COLUMBIA -- In a blink, South Carolina's offense has morphed into the explosive, quick-strike unit that head coach Will Muschamp envisioned when he first elevated Bryan McClendon to playcaller and started describing his expectations this past offseason.
The first-year playcaller has seemed to find a groove in the final third of the season, putting an offense on the field that's averaged 40.75 points and 524.5 yards per game in the last four contests.
"I think we're all just making plays," quarterback Jake Bentley said. "The one thing you see is guys making plays and making throws that maybe we didn't make earlier this season. I think each and every game, it's about our execution. Obviously, we're going to play great defenses -- that's just the way it is -- we've got to be able to execute and I just think we've done that better the last few weeks.”
Bentley continued, “I don't think anyone's made any drastic changes, I just think it's a matter of execution. Guys were tired of not executing the way we knew we could. I think everybody just came together and realized what we needed to do and it's paid off for us."
Has the playcalling been all that different during that run? Maybe not. But the execution has been outstanding, from the quarterback position to the wide receivers to the offensive line.
South Carolina's increase in offensive production seemed to follow one unconventional tweak to the Gamecocks' gameday logistics.
Prior to the Tennessee game, McClendon made the decision to move from the press box to the sideline after his receiver unit had too many drops for his liking.
The receiver unit has responded with a clear increase in big plays and a decrease in dropped passes after the move. In that game, which was played at a more methodical pace than some of the others this season, Carolina scored 27 points and had 376 yards of offense as it rallied from down two scores to steal a victory.
After that, the offense went on its unprecedented four-game streak.
"I think it's probably a mixture of a lot of things," Muschamp said. "I think Bryan's demeanor on the sidelines is really good for our players. I think it, I always as a playcaller was always on the field. Certainly, you can see the game better from the box. But sometimes when you face adversity, sometimes you get a much better feel as a playcaller when you're on the field and you're able to see the guys’ eyes. ...
"And I also believe there's a comfort level of our entire offense that's gotten more confidence week to week to week so that's why we've been very efficient. I think it's a combination of things."
That combination has led to an offensive output previously unseen from South Carolina teams, and more importantly, from Will Muschamp teams.
It's not that the unit was bad from the start either, uneven would probably be the better word. The Gamecocks put up point totals of 49 against Coastal Carolina, 37 against Vanderbilt, and 37 against Missouri (with a defensive TD). But they mustered just 17 against Georgia and 10 against Kentucky.
The unit seemed to begin to find itself in the second half against Texas A&M before playing solid against Tennessee and then going up and down the field against Ole Miss.
The confidence gained vs. a bad Rebels’ defense seemed to carry over into strong performances against a good Florida defense and the highly ranked Clemson defense that McClendon and Co. appear to have exposed with 600 yards of offense on Saturday.
From a big-picture standpoint, with one regular season game and a bowl game left, the stats have increased in nearly every offensive category from last season to this year.
Heading into the final game of the regular season, Bryan McClendon's offense is starting to look like the one that Will Muschamp envisioned -- for a defensive-minded coach whose detractors say can't field a high-powered offense, that's a great sign for the South Carolina program's future.