What Florida can learn from South Carolina’s first game

The Florida Gators are looking to clean up some things against South Carolina after a wild opening win over Ole Miss. For their part, the Gamecocks are trying to bounce back after a close home loss to Tennessee. Here is what I learned about UF’s next opponent from a close watch of that contest in Columbia.

Gamecocks offense

Will Muschamp hired Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator over the offseason. He’s the OC that Muschamp has been looking for all this time: someone who can be fully trusted to take care of things on that side of the ball while simultaneously taking care of the defense.

When Bobo was OC for Mark Richt at Georgia, he ran generic, if well structured, pro-style attacks. Now that some time has passed, Bobo runs a generic, if well structured, spread offense. There are some hints of his old way still around; the quarterback doesn’t run much, and you’ll probably see the I-formation at some point.

Otherwise, it’s a solid and thoroughly unremarkable modern scheme. Seriously: while reviewing the offense against Tennessee, I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to focus on the Gamecocks and not the Vols’ defense. Bobo’s play choice was so standard for this era that I kept zoning out while watching them run plays that 90+ percent of all teams do.

The one guy who will hold your attention is wide receiver Shi Smith. He had 13 targets, almost double what the other Gamecock wide receivers had combined (seven). He also carried the ball twice, though the attempts were pretty telegraphed and didn’t amount to anything.

Bobo loved to have quarterback Collin Hill hit Smith on intermediate slant-type routes. Smith is quick out the gate, so Hill could unload the ball about a second and a half after the snap and have a nice gain if the defender gave up the inside leverage.

After Smith, the offense was adequate. That’s the best word I can come up for it.

Hill, a grad transfer who played for Bobo at Colorado State, is fine as a signal caller. His arm strength is good enough, but you won’t be wowed by it. The second-leading receiver Xavier Legette did have a nice deep catch, starting tailback Kevin Harris was decent enough, and reserve running back Deshaun Fenwick was a nice spark in the second half both running and receiving. But overall, South Carolina just doesn’t have anyone outside Smith who is as dangerous as any number of players the Gators saw last week.

I will note that I was not at all impressed by the offensive tackle play from South Carolina. Brenton Cox, Khris Bogle, and the rest of the edge rushers should have an opportunity to make some big plays.

Florida did see Bobo and his CSU team two years ago, though Hill wasn’t the starter and didn’t play. Bobo had a future CFL quarterback in K.J. Carta-Samuels and a future NFL wide receiver in Preston Williams, and UF didn’t have too much trouble with them. South Carolina has better personnel than 2018 Colorado State, though I would argue the 2019 Gamecocks had better skill position players than their current incarnation.

Gamecocks defense

It’s a Will Muschamp defense. You’re going to get what you expect to see from a schematic standpoint.

The secondary is actually the area I want to focus on the most. There are good players back there. Israel Mukuamu is maybe the best-known name since he had three picks in the Georgia upset a year ago and made the preseason All-SEC team. Junior Jaycee Horn has been around the block a few times and is probably about as good.

Tennessee did find some success through the air, though. Josh Palmer had 85 yards on eight targets, and Brandon Johnson had 73 on five. Jarrett Guarantano, despite just missing guys because he’s still inconsistent, had a 51.6% passing success rate when he got his throws off. Redshirt freshman corner Cam Smith was a guy the Vols were able to pick on some. You can bet that Kyle Trask will know where jersey No. 9 is for that reason.

Tennessee did find some success with tempo at times. I’m not sure if that’s a specific vulnerability or if it was just a Game 1 of 2020 thing. After all, UF’s defense did poorly with tempo last week against Ole Miss.

It’s probably worth a shot to kick it into high gear at some point, though if the standard offense does as well as it did a week ago, there’s not a lot of reason to go away from it. Chewing up clock with leisurely paced long drives might not be the worst thing to give the Gator defense an assist.

Bottom line

Florida’s win over South Carolina from a year ago wasn’t pretty. The Gators were down 20-17 through three quarters, but they scored touchdowns on drives of 52, 29, and 37 yards in the fourth quarter to win 38-27. Muschamp was about as angry at the refs after the game as he gets.

I remind you of that game as a way of saying that a Florida romp is not guaranteed. It was on the road in the rain, so conditions are more favorable this time around. Trask has had more time as starter, and I do like a lot of the matchups. UF is the favorite for a reason, but these teams are quite familiar with each other. Even the new OC on the other sideline is a very known quantity around these parts.

South Carolina is a good team for the Gators to be facing this week. They’ll play tough as Muschamp teams always do, but they’re also at a talent and athletic disadvantage. Florida should win. However, the opponent is one that will continue to teach the Gators about themselves. It’ll just be in a completely different manner than the Rebels did a week ago.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2