South Carolina has been near the bottom of the SEC in total offense for three consecutive seasons, and new coordinator Bryan McClendon is hoping that simply running more plays will help provide a boost.
The Gamecocks have finished 11th, 13th and 12th in total offense the past three seasons; they also have finished 13th, 11th and 10th in total plays in the same stretch.
“It’s really simple – the more plays you run, the more opportunities you get for yards and points,” McClendon told reporters after the Gamecocks’ first practice of the spring Wednesday.
Coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday in a pre-spring news conference that new quarterback coach Dan Werner – a former offensive coordinator under Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss – was helping in the transition to a faster-paced offense, and McClendon said Wednesday that the goal is to “be in attack mode as much as possible.”
South Carolina certainly seems to have necessary skill-position players to put pressure on opposing defenses. Junior quarterback Jake Bentley should be one of the best at his position in the league and is entering his third season as the starter. The Gamecocks also have a solid group of wide receivers, headed by senior Deebo Samuel, who missed all but three games last season with leg and foot injuries.
Samuel’s absence hurt last season, even with the presence of sophomore Bryan Edwards and the emergence of freshmen Shi Smith and OrTre Smith. South Carolina’s production actually was down last season from 2016. The Gamecocks averaged 347.5 yards per game in 2016 and that number dropped to 337.1 last season, when they ran 75 fewer plays. But the scoring average did go up, from 20.8 points per game in 2016 to 24.2 last season.
Muschamp fired coordinator Kurt Roper after the regular season, and McClendon served as the play-caller in the Outback Bowl win over Michigan. When asked after the game about the biggest difference in having McClendon calling the plays, Bentley said, “What we said we were going to run in practice, we did.”
McClendon was promoted to full-time OC a few days after the bowl game.
In that vein, McClendon said Wednesday that he is keeping a lot of things the same.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is go in and scrap everything because I do feel like there were some things that we did really well,” McClendon said. “… I want to do enough where there was a lot of familiarity as far as verbiage and everything else, and kind of put a different twist on it.”
He says his job is “just fitting all the pieces in the right place” and said that task is easier because of his familiarity with the offense and the players.
“Being here has been the biggest help,” he said. “You know what the guys know. That at least gives you a starting point.”
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