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Gamecock defense needing a little tune up heading into mid-season

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Gamecock defense needing a little tune up heading into mid-season

Oct. 06, 2019

The Gamecock defense so far has as of now hasn't been all bed & roses early part of the season. But now the Gamecocks will be in the middle of a really tough part of the schedule. Defensive improvement must start now to handle the tough road ahead in order to make this season a successful one by become bowl eligible in 2019.

North Carolina went for 6.4 yards per play, Alabama for 8.9. But five games in, things have started to settle. Gamecock defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson doesn’t have a few spots he aims to shore up.

Before the games in the Gamecocks bye week, the defense ranks 29th in SP+ defense, which adjusts for competition, and 38th in points per drive allowed against FBS opposition. That’s not great, but top-30 or 40 with Alabama warping the numbers isn’t too bad.

Gamecock DC Travaris Robinson filled in on Will Muschamp’s weekly call-in show and identified a few areas, some obvious and some less so, to fix.

STOPPING THE BIG PLAYS

The Gamecocks’ pass defense has long been built on big-play prevention, but Alabama, UNC and even Missouri where successful  there. The Gamecocks consider runs of 10 or more yards and passes of 20 or more big plays, and the performance there hasn’t been pristine.

The Gamecocks are 92nd in 10-or-more-yard runs allowed and 110th in passes of 20 or more yards.

But the way those are happening is strange to say the least.

 Robinson said.  “The balls aren’t flying over our heads. It’s a lot of things, that screen pass or a back in the flat, when you start looking at it, and it goes 25, 30 yards. We need to eliminate. And what’s the issue? Whether it be lost leverage, whether it be an eye-control issue, whatever the case may be, we need to get that corrected and we definitely will.”

PINNING OPPONENT

The Gamecock coaches always talk about flipping the field, and they have a weapon to do that in Joseph Charlton, who is putting opponents inside their 20 on 45.8 percent of his kicks. So the Gamecocks have their Kicker.

Most for the part a team gets a good punt, the defense forces a three-and-out against an offense trying to avoid a mistake and the next drive begins on the plus side of the field. Only Carolina has let opponents get off their goal lines (twice for long drives against the Tar Heels), and that itself becomes an issue.

Robinson said.  “Joe Charlton is great punter. He backs guys up all the time, and he puts us in great position to go out and get a stop. And we don’t get the stop. And that’s an issue.”

EVERY-DOWN PLAY AND GAP CONTROL A MUST HERE

The Gamecocks put up their best defensive performance in a while against Kentucky, allowing 3.4 yards per play and 212 total yards. But the coaches saw a certain lack of consistency.

Robinson said.  “We played 70 snaps. Sixty snaps was really good football and 10 snaps was undisciplined football with guys coming out of gaps, losing eyes in coverage and gave up plays because of that.”

Those breakdown sometimes happen when someone just gets blocker or loses focus, but often it’s when eyes get to big, when players want to freelance a little, make a play out of system and end up leaving an open hole.

 Robinson also added. “Guys want to make plays and they jump out of gaps or they get their eyes out of the wrong spot and think they can make a play and jump out of the game. Well, if you have your head in the B gap, play the B gap. If you have the C gap, keep your head in the C gap and play the C gap. It’s as simple as that. It’s easier said than done. I’ve been out there. I was one of the guys jumping in the A gap trying to make a tackle. Our guys just have to understand it.”

To reach that point, the defense watches film together, so the linemen, linebackers and secondary can see how their play and their freelancing affects everyone else around them. Robinson admitted it’s a change from his playing days. He has to explain more of the “why” than his coaches might have.

MOST TACKLE AND TACKLE

This feeds into some of the issues on short passes, but it’s been inconsistent. Any offense is built to get one-on-one match-ups and stretch defenses, so one missed tackle turns 8 yards into 25. Robinson focused on his core group, the secondary, and didn’t pull punches about what he wanted to see done better.

 Robinson talked on this and he had this to say. “I think that our tackling needs to improve from the secondary. You look at J.T. Ibe, Jaycee, you look at some of those guys, Jammie have missed a couple of tackles they’re more than capable of making.”

MUCH NEED THE TURNOVER

The early success of the Will Muschamp era was built on forcing opponents to give up the ball. But that’s been an issue this season.

The Gamecocks have only forced 1.6 turnovers per game, one per game against FBS competition.

 Robinson on the matter said.  “We need some more turnovers and creating shorter field. Coming out has been an issue. I’ve talked to our guys about that, the elephant in the room.”

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