Gamecocks Slow Starts Continue

Gamecocks slow starts

South Carolina lost its SEC opener in Fayetteville on Saturday. After falling behind 21-3 in the first half, they battled back but could not overcome Arkansas’ physicality. The Gamecocks’ slow starts continue to put them in a hole to dig out of, a disturbing trend for Shane Beamer’s program. This has been a problem, especially on the road, and it must be addressed. South Carolina is now 0-5 in SEC road games under Beamer and have gotten behind by double digits quickly in most of those contests. This team is improving, and you can see the growth even from weeks one to two this season. However, there are also some glaring issues that need fixing.

Gamecocks Slow Starts Continue

The loss to the Razorbacks does not doom the season or serve as a final verdict on how good this team can be. Arkansas is a very good team and has moved into the top 10 in the AP poll. South Carolina got down early despite moving the ball on their first two drives. They crossed the 50 on both possessions, but only came away with three points. Third-down issues on both sides of the ball sparked the Razorbacks to an early advantage. Their first three drives were 13, 12, and 12 plays respectively. They all resulted in touchdowns. Beamer’s team fought back, a quality they have shown consistently. However, the Gamecocks’ slow starts are becoming a concern.

Living on the Edge

The offensive line took a lot of heat after the week one victory over Georgia State. They played much better against the Razorbacks, but there is still work to be done. This team has looked very susceptible to pressure off the edge. Protecting versus linebacker and corner blitzes are a glaring problem through two weeks. It was an issue a season ago as well. Some of this is on the lineman, but the quarterback also needs to shoulder some blame. Spencer Rattler’s first two games in garnet and black have been a mixed bag. The talent is there and has resulted in some big plays. However, there are also some mistakes that need to be cleaned up. The two times he did recognize the incoming pressure off the edge both resulted in good plays for the Gamecocks. The multiple times it was not picked up ended with negative plays. He must recognize this better pre-snap, and either get the ball out quickly or adjust the protection. The offensive line and tailbacks also need to be better at picking up the blitz.

Hero Ball

Both Rattler and Marshawn Lloyd came into this season with points to prove. Each is extremely talented but had not reached their potential quite yet. It seems that at times both are trying to hard to make every play a superstar play. That is simply not sustainable. Rattler has only had two games in a new offense with new teammates. His timing and awareness will improve. As that growth happens, he should look to make the right play more often, and not feel the need to make the homerun play all the time. Picking up positive yards and sustaining drives is just as important to an offense as connecting on big plays down the field. He also needs to develop more chemistry with Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell. Those two guys need the ball more.

Lloyd has done some good things to start the season as well, with three touchdowns in two games. He has his burst and agility back after the knee injury in 2020. His next step is becoming more efficient with his touches. Not every run has to be a breakaway resulting in 20+ yards. Lloyd needs to learn when to go for the big play, and when to just put his shoulder down and fight for three or four yards.  The Gamecocks’ slow starts have stemmed in part from not sustaining drives. Sometimes that means settling for a tough short gain to stay on schedule as an offense. Lloyd sometimes tries to dance around defenders or beat them to the edge. That has resulted in more negative plays than chunk plays so far. He has the ability to break big runs, but he needs to show he is willing to get the tough yards too. If a consistent ground game gets established, the big plays will eventually follow.

Bright Spots

Despite the loss on Saturday and the looming visit from top-ranked Georgia, there are positives to take from the beginning of the season. South Carolina was in a battle with a top 15 team in their building and had chances they just couldn’t convert. Antwane Wells, Jr.  stood out on offense this weekend with a huge game. He looks to be Rattler’s favorite target and is not missing his opportunities. The transfer from James Madison leads the SEC in receiving yards with 244. Lloyd and Juju McDowell have shown flashes of what they can do with the ball in their hands. The offensive line even showed improvement from week one to two, despite playing a much tougher opponent.

On defense, Nick Emmanwori looks to be a future star in garnet and black. He is very athletic with good size and range at the safety position. The freshman from Irmo received lots of praise from coaches during the preseason and has shown why in his first two collegiate games. Zacch Pickens and Jordan Burch have also looked good along to defensive line for South Carolina. The two former five stars have been very active and productive thus far in 2022.

Never Gets Easy

After losing a hard-fought physical match-up at Arkansas, things don’t exactly get any easier. The top-ranked and rival Georgia Bulldogs come to town next. If they want to pull the upset, the trend of the Gamecocks’ slow starts has to end this Saturday. The defending national champs are not a team you can dig an early hole against. South Carolina needs to feed off what should be a raucous home crowd and have a much better beginning to the game. It will be a very tall task, but as college football continues to prove each Saturday, anything can happen.

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