South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt Roper discusses WR depth, wildcat options

Hale McGranahan

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Kurt Roper made his semi-annual media appearance on Tuesday morning at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The Gamecocks co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach addressed a number of topics facing the Gamecocks in 2017. Chief among them is the lack of depth behind wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards.

For Roper, a wide receiver rotation of 5-6 is a “great number,” but his best season of calling pass plays was at Duke in 2012, when they played primarily three wide receivers.

Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder, both of whom had 1,074 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns, combined to catch over 160 passes. Out of the slot, converted running back Desmond Scott hauled in 66 receptions for 666 yards and 2 scores.

“The more, the better, but it’s hard to take Deebo and Bryan off the field,” Roper said. “Now, we’d like to find that third that we can add to the field, but (when) Deebo and Bryan (and) they need a little bit of a break, we do feel like (Terry) Googer can help us with that. We feel like OrTre (Smith) has gotten to that point. We think Shi (Smith) can keep coming along.”

Deebo Samuel-South Carolina
Deebo Samuel could find work as a wildcat quarterback this fall. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Wildcat package

Roper smiled when asked if he thought South Carolina needed to install a wildcat package.

“What do you think,” he asked, the reporter, whose response was yes.

“It’s interesting, because we have these discussions all the time,” Roper said. “It’s not hard to do. We’ve done wildcat packages since 2010 with Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone (and) you put a package out there, so it’s an interesting conversation that’s an easy package to get ready to.

“The hard debate behind that is when you take a guy like Jake Bentley out from quarterback. Those are the debates that you have, internally, and that’s why we’ve got to make those decisions.”

Roper thinks the Gamecocks have “multiple wildcat guys” on their roster.

“Whether it’s a running back, whether it’s Deebo, whether it’s Hayden (Hurst). I mean, all those guys can handle it,” Roper said. “The question is: First-down-and-goal on the 7-yardline and Jake’s not in there.”

South Carolina-Michael Scarnecchia
Michael Scarnecchia entered preseason camp as the No. 2 quarterback. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

No. 2 QB

With Bentley entrenched as the starter, Roper’s got to figure out over the next few weeks who the heck the backup is. For now, it’s Michael Scarnecchia, a redshirt junior who’s played in one game at South Carolina.

“Mike can throw the ball. He’s cut from the same mold as Jake, in the sense that he’s going to be a pocket-passer, so we’re largely doing the same things with him and he can physically throw the ball,” Roper said. “I told Mike, his biggest challenge needs to be, not to get comfortable waiting in the wings and we all understand our quarterback situation right now, but he needs to go compete every day, to get better and be prepared, and I think he is.”

Freshman Jay Urich figures to be the primary competition for the No. 2 spot since he’s the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster.

“He’s handled the first two days really well,” Roper said. “For me to say, is he ready to play? I don’t know yet. I want to get through the first scrimmage, have a really condensed package of plays for him and just see how he handles that, but he’s had to really good days to start with.”