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September 29, 2013

Report card

Gamecock Central's Josh Low reviews the USC-UCF game and assigns a grade to each position group and the coaching staff.

Quarterback

It wasn't a great start for either quarterback for South Carolina. Connor Shaw did a good job of making some plays with his feet on the first possession but then put the ball on the ground and strained his shoulder to end his day. Dylan Thompson looked shaky the entire first half and was off his game. He did have a drop by Nick Jones on a deep ball in the first half that would have resulted in some points. Thompson rebounded in the second half and looked a little more comfortable. I was most impressed with the way he escaped pressure and still kept his eyes downfield and made some plays. He did that several times in the second half. It wasn't a good performance by Thompson but it wasn't awful either. He finished the day 15-of-32 throwing for 261 yards. He will need to be better in two weeks on the road against Arkansas if Shaw can't play then. Grade: C

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Running Back

This is becoming a regular thing out of this group each week. After not getting the ball much in the first half, Mike Davis responded with a huge second half. He finished the day with 26 carries for 167 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest run was a 53-yard touchdown where he accelerated past everyone. He also had some grown man like runs. Davis was the biggest reason why South Carolina won the game. Brandon Wilds also did well before being injured. I have to give credit to Connor McLaurin at fullback as well. They ran behind him a lot and he paved the way. The only bad out of this group were the fumbles by Wilds and Davis. That is what keeps the grade from being A+. Grade: A

Receiver

It was the Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington show at receiver. It is good to see Ellington put together a nice performance after the game he had against Vanderbilt. He needs to be the No. 1 guy and consistency will do that. Byrd had some huge catches in the second half. The biggest one was on a scramble play when Thompson hit him for a 38-yard gain. He also made some tough catches near the sideline. Nick Jones is known as Mr. Consistent but he did have a big drop in the first half. The blocking by this group was once again good. Grade: B+

Tight End

Busta Anderson finished the day with only two catches for 34 yards but he would have had more if Thompson could hit him. He got open and was a good check-down receiver on Saturday. Jerell Adams also had a big 44-yard catch that almost went for a touchdown late in the game. The run blocking was good for this group. Anderson may have got away with a hold on Davis' long touchdown run. Mason Zandi did good run blocking when he wasn't getting flagged for a penalty. Grade: B

Offensive Line

This group might be the strength of this team. The run blocking was excellent. Davis had a great day on the ground but he needs to give the offensive line a lot of credit as well. There were some huge holes to run through. It was another game where they dominated up front. Ronald Patrick deserves some recognition for his play. He did a great job at pulling and leading the way on several runs. The pass blocking was solid as well. The one concern I would have here is that the tackles got beat by speed rushers several times. They did a good job of picking up the blitz but it was the outside guys that caused pressure. We will see if that is an actual concern going forward with the tackles. Grade: A-

Defensive Line

I thought this group did okay. They weren't good but they weren't bad either. They aren't living up to the hype they had preseason. Jadeveon Clowney had a good game. The stats may not say that but he was all over the place once again. He was chasing running backs down from behind and he was the player that got the most pressure on the quarterback despite having two or three guys blocking him every play. Someone on this defensive line needs to benefit from the attention Clowney is getting. I watched the replay and there were several one-on-one matchups for other defensive linemen and they weren't winning them. Kelcy Quarles played solid and had good moments. J.T. Surratt was solid. Gerald Dixon was a pleasant surprise for this unit as well. He was active when he was in there. I'm still waiting on Chaz Sutton to have that breakout game. Grade: C-

Linebacker/Spur

I'm going to start with the good here. I liked what I saw from T.J. Holloman. He may be the best linebacker on the team from a coverage standpoint. He deserves more time at mike linebacker, possibly even a start. I'm not sure what the answer is at spur. Sharrod Golightly looks undersized for the position and is also struggling in coverage. Jordan Diggs may have been a little better this week but I wouldn't say he had a good day. Some changes at the spur position have to be made. The other linebackers looked lost at times. They took bad angles and they rarely ever get off a block. They are young and they are going to get better but I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the freshman linebackers get a little more playing time as well. This is probably a position that will have some ups and downs all season long and that should be expected with the inexperience and youth in this group. Grade: D+

Secondary

I should probably give two different grades for this group. I thought the cornerbacks played really well in this game. This was probably Victor Hampton's best game this season so far. He made a great read on his interception and blew up several screen attempts out wide. Jimmy Legree was also solid. The play he made on the double pass was a veteran play. South Carolina's starting two cornerbacks played pretty good in my opinion. The safety position was another story. Brison Williams may have had three different busted coverages in the fourth quarter. Two of the three resulted in huge plays. The other was on Holloman's interception and if Blake Bortles makes a better pass, then that is a touchdown as well. I was expecting Williams to have a breakout year but that hasn't happened yet. They don't play physical at all either and that is not like this position in the past. Grade: C-

Special Teams

The good news here is that it was an improvement over the Vanderbilt game. Tyler Hull had a great day punting the ball. Landon Ard was once again solid kicking off. They did give up the long punt return and the high snap on the punt in the second quarter wasn't good. They are obviously struggling to find an answer at punt returner. Victor Hampton does have the ability to break one but his decision making has to be better. It will be interesting to see if they make another change back there this week against Kentucky. Grade: C+

Coaching

The only question I have is why it took so long to go to the I-formation and start pounding the ball once Dylan Thompson entered the game? Ultimately, the players have to execute out on the field. I'm just going to go with average here because I thought the play overall was average. Grade: C

Overall Grade: C

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