Steve Spurrier has expressed his frustration with South Carolina’s defense this season, but he firmly supports defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
With the Gamecocks’ defense sputtering statistically to the bottom half of the SEC, Spurrier offered a stiff defense of Ward during his Sunday teleconference.
“I’ll tell you what kind of job he’s doing,” Spurrier said, a bit edgy. “We were 11-2 last year, and he won the bowl game the year before as defensive coordinator. So his record as defensive coordinator is 16-3, and if you check the history of South Carolina football, he’s the winningest defensive coordinator percentage-wise in the history of the school. So, that’s how he’s doing, OK.”
Spurrier still expects USC’s defense to improve.
The Gamecocks are 10th in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 25.8 points per game. That’s .2 points per game more than SEC East bottom dweller Kentucky. In the past five years – going back to former coordinator Ellis Johnson’s time at USC – the defense has finished in the league’s top half in points allowed.
USC is doing better in total defense, but still behind its pace from recent seasons. The Gamecocks are allowing 365 yards per game, the sixth-best average in the SEC. In the past two seasons, USC finished no lower than fourth in the SEC in total defense.
Perhaps most troubling, USC’s defense has been sloppy and porous in the fourth quarter. In their past three games, the Gamecocks have allowed 51 fourth-quarter points. Kentucky outscored USC 21-8 in the fourth quarter Saturday.
Spurrier said he’ll announce defensive personnel changes later this week. He expects there may be “some new starters here and there.” Coaches will also be less forgiving of mistakes.
“That’s part of coaching,” Spurrier said. “I’m a firm believer in what John Wooden said: ‘If players don’t play the way you ask them to play, you’ve got to put them on the bench.’ Simple as that, and we’ve not done a good job of doing that. So we’re probably going to do that a little bit for the next game.”