Bryan McClendon updates backup QBs Ryan Hilinski, Dakereon Joyner, talks redshirts
South Carolina’s Bryan McClendon faced a tall challenge when he was handed the offensive coordinator job.
He was given a unit that by most measures was underachieving. There were pieces in Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards, a small army of running backs. There’s was an offensive line that hadn’t produced.
And there was the task of turning things over while trying to take a step forward. To that end, McClendon had a plan.
“When I took it over,” McClendon said. “I didn’t want to completely flip and turn everything.”
That’s a difficult thing to do, rewiring a lot of what is already in place, all while turning up the reliance on run-pass option plays.
That says nothing of the fact he’d never been a play-caller before, and had his own set of lessons to learn.
“I have not seen a first-year offensive coordinator go in and just roll up and down the field on people,” McClendon said. “So what I wanted to do was keep as much as similar as the last system that we kind of went over. So I kind of changed, when it came up to it, I changed about half of the things. This year I’m changing the other half to kind of get everything else kind of converted to make it all work systematically to kind of what we do.”
The changes in Year 1 worked to a degree, aided by wide receiver Deebo Samuel coming on down the stretch.
The Gamecocks jumped from 85th in the country to 22nd in yards per play. They ran 6 1/2 more plays per game, bumped up scoring by 6.1 points per game, all while facing one of the 10 hardest schedules in the country.
Samuel is gone, as are the top two tight ends, both serviceable but neither were game-breakers. There’s still an ongoing search for some workhorse tailbacks, as a crowded room was made less so by Ty’Son Williams’ transfer.
And there’s installing the second half of what McClendon wanted to put in.
“We definitely have put in a lot more this spring than we did last spring,” quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said.
The Gamecocks’ schedule projects to be more difficult than it was last year. It will still have players, but none close to the proven game-breaker Samuel was. Bentley is in his final year and is still perhaps short the level of consistency many had sought from him.
Will Muschamp came out before the spring and said he thinks this will be his best USC team in his four-year tenure. The offense, which finished in the top 20 nationally by one ranking, will be a part of that, but no matter the changes in scheme, it’s the finer points that will decide if USC can hold onto those gains or perhaps move things further along.
“It all gets down to the execution,” McClendon said. “Us blocking and throwing and catching and breaking tackles and all that other stuff.”