“Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist. But football is only two things: blocking and tackling.”
COLUMBIA — South Carolina has it only half-right, which is why head coach Steve Spurrier on Tuesday said half-heartedly he was “flattered” that the Gamecocks are ranked No. 13 with an unsteady 3-1 record.
South Carolina has received Southeastern Conference offensive lineman of the week honors after its last two games (center Clayton Stadnik, left guard A.J. Cann).
Not that running back Mike Davis needs extraordinary blocking, anyway. The rugged, elusive, disproportionately talented sophomore is averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
Davis was a few yards from his fourth touchdown in Saturday’s 28-25 victory at Central Florida when he fumbled. A big mistake, one that “almost cost us the game,” Spurrier said.
But it’s correctable, and so is sloppy tackling that nagged South Carolina again Saturday.
The Gamecocks are ranked almost as high in the Associated Press poll as they are in the SEC in scoring defense (11th).
The fix is reasonably easy, even during the season when college teams don’t have many tackling drills in practice.
Ask any dummy.
Better yet, a cutting edge dummy built with student know-how.
“Fundamentals are what you try to teach,” Spurrier said. “Obviously, we’re still teaching it.”
Here is Spurrier, picking apart the problem with some data mixed in:
“We can tackle the dummy out there,” he said. “It just sits there. Can you wrap up the dummy? Yeah, that’s what you do.”
South Carolina allowed 227 rushing yards in a 41-30 loss at Georgia.
“A lot of our guys are still going in high (and) slough off, and a lot of guys are just diving in there,” Spurrier said. “They’re not fundamentally sound.”
‘Knockout shot’ blues
Vanderbilt outscored the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter, 15-0, in a 35-25 USC win.
Central Florida tossed and dashed its way to 210 passing yards in the fourth quarter.
“I asked one of the linebackers, ‘Why do you go in there and just give yourself up and whiff the guy?’” Spurrier said. “He said, ‘I was trying for a knockout shot.’ I said, ‘Well, I hope we don’t teach that.’
“So I asked (linebackers) Coach (Kirk) Botkin if we teach the knockout shot. He said, ‘No.’ So I said, ‘Well you need to get that linebacker to quit doing that because it makes us all look pretty stupid.’ So we’ve got some coaching to do.”
Yes, these are SEC-caliber football players.
In theory, you don’t get a scholarship at South Carolina without advanced tackling skills and a fundamentally sound “all clear” from the recruiting folks.
But there are five freshmen and three sophomores among the nine players listed on South Carolina’s three-deep list at linebacker and the hybrid Spur position.
Kids these days. They like that highlight-film hit more than textbook instruction obstruction.
But don’t take it out on just any dummy.
Build a better dummy.
Hogs and Vols
Get the best and brightest students involved, a left-brain, right-brain mix of engineering and art (or vice versa).
Customize a new dummy for South Carolina’s next four games: at home Saturday night against Kentucky and three straight on the road.
Design the dummy to look good in Kentucky blue, just like John Calipari.
Make sure it can call the Hogs with a “Woooooo, Pig! Sooie!” like the most zealous Arkansas fan.
Of course, it must play Rocky Top — as loud as all Knoxville.
And give the dummy a non-conference schedule as soft as Missouri’s.
If that doesn’t do it, the Gamecocks are in trouble and probably out of the top 25. Then the artsy engineers in the South Carolina student body will have to get really creative with Gator and Tiger themes.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff