Fee Fi Foe Film: South Carolina Offense

Submitted by Seth on December 30th, 2017 at 9:00 AM

[UPDATE: Deebo Samuel is out with a broken leg/sprained foot]

Previously: Defense

[Author reliever note: Your Jack Morris of Foe Film is exhausted, so the Willie Hernandez of Foe Film is coming in to close out the season.]

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OBC left us this one magic spell

South Carolina’s offense is bad for good reasons, and Clemson’s defense is very good. Unlike some rivalry games however, the bad offense was just as unimaginative as it was feckless. In fact Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper a few days after it.

In the aftermath receivers coach Bryan McClendon was upgraded from nominal co-OC to official interim OC. For this one-game audition in Don Brown’s Hell they didn’t leave McClendon much to work with. Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier retired two years ago and left his heirs with a handful of interior linemen, a tight end, some old golf clubs, and a strategy guide for stretching the definition of “on the line of scrimmage.”

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They’ve also rarely started the same 11 two games straight, a combination of minor injuries and sifting through their collection of teenagers for players.

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four guys on this offense held down a single position all season

The result of all this youth and mediocre coaching is the 88th offense this year to MGoBlog-favored fancystat S&P+. The running game is a grab-bag of stuff they don’t do very well. The passing game is West Coast dump-offs to the running backs and option routes to their one sophomore receiver. The one thing it has going for it is a good receiving tight end.

Personnel: My diagram gets bigger if you click it. (Also because I was at a wedding when Ace put the SC defense post together here's the promised chart for that).

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The RB rotation is three co-equal starters given the “OR” designation. Turner started the first half of 2016 before losing carries to Rico Dowdle, who’s out for this game with a broken fibula. The third, Ty’son Williams, got the majority of snaps against Clemson and was the least likely to run away from a gaping hole. Dowdle’s absence gives us room to include spectacularly named Randrecous Davis, the backup slot receiver who inherited injured Shi Smith’s snaps in the Clemson game. Both are freshmen.

Outside, Bryan Edwards gets over a quarter of their targets, often on sight adjustment (option) routes. Another true freshman receiver, OrTre Smith (no relation), has replaced injured Deebo Samuel, who was also their kick and punt returner. According to people who watched more SC than me that's a big loss.

None of the offensive linemen looked very good against Clemson, but Clemson’s DL tends to do that to mere mortals. Everyone got out-athleted at least once, but they also did a fair job at picking up Venables’s nasty blitzes—punt.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown]

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Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid: Spread, and almost always with 11 (one TE, one RB, three WRs) personnel, going two tight ends in extreme run situations.

Much of the time they’re in the same offset-Y formation that Ohio State uses as its base, where the tight end is a quasi-fullback, the slot receiver can jet into an outside running threat, and the back is offset from the quarterback to give him a pistol-ish head start toward interior running lanes.

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In 47 snaps I counted one play from an Ace formation, one unbalanced, and seven plays with an extra tight end. Their preferred method of confusion is to line up differently then shift the personnel around, usually back to the base. Show? Show.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? A Borgesian mix that isn’t good at either zone or pulling. The super-eery Borges thing was they ran things like zone read and inverted veer but blocked the end you’re supposed to read. One of these was obviously an RPO and it’s possible they have one in the playbook that is a quick smoke route to Edwards, but I think they were trying to read a strongside linebacker into wrongsiding himself. Anyway it didn’t work and trying to figure out why brings up arguments that don’t need rehashing. I don’t think they’ll miss the old coordinator.

Hurry it up or grind it out? They’re no-huddle but really they’ve got two modes: leisurely get to the line, and tempo, which they did on 17% of snaps I charted. They’re 122nd in adjusted pace.

Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Bentley describes himself as a “reluctant dual threat.” His scrambles were mostly productive and Clemson left a defender on the line of scrimmage to make sure they weren’t more than that. Six.

Zook Factor: On the Gamecocks’ first drive a Bentley scramble set up 4th and 1 at midfield. They lined up in a goal line, sat around with enough movement by the linemen to make it obvious they weren’t going to do anything but fake snap counts, took a delay of game, and punted. Joey Galloway praised this.

