COLUMBIA -- This isn't rocket science. The key to stopping any good passing attack is getting consistent pressure on the quarterback.
Sounds pretty simple.
A defensive coordinator's dream is to have four defensive linemen generate consistent pressure on an opposing quarterback without the need to blitz any additional players. That's been the philosophy employed by South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who rarely blitzes and does so only as a last resort. He favors using four main pass rushers and then letting the other seven players drop back into pass coverage.
"A good defense shouldn't have to blitz a lot to get pressure on the quarterback," Johnson said. "A great defense can get pressure with just four guys."
It's been a pretty effective strategy for the Gamecocks most of the season, mainly because the Gamecocks have playmakers on the defensive line. The current collection of defensive linemen, especially at defensive end, is widely considered the best assembly of talent in school history.
Defensive ends Devin Taylor (3), Melvin Ingram (5 1/2) and Jadeveon Clowney (5) have combined for 13 1/2 sacks this season. For most of the season, the Gamecocks were ranked among the top three teams in the Southeastern Conference in sacks.
Recently, however, that production has faltered slightly as the Gamecocks have recorded just three sacks in their three games against Kentucky (0), Mississippi State (2) and Tennessee (1).
The 10th-ranked Gamecocks will need every bit of a pass rush they can get on Saturday against the
eighth-ranked Arkansas and quarterback Tyler Wilson, the SEC's top passer.
"We need to get some sacks and consistent pressure on the quarterback," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "That's how you stop a good passing team. So we've got to get our rushing shoes ready to go out there Saturday night. They are the best passing team in the conference, no doubt about it. We have to get a pass rush going. We've got to get Melvin and Clowney and Devin and the guys really getting pressure on the quarterback."
The Razorbacks, who average 321.1 passing yards and 36.9 points per game, rely on timing and precise route running. Wilson has thrown for 2,327 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games.
Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who got his first career start last week against Tennessee, said making Wilson as uncomfortable as possible Saturday will be the key for the Gamecocks.
"I believe it's crucial that we get back in the backfield and disrupt (Wilson's) timing," Quarles said. "We need to focus on getting pressure on the quarterback, flushing him out of the pocket, and then when the pocket collapses, making a play and get him on the ground. We need to get him out of the pocket, stay in our lanes, and when we do get him out of the pocket, we need to get to the ball and make a play."
Despite getting only one sack against Tennessee, USC assistant coach Brad Lawing thought the Gamecocks' defensive line was effective against the Volunteers.
"Sometimes sacks don't tell the whole story," said Lawing, the Gamecocks' defensive line coach. "We affected the quarterback the entire night. If you get sacks, that's great, but the whole thing is affecting the quarterback. You want sacks, but anytime you make the quarterback move in the pocket and he starts throwing the ball high or throwing the ball wide, you are affecting him."
The Gamecocks have the SEC's second-ranked pass defense, giving up just 135.9 yards a game. South Carolina has given up just two more passing yards than Alabama (135.7 ypg) this season.
"We've got to get pressure on Wilson," Lawing said. "Our goal is to get pressure on every snap. We've got to make their quarterback feel uncomfortable."
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