COLUMBIA -- South Carolina thought it got to catch its breath after seeing Deshaun Watson leave only to find out Clemson had another dual-threat quarterback ready in the wings.
Now, for about the fifth time this season, they’ll have to handle a quarterback that can make plays through the air and on the ground in Kelly Bryant.
“He’s a runner. He’s mobile, so you can’t let him get outside,” linebacker Daniel Fennell said. “If you can contain him then it’ll stop a lot of what they want to do.”
Bryant not only leads the Tigers in passing but is third on the team with 613 yards and leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns.
The goal, a few Gamecocks said, is to turn Bryant into a pocket passer and force him to beat them with his arm. Bryant has 2,154 yards and 10 touchdowns in the air and is averaging 195.8 passing yards per game.
Fennell said that after watching film, the defense knows there are some designed quarterback runs for Bryant, but some of his biggest damage comes on broken plays where he just makes something happen with his feet.
“You have to be really cognizant of your rush lanes and fill your rush lanes up. I told our defensive line, don't be selfish,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “At the end of the day, you have to play within the scheme and the system of why we are trying to do and understand that this guy is a really good athlete and he can hurt you throwing it and obviously he has hurt people running it as well.”
Freshman quarterback Jay Urich, who played with Bryant at Wren High School, is tasked with mimicking the Tiger gunslinger on scout team this week.
Muschamp said the two are pretty similar in stature and that Urich is a really good athlete so the two quarterbacks are pretty comparable.
The Gamecock defense is trying to give Urich all he can handle, and safety D.J. Smith said the team is putting in a spy to make sure they keep tabs on Bryant as best they can.
The spy, Smith said, is anchoring down in the middle of the field about 14 yards off the line of scrimmage and whose sole responsibility is to make sure Bryant doesn’t make any explosive plays on the ground.
“Coach told the D-line they can’t play selfish this week. They have to stay in their passing lanes to make him pass the ball,” Smith said. “They got the middle field safety playing back at read technique, 14 yards, where I’m playing … just to spy on the quarterback.”
South Carolina’s played four different mobile quarterbacks to some degree this season: Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
In the four games, those quarterbacks have gained 250 yards on the ground, but haven’t scored a touchdown. Aside from sacks, those quarterbacks have averaged 7.1 yards a carry.
Texa A&M's Kellen Mond gained 106 yards on the ground and two others have had at least 40 yards on the ground: Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson and Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano.
When defending a mobile quarterback like Bryant, it’s important to not get burned in the run game because he could make a play in the passing game as well.
It’s a fine line trying to defend guys like that, but the Gamecocks are hoping they’re up to the challenge.
“We line up a little bit deeper, so we have to have good eyes. If it’s run, we’re coming up, and if it’s pass, coach says we got to get the hell up out of there,” Smith said. “Just get up out of there if we see pass.”