Dangerman: He’s not much of a blocker (against the wild beasts of the piedmont) but I was very impressed by the route chops of 6’5”/250 tight end Hayden Hurst. Most receivers never flip their hips around this fast:

The ball is a titch late so Hurst screens it with his body, establishes position at the marker, and gives up fighting once he knows he’s got it. I clipped another play like this at the top of the post. Hurst also featured on a wide open seam that Bentley badly misfired. That was kind of a theme, according to the...

HenneChart:

Player/Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR SCR DSR
Bentley vs Clemson 2 3(1) 2 8x 2xx 3 1 3 2 36%

A 36% downfield success rating with three bad x events (one a pick six to open scoring) is, well, worse than the worst day a Michigan QB’s had this year. It’s worse by a percentage point than Demry Croft’s all-timer versus Iowa.

This takes a bit of caveating: This chart ends at the sad field goal in the 4th quarter, which means it leaves out a 6/6, 77-yard (half on a nice Edwards catch and run) touchdown drive against the backups with 3 minutes to go.

Also Iowa’s pass defense is 26th (good) to S&P+, but Clemson is 2nd in the country (Michigan is 3rd). So no, this guy isn’t as bad as the worst I’ve ever scouted; if Demry Croft was a baby put on a bicycle and given instructions to row the boat, Bentley is more like a 15-year-old on a heavily supervised test drive of Grandpa’s ’54 Continental: he knows the general way it’s supposed to work, but he’s got no feel for it, and there’s a 100% chance of at least one disaster before it’s safely back in the garage.

The inaccuracies here are about 50% hearing footsteps that may or may not be coming, and just plain bad throwing. A typical play would see Bentley check a quick option route to Edwards, survey two covered receivers, then pick one to throw at because he’s out of time and there’s nowhere to scramble. The throw would be to Tacopants, but you can charitably imagine that Bentley was trying to put it where his receiver had a 5% chance to make a play and the defender had zero.

The pick six was on a sight adjustment:

Edwards correctly read that the corner was jumping his hitch route and turned it into a hitch & go; Bentley threw the hitch. The other bad read was worse: Clemson dropped a DE/OLB directly into the passing lane and Bentley was lucky to have it tipped at the line.

The other interception highlights the inaccuracy: The cornerback stumbled out of his press and Bentley just threw it disastrously short:

Was it just a tough opponent? On the season Bentley has a respectable 2,555 yards, 63% completion rating and 16/11 TD/INT ratio. But as Ace mentioned South Carolina is tough to judge because the SEC East is the Big Ten West South, their SEC West opponents were Missouri and Texas A&M, and the rest of their nonconference was NC State, Louisiana Tech, and Wofford. The only live team they played until this one was #3 Georgia; Bentley had a meh 5.68 YPA (sacks included), a TD and two INTs on 38 pass attempts.

That doesn’t bode well against Brown’s blitzes and two Michigan cornerbacks who replaced an NFL rookie of the year candidate with barely any drop-off. South Carolina is 94th to Bill Connelly in standard down run rate (54.1%), and Bentley is averaging 33 attempts per game, meaning they’re much more reliant on their passing game than most college offenses. You’re forgiven for a bad passing day against Venebles’s monsters, but it’s not like Brown’s will be any kinder.

OVERVIEW:

The running game doesn’t have anything to hang their hat on and the backs miss holes, and therefore can’t sustain drives, so they run mostly QB Level 2 things (one-sight reads, triangles, high-lows) and when they’re not there Bentley dumps it to a late-releasing running back. Clemson regularly flagged those guys down for zero yards and snoozed their way to the end of charting.

