September 17, 2011

USC-Navy: Key battles

GamecockCentral.com breaks down the key matchups for South Carolina's game against Navy. At what positions will the game be decided?

Antonio Allen vs. Kriss Proctor
Defending the triple option is containing the perimeters of the field. The Gamecocks feel confident that the beef of their defensive line and their linebackers and cornerbacks can capably fill any holes in the middle of the field, which should cut off the straight-ahead runs from quarterback Proctor and his tailbacks. Navy will try to skirt the ends, though, and that's where Allen comes in. A roving member of the secondary, Allen can shadow Proctor on the roll-out and once a defensive end takes either Proctor or his option man, Allen can take the other. Doubtful Allen will have a lot of passes to pick off, but perhaps he can jar loose a fumble and take it to the house. As long as he keeps his man contained, though, sealing the edges of the field and not allowing big plays, the Gamecocks should benefit.
Jadeveon Clowney vs. Alexander Teich
Teich is the Midshipmen's top running back, and he'll probably get a lot of looks in the middle and around the ends, with Proctor able to pitch or serve as a lead blocker. Clowney, as good as advertised in his first two games, probably won't be able to charge the quarterback as he will against a traditional offense. He'll have to stand up more, be able to get out in space and track down a ball-carrier. Like Allen, Clowney may be asked to raise his speed to cut off the corners or slam runners out-of-bounds before they skirt the edge, or stay home and defend the middle. This game will truly show the on-the-fly instincts Clowney has and what he can do to control a game.
Travian Robertson vs. Brady DeMell
DeMell, Navy's center, is in charge of getting the ball to Proctor to start every play. Robertson, lining up at more-or-less nose tackle, has an opportunity. If Robertson can get past DeMell and get a hand on Proctor before he begins the runs, USC can disrupt the offense and force it into panic mode. At 310 pounds, DeMell won't be easily moved, but Robertson has gotten past some of the best in the SEC so DeMell could be considered just another one of those. He won't be able to do it every snap - maybe not any snap, if Navy comes out of the shotgun throughout the game - but two or three times may be enough for the Gamecocks to swarm the ball-carrier and get a loss. Putting Navy behind, in long-yardage situations or on the scoreboard, would be enormously beneficial.
Stephen Garcia vs. Kwesi Mitchell
Garcia will face a defense he knows he can exploit, and he also knows that the first option will be to hand the ball to Marcus Lattimore. But Garcia also knows that as much as Steve Spurrier gripes about the passing game, he won't abandon it; and that's where Garcia has to step up. He has not been good throwing the ball in the first two games, and as long as he has weapons like Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery around him, he's in a good spot. He just has to not lose the game. Don't throw interceptions, don't lose the ball, don't make a foolish decision, because the tools to win are all around. Mitchell, playing rover, will likely be keeping an eye on Garcia and already has one pick this year. Garcia keeps it away from him and is able to find Jeffery, the Midshipmen could be in for a long day.
Kyle Nunn vs. Jamel Dobbs
Dobbs at right end and Nunn at left tackle could be a key battle, since Nunn, as always, is protecting Garcia's blind side. Dobbs has half a sack already this year; Garcia has been sacked twice. It may prove to be a moot point, if the Gamecocks keep handing the ball to Lattimore, but as mentioned above, Spurrier won't completely abandon the pass. Garcia will get his chance, and when he does, he has to have room to throw. Nunn is facing a 3-4 front, like he did last week, and Garcia was only sacked once but was knocked down countless times. That's got to improve.

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