South Carolina Football Offseason Autopsy:
Grading the Defensive Coordinator
South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer has a decision to make this offseason about his defensive coordinator.
It has become glaringly obvious that Clayton White’s unit is a below-average group that can only operate at an above-average if they are forcing large amounts of turnovers. In the first 8 games of the year, the Gamecocks forced just 7 turnovers and were 2-6 (three of those takeaways came in the two wins).
When the Gamecocks recovered 6 fumbles and picked off 3 passes in games 9, 10, and 11, they went 3-0. Forcing just one total turnover against Clemson, South Carolina football lost the annual rivalry game.
White’s unit gave up at least 395 yards per game in 2023, the second year in a row they managed to post that unfortunate statistic. They also allowed over 200 yards rushing on four separate occasions (yielding an unsurprising 1-3 record in those games) and allowed at least one rushing touchdown and at least one passing touchdown in 9 of their 12 games this season.
Simply put, the Gamecock defense was bad in 2023, and it took a solid finish to the year (allowing 282 yards per game and 12 points per game in a new 3-3-5 defense) to keep them out of the bottom-10 nationally in most total defensive statistics.
White took entirely too long to make significant adjustments this season. The Gamecocks were getting gashed in their base 4-2-5 look, and White’s stubbornness in playing safeties at nickel (he started 5 different players at nickel who were part of the 2-deep at safety this season) resulted in two different receivers (Tulu Griffin of Mississippi State and Ricky Pearsall of Florida) to set career highs in receiving yards. Three others came close, as well.
It remains to be seen if the final three games of the year did enough to overcome the previous 9 in the mind of Coach Beamer as evaluates his coaching staff for potential changes.