For South Carolina to improve on its 6-7 record from last season, the Gamecocks perhaps first and foremost need better work from their offensive line, which had just a few seven problems a year ago. The Gamecocks return multiple guys who have a good amount of starting experience, but the question as usual in cases like these is can they turn experience into better production.
By both standard and advanced metrics, South Carolina’s offense had plenty of problems up front. The Gamecocks allowed 41 sacks on the season, keeping their QBs clean for a full 60 minutes only three times (Vanderbilt, ECU, Western Carolina). USC opponents recorded at least four sacks in seven of the Cocks’ 13 games last year.
The team ranked 116th nationally in adjusted sack rate. Quarterback Jake Bentley, who took over around midseason, was sacked 24 times in 214 drop backs, an average of one sack per nine or so drop-backs. NC State allowed 17 sacks all season.
Whether it was a standard down or a passing down, the Gamecocks’ sack rate was way below the national average. The quarterbacks weren’t just hit hard when everybody knew they were throwing the ball.
The running game struggled similarly, as South Carolina managed only 3.2 yards per carry and 110.4 rushing yards per game against FBS foes. The offensive line ranked 111th in adjusted line yards. The offense struggled in power running situations and its running backs were stuffed on runs at a rate that ranked 103rd.
It’s hard to imagine South Carolina’s offensive line—and by extension, the offense—not improving to some degree in 2017 if only because there ain’t much farther down to fall in a bunch of categories. And hey, there is some modest optimism about the big fellas in South Carolina camp.
If these guys are better, they’re going to need to prove that on the field immediately. NC State’s defensive front ain’t providing any warmups.