COLUMBIA – The SEC’s world has turned upside down in 2013.
Renowned for a long time as a league where defenses dominated, scoring has skyrocketed around the conference with 10 of the 14 teams averaging greater than 30 points per game and 11 of 14 teams averaging in excess of 400 yards in total offense. Half the conference is averaging better than 475 yards in total offense.
Consider: South Carolina has totaled 1,439 yards of total offense in three games (479.7 yards per game), but stand only seventh in the SEC in that category.
What happened to the defense?
“The more you look at it, the more you see the offenses are difficult to stop,” Spurrier said Wednesday during his weekly appearance on the SEC teleconference. “They really are. I was talking with Bobby Stoops about it earlier. Everybody is all spread out now. We’re not running the I-formation, up the middle. So, there is a lot of room on the field for fast players and the ball is going all over the place now. It doesn’t go into the quarterback’s hands and he hands it to the tailback and there’s a big wad of people around the ball.”
Defenses are struggling to stop spread offenses because they put a premium on one-on-one tackles in the open field, and some defenders are straining to keep up.
“Individual, one-on-one tackles are hard,” Spurrier said. “It’s hard to bring a good ball carrier down. So, the offenses do have a little bit of an advantage. The good teams are going to have to play some offense. Defenses may give up a few more yards and points than they used to.”
The spread offense seems perfect for a mobile quarterback like USC’s Connor Shaw, who is off to a fantastic start, completing 65 percent of his passes (48-of-74) for six touchdowns. Equally important, he has yet to toss an interception, giving him an efficiency rating of 166.65.
Last Saturday, Shaw fired three touchdown passes against Vanderbilt to tie Anthony Wright (1995-98) and Blake Mitchell (2004-07) for fourth place on USC’s all-time TD passing list with 38. Next quarterback on the list? Stephen Garcia with 47.
“We thought he was a very good player (coming out of high school). He’s really an excellent passer,” Spurrier said. “In fact, I think he can throw it a little bit better than how he’s thrown it thus far. So, we’ll keep working on it all the time. He throws a beautiful spiral. It’s easy to catch. Obviously, he can run and break out of the pocket.”
Spurrier described Shaw’s nine-yard run on second-and-10 on the second snap of USC’s final possession last Saturday was one of the biggest plays of the game. He then kept the ball for the first down and USC went on to a 17-play, 64-yard drive that took 7:46 and left Vanderbilt with little time to mount a comeback.
“It was a big run out of the end zone when we had nobody open. That’s the kind of things he’s done very well,” Spurrier said.
* Spurrier reaffirmed USC would practice Wednesday and Thursday before beginning a three-day bye week break. He described this week as a typical bye week. Preparations for the UCF game will begin in earnest on Monday. Spurrier said he will “head to the beach” for a couple of days. “I guess I’m going to do that twice this year,” he laughed.
* Asked about Clowney’s chances for the Heisman Trophy, Spurrier replied, “I thought we went through that all summer,” then reiterated that it’s very difficult for a defensive player to win the Heisman unless he posts incredible numbers or scores some defensive touchdowns.
* Spurrier pointed out Clowney has statistically posted equivalent numbers through three games as last season. “He’s playing pretty close to last year. He just hasn’t had those huge plays yet, though he did have one to help us beat Vanderbilt the other night,” he said.
* Spurrier said USC was “fortunate” to beat Vandy after jumping out to a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter until the Commodores rallied to within 10 points with 14 minutes remaining. But USC stymied Vanderbilt after that with an interception and clock-consuming, 17-play drive.