COLUMBIA, S.C. – Will Muschamp and South Carolina’s offensive brain trust are trying to figure out what they heck Missouri will do on Saturday afternoon in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Tigers, led by first-year head coach Barry Odom, reshuffled their plans on the defensive side of the ball after things didn’t start so well with defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross.
Odom, the team’s defensive coordinator in 2015, has taken the reins from Cross and resumed his duties as play-caller. The move “creates a little angst” as the Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4 SEC) coaching staff tries to decipher which changes have been made to the defensive philosophy.
“Those are things you’ve kind of got to go through as a coach and vet out as far as the films when (Odom) called the games,” Muschamp said. “There’s always a little difference depending on who’s calling the game.
Things didn’t go so well in game one for Odom, who took over the program when Gary Pinkel retired at the end of last season. Not only did Missouri (2-6, 0-4 SEC) lose 35-21 to Kentucky, but the Wildcats offense went bananas, racking up 582 total yards.
That included a whopping 377 yards on the ground.
“They’ve had a lot of injuries on the defensive side of the ball that have certainly set them back,” Muschamp said. “But they’ve got some really talented players, and Charles Harris is as good a pass-rusher as there is in our league. Aarion Penton is probably as good a cover guy as there is in our league. They’ve played really good defense at Missouri, and certainly will play well Saturday.”
Missing from the lineup are linebacker Michael Scherer and defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., both of whom suffered ACL tears against Middle Tennessee. Outside linebacker Donavin Newsom strained his quad against Kentucky; his status is unknown for Saturday.
On the offensive side of the ball, former Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel employs a hurry-up, no-huddle spread attack.
“They’re playing really fast. They’re playing with a great tempo,” Muschamp said. “On average, they’re taking a snap on the 40-second clock between 25 and 30 seconds. That’s about 10 seconds between each snap, to tell you the kind of speed they’re playing with.
“And we haven’t been exactly the most mentally in-tune focused defense at times, so we’ve really got to be dialed in to what we need to do to be successful on game day against this bunch.”
Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock has completed 54 percent of his passes for 2,215 yards with 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Junior J’Mon Moore, the Tigers top receiver, has 33 catches for 551 yards and 6 touchdowns. Freshman running back Damarea Crockett leads the way with 601 yards rushing and 7 scores.
“I think they’re really talented on offense. Drew Lock is a guy who can make all the throws,” Muschamp said. “You watch in the cover-two, and some of the vertical balls he throws down the field. He’s got tremendous arm strength. Really good skill guys outside that run extremely well. So we’re going to need to cover down.
“There will probably be 10 to 12 (deep passes) in the game. We’re going to need to defend those shots and stay on top of the receivers downfield.”