocks’ special teams were the most concerning aspect of USC’s win, since it was Carson’s fumble and a punt that glanced off gunner T.J. Gurley’s heel that gave the Commodores great field position and led to two touchdowns. Spurrier cracked after the game that he was going to have to try and get special teams coach Joe Robinson some better players on his units.

With an extra week to prepare for UCF (3-0), it may come down to switching out the entire special teams’ roster or giving up trying to return kicks and let the offense try to work 75-yard drives all day.

“We got to have some guys that run down there and get their hands on the blockers, get rid of them, and make some tackles,” Spurrier said. “Again, we’ll look at our personnel. Going to try to challenge the players that are on there to do a little bit better job.”

Injuries

The Gamecocks came out of the game healthy.

Outside of Jadeveon Clowney’s bone spurs, tailback Mike Davis tweaked his left ankle but should be fine. On Sunday, Davis tweeted “My ankle is great people thanks for the concern!”

Fans leaving early

Many fans — and players such as Davis and Connor Shaw — expressed their disappointment at the half-empty student section during the game. While the game lasted more than 3 1/2 hours, fans took to social media to tell the ones that left to stay in their seats.

Spurrier brushed it aside.

“I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it, to tell you the truth,” Spurrier said. “I was really sort of irritated that it took so long when the referee got hurt. That took about 30 minutes. I wish those things may not have happened, but keep the game going.”

Spurrier mentioned many of the other delays, such as replays and TV timeouts. He said it’s hard for fans to stay fired up and screaming and yelling with no action on the field.

“Our fans are pretty good,” he said. “When you play at night, some of them maybe have a little too much to drink before the games. Then all of a sudden it gets a little dull and the play stops, and they’re saying, ‘Well, this is going to be a late one, let’s beat the traffic and get on out of here.’ I can sort of understand that. They were screaming and yelling pretty good. I’m not going to chew them out for last night.”

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