Brandon McIlwain, Perry Orth, and Jake Bentley. A former walk-on and two freshmen comprise our quarterback depth chart. So far, Orth has been inconsistently average, making crucial mental errors whilst amazing on the occasional sideline heave. McIlwain has not been the electric dual-threat that many Gamecock fans foresaw. And Bentley, who was supposed to be red-shirted this season, could be getting thrust into his first game action at the collegiate level this Saturday. Are any of these options viable? Or will the rotation just continue, spiraling this team into another disappointment of a season.
Typically when it comes to a team’s quarterback situation, continuity is key, letting whoever the starter is establish rhythm and timing with his receivers and offensive line. This season, neither quarterback has had that luxury, with the other waiting in the wings to take over at the first or second sign of distress. Now, a third man is entering into the fold, without a lick of game experience at this level. He could be impressive, putting together a decent or even good performance, but at the same time he will make freshman mistakes, even against a relatively beatable opponent. But if it consoles you in any way, there’s definitely more reasons for worry than a shaky quarterback situation!
- Offensive Line: At this point, the narrative has been beaten to death about how important winning in the trenches is. It’s very important, and South Carolina isn’t good at it, which our 2-4 record exemplifies to perfection. No holes for the running game. No time for the quarterback (whoever it will be) to throw. The offensive line hasn’t been effective all season, and is the biggest downfall of this team.
- Run Defense: South Carolina allowed 316 yards against Georgia. That’s a very, very bad statistic, and ultimately contributed to us losing. It’s a mixture of poor tackling, inability to get off blocks, and inability to contain. As good as the pass defense was, it’s not like Georgia had to throw last week, and likely would have beaten us by more if they ran every single down. Fortunately, South Carolina doesn’t have to play Nick Chubb and Sony Michel this week, so this figure should be less. But still, one of our biggest weaknesses is stopping the run.
- Third Down Conversions: Last Sunday, Perry Orth and Co. converted two of their 13 third downs. This season, they’ve converted only 27% of them, having a grand total of 23 conversions ALTOGETHER. As you can likely tell by the capitalization there, that’s also very bad. Not converting third downs is a quick way to lose, not allowing any offensive rhythm at all. Maybe it’s because this team can’t get itself into third and short situations, or maybe it’s because the offense is that bad. Probably both, would be my bet.
There are more things I can hit on, but keeping the list short is a good thing as far as emphasis goes. Just like you other Carolina fans, I love this team. But the constant awfulness the past two seasons has taken a serious toll on my optimistic outlook. There’s positives for sure, but the fact that the negatives consistently occur, week in and week out, is not a good sign for the future. Coach Muschamp has a tall task in turning around the program, and it starts with the basic fundamentals. But who knows, maybe we could see Jake Bentley hoisting the SEC Championship trophy in three years. College football is that weird.