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USC's offensive play calling must continue to be inspired

BY DENNIS BRUNSON dennis@theitem.com
Posted 9/21/19

In his first two starts as a college quarterback, South Carolina's Ryan Hilinski has gone up against one of the worst teams in the lower echelon Football Championship Subdivision in Charleston Southern and one of the two best in the country in …

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USC's offensive play calling must continue to be inspired

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In his first two starts as a college quarterback, South Carolina's Ryan Hilinski has gone up against one of the worst teams in the lower echelon Football Championship Subdivision in Charleston Southern and one of the two best in the country in Alabama. In both instances, Hilinski appeared to be more than up to the task of running the Gamecock offense. Of course, that was expected against Charleston Southern, which USC beat 72-10. However, when the true freshman from California came up against the beast that is the Crimson Tide defense, he looked pretty much like the same guy who lined up behind center against CSU.

While just two games comes nowhere near determining the career trajectory of any football player, Hilinski's start certainly has to have stirred some excitement in Gamecock Nation. As Carolina prepares to face Missouri on the road today at 4 p.m., the fans have to hope that the coaching staff doesn't pull the reins back on the offense as it goes up against a team on which it is on more of an even par with talent-wise. In other words, the coaching staff has to prove it is as capable to continue this as Hilinski has to date.

After looking uninspired in its play calling in the 24-20 upset loss to North Carolina to open the season, South Carolina looked as though it came up with an offensive purpose against both Charleston Southern and Alabama. Offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon had Hilinski throwing a lot of short, quick passes that the receivers that allowed the receivers to make some plays. Hilinski overwhelmingly has thrown catchable balls, something that was an issue for his predecessor, Jake Bentley,

With Bentley under center, USC was inconsistent on offense, both in its play and its play calling. The Gamecocks let it all hang out against eventual national champion Clemson last year and put up 35 points against a defense that shut down Alabama a few weeks later. Then in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, USC was shut out by Virginia.

Carolina needs to play with abandon on offense week in and week out if it is going to be successful. If the offense had been handled with the same inspiration, intensity -- whatever you want to call it -- against North Carolina that it was against 'Bama, South Carolina would be where most everyone expected with a 2-1 record. That makes for a restless, irritated fan base.

Something else that does that to a fan base is looking like you don't have a clue to what you're doing on defense. Therefore, head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson, who pride themselves on being defensive gurus, need to find a way to play better than they have against their two Power Five conference foes.

Again, Alabama was expected to have a big game offensively as it does most weeks. However, when you continue to throw short slants that turn into untouched, long pass plays for the receivers, one might think and adjustment would be made to make them beat you another way. To give up almost 500 yards of total offense -- evenly split in rushing and passing yards -- to a team that won two games the previous season and was starting a freshman quarterback is inexcusable.

The next two weeks -- Kentucky comes to Columbia next week riding a 5-game winning streak against USC -- will determine where Carolina is going. Muschamp said this is the most talented team he's had at Carolina. He and his coaching staff needs to find a way to consistently bring that talent out of them.