Defensive players pleased with White's aggressive scheme
There’s a part of every coaching change where talking points get hammered, home and South Carolina’s foray into the Shane Beamer era is no different.
The messaging has centered this spring around culture building, competition and around an aggressive style of defense championed by new defensive coordinator Clayton White.
In reality, every defensive coordinator in America is going to say he wants an aggressive defense, but the assistants and players have bought into it early in Beamer’s tenure.
“When you cut on the tape and when you see the ball going one way, 11 hats are going to the ball. That’s aggressive to me,” Aaron Sterling said. “I feel like with coach White that’s all he’s preaching: pursuit to the ball. It looks amazing on film when you see a whole defense running to the ball. That looks good on film.”
The Gamecocks are switching to a base 4-2-5 defense predicated by four defensive linemen, two linebackers and four true defensive backs with a bigger nickel back who can play in the box and cover on the back end.
With a different base defense, assignments change a little and for the defensive line especially it gives this group a chance to rush the passer and get into the backfield a little more instead of having guys take up blocks and allow for other players to make plays.
“They’re going to let us pin our ears aback and let us go. Sometimes that’s the best thing players like to do. You don’t like to be held or constrained,” Jordan Strachan said. “You don’t like to be told you have to do this to open this up or you have to stay right here on this play. You like to be able to go do your thing.”
In reality, it’s hard to tell what an aggressive defense looks like at times; it can be a lot of different things from blitzing more, which the Gamecocks might do, to more man-to-man coverage on the outside.
But, what Gamecock players have extensively talked about is the different mentality an aggressive defense plays with over a passive one.
“It’s very exciting. As a linebacker, you’re run first. With us being very aggressive, I know there’s no holding back. If coach tells me to go, I’m going," Debo Williams said. "There ain’t no holding back. It’s definitely good for a linebacker any linebacker would love to have an aggressive defense.”
And it’s been so far so good for the Gamecocks’ defense this spring as White installs the majority of his scheme to a group that won’t be complete until this summer.
With injuries and summer arrivals still to come defensively the Gamecocks have been thin, especially at linebacker and defensive back, and it’s been hard to really gauge what that unit will look like.
But, regardless of who’s out there, the Gamecocks want to be White’s version of aggressive and they’ve been working on that heavily this spring.
“It’s playing with physicality, playing downhill and it’s playing with unbelievable effort, flying around to the ball,” Beamer said. “We’ve really harped on those guys about effort and how fast can we be and tracking their speeds during practice and playing fast and playing physical. To me, that’s the start of what we want our defense to look like with the aggressiveness part of it.”