Last spring, South Carolina welcomed four new assistant coaches: Kirk Botkin (linebackers), Grady Brown (secondary), Joe Robinson (tight ends and special teams) and Everette Sands (running backs).
This spring, the only new assistant is Deke Adams, who came from North Carolina to replace Brad Lawing as defensive line coach after Lawing took a similar job at Florida. Adams is getting to know his players this spring, while teaching them to play a different style than Lawing used, as was mentioned in today’s print edition story about end Chaz Sutton.
There were some nuggets and quotes from Adams that didn’t make the story, and here they are …
** Adams knows his style will be an adjustment at first.
“I like more of an aggressive style,” he said. “That’s my mentality. I think being able to play and be more aggressive will help us. Coach Lawing did a great job with them, but I think giving them a little bit more freedom to be aggressive and get up the field a little bit more will give us a chance to make some more plays. The first couple days were a little tough, just because it is a different style.”
The biggest change, Sutton said is that Adams wants the linemen to “get up field, instead of playing the gap and staying in that gap and letting the defense flow.”
Said Adams: “The one thing I talk to (Sutton) about all the time is just really playing hard all the time. There are times when the ball goes away or things happen and we’re just kind of: OK, this is what’s going on. I want him over and I want him in on plays all the time. I put a lot of pressure on him. I told him that everybody in the country knows what offensive linemen are going to do. They’re going to focus on one guy (All-American end Jadeveon Clowney). (Sutton) has to be a guy, along with the other guys, that when they do that, we have to make them pay.”
** Adams said the attention that opponents pay to Clowney could really help USC.
“It’s going to be big,” he said. “That’s one of the things that I challenge all of our guys with, that he’s going to get so much attention that we have to make teams pay when they leave us in one-on-one situations. Once we do that, it’ll make teams play us a little bit more honest and then when that happens, it just opens the floodgates.”
** Despite Adams’ new aggressive style, he wants his linemen to still pay attention to gap duties.
“It’s not really (a) freelancing (style) at all because we’re still a gap-controlled defense,” he said. “If you’re an A gap player, I want you in the A gap. Yeah, I’m giving you a little bit more freedom to be a little bit more aggressive and get up the field and make things happen, but you still better be responsible for that A gap. We’re definitely not freelancing, but it is an adjustment to go from screaming up the field and getting up the field (which is Adams’ style) to all of a sudden I’m sitting there and I’m just playing my gap (which is the way Lawing taught things).”
** Adams said his goal is for a sack every 15 passes.
“That’s kind of a typical goal,” he said. “Things like that, we talk about.”
** Though they won’t start, half brothers and sophomores Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. are using this spring to develop into contributors. Dixon (6-2, 275) entered this spring as the No. 2 end behind Sutton. Dixon Jr. (6-3, 318) was listed as the understudy to J.T. Surratt at tackle.
“Obviously, they’re two different kids with two different body styles,” Adams said. “Gerald Jr. inside, he’s a bigger, physical kid that can hold his ground inside and not get pushed around a lot. When we move the end Gerald inside (to tackle), it’s a little different because he’s giving up a little weight, but he’s coming along. The one thing I’m really pushing him on is being more physical on the edge, giving more pass rush, giving more speed off of the edge. If we can have three, four, five guys that can rush the passer, then I think we’re going to be good.”
** When USC goes to the rabbits package, with four ends in the game at once in pass rushing situations, the guys who will come into the game at this point are Darius English and Mason Harris. Clowney and Sutton will move inside to the tackle spots in the package.
English and Harris are both light ends, and each weighs about 225 pounds. What are the challenges to matching those guys up with heavier offensive tackles in the rabbits package?
“I don’t think there’s a lot you can do to just say: OK, guys are going to come free all the time,” Adams said. “So you really have to work on speed. You have to work on hands. Use the things that you’ve been given, that God’s given you, and use those different talents to make yourself better. Both of them right now, their plus is speed and we’ve got to use that.
“When you get a big tackle on the edge and he knows that there’s a great chance that you can run around him, then he’s shaking in his shoes. To me, it’s a chess game. You beat him outside, now what are you going to do next? You have to be able to set moves up different ways. I think they’re both working at it. I want to give them a lot of different things that they can do and, hey, this is what I need to beat this guy this week. It’s a week-to-week situation.”
** Adams wants Harris, a former linebacker, to get up to 240 to 250 pounds.
“He and I had a conversation the other day,” Adams said. “He knows that’s the goal right now, is to add some weight to him. We’re going to be pushing that this summer. He’s just got to get to the table eat. Right now, he knows how he can help this football team is he can rush the passer, because he’s very quick off the ball and he can really run.”
Adams thinks English can get to 255, “but it’s going to take some time.” Harris and English have it. They are entering their sophomore and redshirt freshman seasons, but could be called upon to play bigger roles in 2014 because both Sutton and Clowney will be gone. This will also give Dixon, the end, more chances for playing time.
** Sutton hasn’t rushed from the tackle spot much in his career. What are the adjustments that Adams sees in doing it, as compared to rushing off the edge?
“Actually, it really helps him more than people would think,” Adams said. “When you get inside, the majority of times, he’s going to be a mismatch situation where he should be better than that guard. It really turns into then: OK, is this going to be a one-on-one situation? Are they going to slide the front? Are they going to double? What are they trying to do? That comes with game planning and, OK, let’s put him in the best situation we can put him in.”
** Adams has some experience with the rabbits package (or whatever other schools call the “four ends on the field at once” alignment), but not in his most recent job at North Carolina
“Other schools do it, but I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve had a lot of inside guys (at defensive tackle) that can actually rush the passer pretty good,” Adams said. “I’ve done some of that at Southern Miss a little bit. At North Carolina last year, we’d do a little bit of that, but I had a couple guys inside that could rush. They were just as good as some of the guys on the edge, so you really didn’t want to take them off the field.”