Cloninger Soundoff: Bye week offers chance to fix two glaring weaknesses

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on September 17, 2013 

South Carolina's Shon Carson fields a kickoff against Georgia

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com

How much improvement can be accomplished on a bye week?

It’s not the normal week of practice. And don’t think for a second that college football players — like any of us — aren’t looking forward to a few days off. The Gamecocks have a free weekend to look forward to, and perhaps won’t go as hard in practice as normal.

Coaches get a rare extra week to prepare for the next opponent, to diagram and plot strategies for the next game. Perhaps it’s not as much of an advantage in this case, since UCF also is on a bye week and can do the same against USC. But at least there’s not the short week of ditching plans to handle one team and starting over on another.

The Gamecocks will spend the extra week trying to get better across the board. But perhaps particular attention will be paid to the two most glaring weaknesses so far: defensive performance and special teams, notably kickoff coverage and returns.

With the defense, the Gamecocks showed substantial improvement against Vanderbilt from the previous game, but there still were lapses. The young linebackers will only get better from here, and there’s no telling when the growing pains will stop and the wounds are soothed.

However, there’s a new option to prepare for: how to stop a Wildcat offense. After all, the Commodores unveiled to the rest of the schedule how susceptible USC is to it.

As for special teams, Joe Robinson was a requested name this week but has declined to talk about his depth chart. Steve Spurrier was clearly not happy with the way USC failed to cover kicks, or advance kicks, declaring on Sunday that perhaps the best option would be to kneel in the end zone.

I would think that the position of kickoff returner — and really all special team positions outside of place-kicker — is open.

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