The season is halfway over and so far it’s been a doozy for USC. With that said, I decided to take a few minutes to answer some of the questions Gamecocks fans around the world are asking these days. Here goes.
What’s the deal with Dylan Thompson?
Nothing. Dylan Thompson gives the Gamecocks the best chance to win games. No, he’s not Connor Shaw. You knew going into the season you had a solid replacement for a guy who is arguably the best quarterback in school history, but you also had to know it was going to be a downgrade at that position from a year ago. Thompson has done a pretty good job, too. Yeah, he’s airmailed some passes and made some mistakes, but he’s also on pace to break the school record for passing yards in a season. Steve Spurrier is right when he says Thompson has done pretty well in there.
But why hasn’t Connor Mitch played? I thought he was supposed to be good?
Just because Dylan Thompson is the best quarterback on the roster doesn’t mean Connor Mitch is a bust. No he hasn’t played but there hasn’t been a spot to play him. At what point in any of the first six games was there a time Steve Spurrier could have and should have inserted Mitch? Maybe the Texas A&M blowout, but that was the season opener and the Gamecocks still had a puncher’s chance to get back in it in the fourth quarter. East Carolina was a tight game throughout, Georgia was a nail biter, they had to rally from 14 down against Vandy, Mizzou came down to the wire, as did Kentucky. Mitch is going to get his chance, probably this week. But he’s not ahead of Thompson right now. That doesn’t mean he won’t be ready to play next season and it doesn’t mean his ceiling isn’t higher than Thompson’s in the future. He hasn’t played yet because Thompson hasn’t been awful and there hasn’t been a blowout for him to get some work. Simple as that.
The defense is a mess. Let’s fire Lorenzo Ward.
First, let’s lay off Lorenzo Ward. Ward’s biggest mistake was saying during the preseason that he thought this unit could be better than last year. Everyone believed him, including Spurrier. Under promise, over deliver, Whammy. Bottom line, the Gamecocks are starting multiple true freshman in the secondary, that’s never a good thing. The issues on defense aren’t schematic, they don’t have the personnel in place or the experience to play on the level they have the past three years. I think they have some pretty good players out there, but they are young and have too much being thrown on them to process it and play well consistently. In flashes, you see some pretty good play out of the defense. But they aren’t consistent and make mental mistakes that extend drives. That’s not a talent issue, it is an experience issue. It will be solved, but not next week, or the week after. The goal has to be improvement, but don’t expect a dominating defense this year. That said, Ward didn’t forget how to coach this year. He’s the same guy that led two pretty solid defenses each of the past two seasons. Give him and his players time to regroup. Ward has done more than enough since he arrived to earn that right.
Steve Spurrier’s play calling is terrible. He’s lost it.
First, Steve Spurrier is calling plays the same way he has his entire career. Steve Spurrier likes to pass. Steve Spurrier goes for it on fourth and short a lot. Steve Spurrier isn’t afraid to gamble. You know, he likes to go for it on fourth and short from almost anywhere on the field. That’s just who he is, man. You can’t hate on him for that. More often than not, that has been a great formula for the HBC. That said, Spurrier isn’t beyond reproach. Some of the criticism this year is legitimate and I think Spurrier knows that. He’s got to do a better job managing games. Not going for two on their final touchdown against Missouri and not handing the ball to Mike Davis more against Kentucky were blunders he shouldn’t make. In year’s past Spurrier and his staff had coaching advantage on the opponents almost every week. They’ve been off this season and it has cost them.
This season has gone to hell in a hand basket. We should scrap it and look ahead to next year, right?
Wrong. You can’t quit on the season. You have to try your best to win every game and play the guys that give you the best chance to do that. It looks like there are at least two more losses on USC’s schedule, but who knows, maybe they catch lighting in a bottle and spring an upset like they did against Georgia. Steve Spurrier isn’t a mail it in type of guy. They will approach these games the same way they would if they were 6-0 right now, and that’s a good thing. There’s no guarantee that playing a bunch of young guys just for the sake of seeing what they have will make you any better in 2016. It does, however, assure you that you will be worse in 2015. That’s not a good plan.
So, what about this season? What should we hope for down the stretch?
The simple and obvious answer is improvement. There are going to lose again this season, no doubt in anyone’s mind. I didn’t expect the Gamecocks to beat Auburn in the preseason and I don’t expect them to beat them now. Unless Clemson completely falls apart and gets in their own way, it would appear that streak will come to an end too. There’s a chance this thing could implode on the Gamecocks, or as Steve Spurrier likes to say, they could “go bad” this year. Anyone outside of Furman and South Alabama can beat them. On the flip side of that, the Gamecocks are capable of putting it together and beating anyone left on their schedule too. This is a seven win team right now. They could become a six win team in a hurry. It is hard to imagine they will be anything more than an eight win team this season. That’s just the fact of the matter.
So you are saying the run is over?
Yes and no. The run of 11 wins per season is over. That wasn’t going to be sustainable anyway. But the Gamecocks, by most accounts, are still recruiting well and, contrary to what some folks are saying, I still believe they have a good players and coaches in place. If you’re a Gamecock fan you have to look at it as a recalibration year. The balloon is deflating a bit before you blow more air into it. It happens. It is hard to sustain a winner. Ask Florida. Ask Tennessee. This isn’t a terrible Gamecock football team, it’s just not on the same level as three years. Not even close. But it’s way too soon to say this is the new norm. There is more evidence pointing to this being the aberration.
I don’t really feel better after reading this, KMac!
I get it. You’re used to winning 11 games a year and you thought this was the year you might break through and win the SEC. That’s a big letdown. But think about where you’ve been. Even with the setback this season, the program is miles ahead of where it was when Steve Spurrier took it over. You are taking some lumps this year, but it’s the hard times that make the good times that much sweeter, right? Losing sucks and its totally cool to be disappointed and upset about that. But try to curb the negative stuff. Remember, it’s just a game. I promise you every Gamecock player and coach is trying his hardest out there. It just isn’t working out because of some the reasons stated above. That’s sports.
That did nothing. I still feel like crap, KMac!
Okay, okay. Maybe you need a non-football related thing to do. Here are some ideas: Take a walk outside and enjoy the fall weather. Watch a few postseason baseball games to take your mind of football. Listen to some really, really good music. Eat a bunch of Halloween candy. Or, better yet, go to the fair and eat one of those ramen noodle burgers they are serving this year. YOLO, man. YOLO!
If all else fails, blame me. I will accept full responsibility for all of this.