That charting (three false starts excised):

Formations Run Pass PA RPO
Gun 15 25 1 2
I-Form        
Ace     1  
Pistol        
Heavy        

And by down:

Down Run Pass PA RPO
1st 10 4 1 1
2nd 4 9 1 1
3rd 1 12    

It’s surprisingly predictable. Third and medium was always a pass. Long situations (including 2nd down) were usually passes. Even the rare 2nd and short was a passing down. 1st and 10 was usually a run. The offensive coordinator they fired didn’t have much to work with on the field but his play-calling didn’t do them any favors. Chances are the wide receivers coach won’t fare much better.

The regular running running game gives me Derrick Green flashbacks.

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This is a 3rd and 2. The playcall is a trap with a backside jet. It is designed to hit that backside B gap, and indeed all the back has to do is press WLB #34 (the one on the hash mark) and cut to the intended lane. Instead he goes frontside C, where Clemson has six dudes versus a receiving tight end.

Most attempts at power were met with so much linebacker reaction that these backside cuts looked like the play even when they weren’t. Zone saw a lot of releasing before the doubled guy was defeated. Clemson did most of that themselves. Here’s a veer RB lead option that Ohio State used in 2016 except instead of reading the DE I think the mesh point is supposed to hold the MLB inside so LG #72 can get down on him. The MLB’s keys still work for him; he stays in, shoots past the block attempt and ends a dangerous play after a gain of four.

Then we never saw this or anything else like it again the whole game. The yards it got came from the Clemson HSP setting up like he was going to get optioned, letting the RB pop him. So, can he get optioned? Nope, it’s just another thing from the grab bag.

Comments

TheCool

December 30th, 2017 at 10:21 AM ^

After a month of preparation offenses have the opportunity to make significant changes. Especially with a "new" coach who's likely trying to impress as OC to earn the job permanently. Tendencies can be defenestrated.

Jasper

December 30th, 2017 at 10:39 AM ^

I count six Top 250 recruits on the offensive side. Way more than most of Michigan's opponents but probably not better than most of them ... tempting to say that the rating services are kinder to southern teams (or to southern players). Not a new idea, of course ...

Seth

December 30th, 2017 at 11:02 AM ^

South Carolina recruiting is legitimately ahead of all but the Big Ten elites. It's a talent-rich region and they can pull a Clowney every once in awhile because they have a standard SEC bagman operation. Their nickelback is Jamyest Williams, a 5'9 dude the whole country wanted. The Smiths were both high 4-stars.

MGlobules

December 30th, 2017 at 10:56 AM ^

my optimism about this game with the gloomy thought that in a game where you're favored by a TD a fumble or INT throws your edge out the window. We'll be facing a lot of working-class irredentist Sons of the Soil and they won't give up after one or two touchdowns, will keep punching just because they like punching--even enjoy being punched.

We, on the other hand, need to show up early in order to build confidence. There's been so much talk about unmet expectations--most of it unfair. The psyches may be fragile. We're surrounded by ten-win B1G teams; it will feel like a long off-season if we lose.  

MGoChiTown05

December 30th, 2017 at 11:25 AM ^

...and not worth a lot, Deebo Samuel did not get beaten out by Smith, he broke his leg. He was good enough that many thought he would declare for NFL after this year. Do appreciate the posts though!

roediger32

December 30th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

He also returned 2 kickoffs this year and both went for touchdowns. I think there may have been some confusion about him when writing the post as he was a game changer before the injury. But hey its free content over the holidays! Thanks Seth.

KC Wolve

December 30th, 2017 at 11:52 AM ^

I predict pain. Most bowl games are a complete shit show with all of the distractions and the month off. Look at USC last night, they were all out of whack. Harbaugh will not allow the team to be complacent or unprepared. As he always says, it is a business trip. Bill Snyder is the same way. Sure, have a bit of fun and enjoy the nice weather, but you are here to play and win a football game first and foremost. 

28-10 but not really even that close.

TheReal_GR3

December 30th, 2017 at 11:53 AM ^

You mention Deebo Samuel near the top of the article... I am guessing you were joking about him being pushed to the bench and being a bad returner... right? 

Deebo broke his ankle this year against Kentucky. When healthy his is the best player on the SC team. He might be the most explosive player in the SEC.