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Theater of Operations, Florida Vs. South Carolina: Previewing the Gamecocks' Defense

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I'd like to apologize beforehand if there are any formatting errors in this edition of Theater of Operations. I always write these in OpenOffice but due to an extenuating circumstance beyond my control, I had to make do with Google Docs.

Originally, when I was planning the Theater of Operations series, I thought I'd be covering Marcus Lattimore both in the preview edition and at least once in one of the two review portions. Obviously, that isn't going to happen because, as we all know, Lattimore tore the ACL in his left knee about a month ago and is out for the rest of the year.

The backup plan I had for this preview edition? Focusing on the rotation of quarterbacks that South Carolina has been doing for the past year or so. But that idea was squashed even before the Lattimore injury because Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team for like his 35th rules violation. So to find out what was left to talk about, I decided to ask myself a question: What do we think of when we think of Steve Spurrier?

When we, as Gator fans, think of Steve Spurrier and his teams, we think of offense. But it is conceivable, maybe likely that when South Carolina fans think of Steve Spurrier and his teams, they think of defense, though I'll admit that's just a guess based on the style of football they've been playing in Columbia, South Carolina the past few seasons.

This season, the South Carolina Gamecocks boast the ninth-ranked defense in the nation in terms of total defense. That means that in the last six games, the Gators have faced four (Alabama, LSU and Georgia being the others) of the top 10 overall defenses in the country. The Gators will also likely face yet another one when the Florida State Seminoles (who rank fourth overall) roll into town later this month.

Play No. 1: Jadeveon Clowney forces a fumble against Mississippi State:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Jadeveon Clowney is seriously a big-time player. This play is just a straight rush by Clowney in which he does things that only players with his skill set can do. The call here is a play-action call in which the receivers are all going to run routes of longer than 15 yards.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

After a great inside swim move, the only thing standing between him and the quarterback is a running back.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

At this point, Clowney is engaged with the running back. What happens next, is very impressive.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Clowney absolutely destroys the running back. He pushes him aside in such a fashion, that it is literally like the running back was never there.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Clowney then proceeds to hit the quarterback, which causes him to fumble. Mississippi State ends up recovering the ball for a two-yard loss, but that fact is pretty irreverent to what Clowney did. 

Play No. 2: Victor Hampton's interception against Kentucky:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Kentucky is going to send the receiver at the top (green circle) on a deep route. Morgan Newton just underthrows the ball, allowing for a play to be made by Victor Hampton (yellow circle).


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Excellent inside coverage by Hampton. He allows the receiver no room and uses the sideline to his advantage.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As the ball comes down, both players fight for it. But Hampton's superior positioning on the play, and the fact that the ball is underthrown, give South Carolina the advantage here.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

As Hampton and the Kentucky receiver hit the ground, it is clear that Hampton has maintained possession and gets the interception.

Play No. 3: C.C. Whitlock's interception against Kentucky:


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Kentucky is going to run a simple post route here. The problem: It isn't going to be beyond the linebackers. That, of course, makes for a much more difficult throw and catch.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Couple of things to note here. First, the quarterback (no circle) is only looking to one side of the field. The receiver to the bottom of the screen (large yellow square) is in single coverage. The receiver at the top of the screen (green circle) has not one, but two defenders covering him. The safety (small yellow square) and the cornerback (yellow circle) have both the under and the over covered.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Upon release of the ball (green square), the safety (bottom yellow square) is too far to the outside of the play, but just close enough to cause disruption in the throwing lane. The cornerback realizes this and jumps the route. (Knowing that there is more safety help up top is a very nice thing to have, too.)


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

By the time the ball gets there, the cornerback is already all over the play.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The cornerback (yellow circle) tips the ball up in the air, but ends up finishing the catch and getting a nice return out of it.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Okay, so maybe it was more like five yards on the return. Still though, that's better than any return on a turnover the Gators have gotten since they themselves played Kentucky. Way back in late September.

Yeah, about that turnover thing: I predict it ends tomorrow. Hopefully. Maybe. I don't know. It will. (Right?)