Your humble correspondent has been asked to take part in a Gamecocks' roundtable with SB Nation's Garnet And Black Attack, the Post and Courier's Spur of the Moment blog written by Travis Haney, Wes Mitchell of Gamecock Anthem and Flounder of Leftover Hot Dog. (Homerism? Perhaps, but South Carolina is an SEC team.) We'll do these once a month. The results should be at LOHD later today.
Q: This past Spring, some was written about South Carolina using a no huddle offense. How much do you expect to see of this new offensive scheme this coming fall season and what potential impact will it have?
After hearing for years about how the Gamecocks are going to add this or that wrinkle to the offense and then seeing it used rarely, I'll believe it when I see it. While I don't think Steve Spurrier's offense is necessarily doomed to failure without innovation, I do think it's going to be hard to succeed doing the same thing he's done at the college level for almost 25 years; he has to innovate to win at South Carolina. At the same time, I get the sense sometimes that Spurrier likes the idea of innovating but still likes to call what he's comfortable with when it's time to plan and call a game. The fallout is, I think, a little unclear. On one level, a no-huddle offense could help along the line and in some other places by giving the opponent's defense less time to adjust and maybe tiring them a bit. But too much of it could hurt the defense by giving them less time to rest -- and with the Gamecocks having less depth than the teams ahead of them in the pecking order, that has the potential to cause problems.
Q: Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson has always had some good defenses over the years at South Carolina. What makes his scheme so good?
Eric Norwood and South Carolina's developing reputation as something of a "DB U." I'm not one of those people that believes that recruiting stars win championships, but personnel is important, and Ellis Johnson has had some great personnel at South Carolina. The defensive backfield has had a pretty solid cast pretty much every year, and Norwood was one of the few players in college football that actually deserves to be called a "game changer." That's not to say that the scheme itself has nothing to do with it -- as Nick Saban has pointed out, it also allows the defense to adjust to a game in which offensive coordinators are more willing than ever to switch formations from one play to the next. We'll see how it does sans Norwood.
Q: Kickoff to another Gamecocks season is right around the corner. Describe a successful season. Describe a disappointing one.
Successful season has to be at least eight regular-season wins -- at least -- and a strong third-place showing in the SEC East. That's if Georgia rebounds; if the Dawgs have another down year, than South Carolina has to establish itself as the biggest challenger to Florida while it has the chance. It's time to find out if Spurrier is going to be the coaching that made South Carolina a perennial bowl team or an SEC contender. Another 7-5 campaign tells us that the best South Carolina can hope for is a trip to somewhere between Birmingham and Tampa in the postseason; Orlando or the BCS is out. That's not to say that Spurrier should be fired at 7-5 -- you don't fire arguably the best coach in school history because he's hit a ceiling -- but it does say we should dial back expectations of what he can do in Columbia.
Anything less than 7-5 has to be considered a disappointment. At least three of the nonconference games are at least probable wins (Southern Miss, though, worries me) and three of the conference games (Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee) ought to be wins. Not winning at least one of the others would be a disappointing season -- with all the returning starters and all the change in the SEC East, this ought to be the best season in Spurrier's tenure, not one of the worst.