Photo: Paige Hutchinson / The Daily Gamecock

Kurt Roper innovating playbook in year two

Despite the expectation that he would redshirt in 2016, Jake Bentley made it clear at SEC Media Days in July that he had a full understanding of the playbook during his seven starts.

Now that he's got a full offseason under his belt, he's got more plays to understand too.

Last year, with an inexperienced quarterback and unproven skill players, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper dialed up a lot of quick passes and simple plays designed to get the ball to his playmakers. In year two, the offense should open up a bit more.

“You try to protect quarterbacks with play calls," Roper said after practice Tuesday. "The more I get comfortable with his understanding, the more he has.”

With every starter other than tackle Mason Zandi returning on the offense, the Gamecocks are in a position to add some more wrinkles to the playbook, which Bentley says excites him. USC is expected to spread the ball around to several playmakers, and Roper didn't rule out some Wildcat looks when asked Tuesday.

The players are looking forward to seeing what Roper installs, including tight end Jacob August, who described the 2016 playbook as "limited," and running back Ty'Son Williams, who joked about lining up alongside Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner in the backfield.

Williams said he hasn't seen anything "too crazy," and he has the ability to learn the playbook from Turner and Dowdle, who combined to start 11 games last season.

Williams has the added benefit of being a year into the system, after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but plenty of other potential contributors, such wide receivers Or'Tre Smith and Shi Smith, are going through their first fall camp with Roper. The older players have an extra leg up, as Roper says the Gamecocks worked on things in practice last season that they didn't pull out in games in an attempt to further develop the roster for the future.

That decision now has the chance to pay off in a major way. Thanks to Bentley and weapons such as Deebo Samuel and Hayden Hurst, the USC offense is being pegged as potentially the best in the SEC East. That's a long way from finishing dead last in the conference in scoring just a season ago.

Just two days into practice, the Gamecocks have plenty of time to discover their offensive identity before the Sept. 2 opener against NC State. Roper will spend the next month trying to add as many different looks and formations to the USC offense as possible.

“The more formations you throw out there, the better," Roper said. "I do think if you can use the same personnel groupings and get in the same formations, then that’s harder on a defensive coordinator.”



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