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Running back Rico Dowdle will play an important part for the Gamecocks in 2017.

South Carolina football: Finding balance key to Gamecocks’ success

Hale McGranahan

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Like most coordinators around the country, Kurt Roper wants the South Carolina football team’s offense to be balanced.

Is it cliché? Absolutely. But achieving balance will be critical to the Gamecocks’ offensive success in Year 2 under coach Will Muschamp.

“It doesn’t mean you call equal number (plays), because games dictate – sometimes you get ahead and you’re running the ball more in the fourth quarter, so your numbers get skewed or you get behind and you’re throwing the ball more, so your numbers get skewed,” Roper said. “You want to have the ability to run in critical situations, if you want short-yardage, low red [zone], fourth-down situations, you’ve got to be able to run the ball in critical situations.

“If that’s the only time you do it [then] it’s going to be hard. You’ve got to be able to balance it out.”

South Carolina football
Kurt Roper (left) and Will Muschamp (middle) hope to have a more reliable run-game in 2017. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

With a background on the opposite side of the ball, Muschamp knows the headaches that a balanced offense can create for opposing defenses.

“In a perfect world, we’d love to be balanced,” Muschamp said. “As a defensive coach, it’s hard to face offenses who have equal ability to run it and throw it.”

At times last season, the Gamecocks struggled to find balance, but the ground game was the weaker of the two areas, averaging 134.38 yards per game, which ranked 108th in the country. Nationally, the passing attack finished 83rd with 213.2 yards per game.

South Carolina football
Jake Bentley’s (left) growth in 2017 could be helped by a more consistent running attack. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Though Roper’s schooling in offensive football was under the tutelage of pass-first coach David Cutcliffe, he appreciates what an effective run-game can provide. Muschamp probably wouldn’t have hired Roper for two different offensive coordinator positions if he didn’t.

“The ability to run the ball in critical situations such as the end of the game, in the red zone, and short-yardage and goal line, you’ve got to be able to get the yards you need to get to get out of the game, the half,” Muschamp said. “All those things are important. Put your players in the best situations so they can be successful. Philosophically, that’s what we want.”