Photo: Olivia Barthel

Defense develops technique, fundamentals in low-contact spring game

Gamecocks looks to adjust to new 3-4 scheme

Although South Carolina is more than four months away from its season-opening clash against Texas A&M, there are still several question marks surrounding the Gamecocks’ defensive unit.

Questions about senior Brison Williams’ position and how the 3-4 scheme will play into the defense that were hoped to have been answered at the conclusion of the Garnet & Black Spring Game will be left to play out during the fall camp.

A 10-play, 70-yard drive started the game off for South Carolina’s black team led by an efficient Dylan Thompson effort. The next two offensive possessions also ended in points for each of the Gamecocks’ respective offensive teams.

But because of the limitations placed on the defense — which has become part of the nature of the spring game — defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is not concerned about the simplicity with which the offense was able to score.

“I understand what it’s about,” Ward said of the spring game. “You really want to see a guy play some base technique and fundamentals, but that’s not what we do on defense; we’re a zone-blitz movement team. I think sometimes [players] might get a little frustrated, but I understand what the game is about. We want to make sure the offense is happy when they leave here, so we like to see points on the board.”

In accordance to spring game protocol, the Gamecocks’ defense did not blitz nor were they allowed to hit Thompson, who donned a black jersey for the occasion. The offense mainly saw four down linemen rush the passer every play with the defense waiting until fall to unleash exotic play designs.

Head coach Steve Spurrier addressed the performance of the defense while acknowledging the difference between spring football and fall football.

“They weren’t all pumped up today,” Spurrier said. “As we know, football is a game [in which] you’ve gotta have some emotion. Our defense didn’t have much emotion today, as you can tell. But, again, it was just sort of a practice game. We’ll get a little more fired up when our opponents come into Williams-Brice than we were today.”

One feature of the new-look South Carolina defense will be the 3-4 formation, which works favorably with the team’s current players. Because the Gamecocks have an abundance of linebackers, but no big, physical players on the line like they have in the past — think Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor — the 3-4 makes sense.

With terrors like defensive tackles J.T. Surratt, Gerald Dixon Jr. and now Abu Lamin on the defensive line, South Carolina has the big bodies it needs up front to employ the 3-4 defense.

Ward has hinted that the team will not abandon the 4-2-5 defense, which was a staple of their defense through South Carolina’s three 11-win seasons, but instead, the defense will likely incorporate 3-4 looks with the 4-2-5 package it already runs.

“I feel like we concentrated on the 4-2-5 and looked at the 3-4,” Ward said. “We really like what we did out of the 3-4, so I think it will be a major part of our scheme next season.”

Ward also mentioned that the defensive backs that South Carolina signed this year will get a shot to come in and start at cornerback. Williams will likely stay at safety if Ward and the defense find what they’re looking for in one of the incoming freshmen.

No matter the scheme South Carolina will ultimately run next season, Spurrier expressed little desire to evaluate his defense as a whole in April.

“Who knows?” Spurrier said responding to a question comparing this year’s defense to those of the past. “Who knows until we play?”

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