Stopping up-tempo offenses is nothing new to South Carolina's Gamecocks

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comAugust 28, 2013 

— The trendy thing in college football is to run an offense as fast as possible. Offensive coordinators use their stop watches as much for snap counts as 40 times.

That’s all well and good, South Carolina’s defensive linemen say, but you won’t see them getting flustered when North Carolina tries to push the pace in the two schools’ football season opener (6 p.m., ESPN).

“Same thing we did against Clemson. Same thing we did against Missouri when they went hurry-up. It’s just another team that wants to go fast,” said defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris tries to run 90 plays per game. Missouri isn’t far behind in its attempt to push tempo. South Carolina has beaten Clemson in their past four meetings and drilled SEC newcomer Missouri last season 31-10.

The Gamecocks have the best defensive player in the college game in end Jadeveon Clowney. They’re coming off a season in which they had 43 sacks and limited opponents to 18.2 points per game. So the up-tempo offense Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora runs doesn’t figure to fluster South Carolina.

“You’ve just got to match their tempo. And then you’ll slow them down,” defensive end Chaz Sutton said.

Quarles offered specifics:

“If you attack them, you’ll be fine,” he said. “A lot of times, when (defenses) see a hurry-up offense, they start playing passive. They don’t know what’s coming, and they’re so scared they’re going to get hurt with this play or that play.

“You can’t be passive. You can’t think, ‘Well, we’ll give them that, we’ll give them this.’ You’ve got to dominate, whether they’re moving 100 mph or not at all. It doesn’t matter how fast they want to go. If you dominate them up-front and get in their backfield, it doesn’t matter how fast they go.”

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the key to dealing with hurry-up offenses is decisiveness. The less time an offense takes huddling, the less time a defense has to substitute or disguise coverages. That can make a defense look very predictable.

Spurrier said coaching can overcome that disadvantage.

“There are a lot of strengths in (a hurry-up offense) if you can get up in there and work quickly. You know what defense they’re in all the time,” he said.

“We’ll try to get our guys lined right up, ready to go, and try to get our signals in quickly. We work on that all the time. Everybody in the country works like that. We’ll act like we’re prepared for it.”

That preparation proceeded all summer. Quarles said the defense spent a lot of time the past few months studying video of North Carolina’s spring game. The unit was evaluating the pace Fedora wants to play, and also the tendencies of Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner, who completed 65 percent of his passes for nearly 280 yards a game last season.

“He looks real good on film. He’s smart about checking out of bad plays when he sees something. He gets the ball out fast. One look one way and the ball is gone,” Quarles said.

“They go fast, they run zone-read. They do a lot, but like I said, if we dominate up front, it doesn’t matter.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @Rick_Bonnell

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