#Gamecocks @GamecockBasebll Pre-season Batting Lineup Preview

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The Gamecocks lose quite a bit of production from last season. The team is projected to be strong because of its pitching staff, which is full of aces. There may be reason to be optimistic about the offense as well.

I posted last week about the exciting new leadoff man Danny Blair. There is no guarantee Blair wins the competition for one of the two open outfield spots. He has some competition from guys like @TJ_Hopkins, Brandon @Mc11wain, and freshman Carlos @losCortes_14.

Here’s my guess at what looks to be a first weekend starting lineup. The statistics are from the 2016 season. Quite a few of the players projected here have limited experience.

I’m guessing Cortes gets the start at second base. But he could get in the lineup at DH, 3B, or as an outfielder. Cortes is an intriguing prospect who is ambidextrous throwing. He throws left handed when playing the outfield but throws right-handed when playing the infield. Left handed throwing infielders face significant disadvantages from a defensive standpoint.

The defense is a question mark. The Gamecocks replace shortstop Marcus Mooney and centerfielder Gene Cone. There is an old baseball adage that great teams are strong up the middle.

The bench is limited by a scarcity of left handed power. Excluding pitchers, there is only one lefty pinch hitter available–Riley Hogan a freshmen switch hitter. That means if @cholbrook2 uses the lineup I projected, opposing coaches can put the Gamecocks at a disadvantage selectively using right handed relief pitchers.

Nevertheless, Chad Holbrook has a lot of flexibility. It will be interesting to watch him manage this toolbox.

ACC Guy @SaturdayJC starting to eat preseason words about #Gamecocks

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In his recent post, So right, so wrong: Revisiting Mississippi State, South Carolina predictions, John Crist, eats it.

You don’t need to click on his post. The quote below sums up anything of any importance that he wrote:

If USC wants to go bowling, it better beat 2-8 Western Carolina at home Saturday. Upsetting Clemson on the road in Week 13 isn’t going to happen. Still, Muschamp and Co. are a lot further long than I anticipated. Kudos to them.

This guy was so negative I wrote two pre-season, blog posts to rebut him:

There was a tiny bit of engagement from Crist. However, it was just to ridicule the Gamecock coaching staff and to make sarcastic responses. Here’s a sample:

All that remains is for the Gamecocks is to make ACC homer Crist eat his words about the 50-0 Clemson win he predicted. Ain’t gonna happen.

#Gamecocks Head Coach @CoachWMuschamp emits Muschampisms

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Muschampisms. They are like Spurrierisms only better. Last week’s press conference was great. We learned a new word, tripley. This week’s post game presser was even better!

First there was the snooker reference about @Lammons_1’s bad luck, “the rub of the green.” Muschamp next describes what to do to an opponent when you have a two-score lead, make them bleed. Finally, we get two a rat analogies.

Enjoy:

Analyzing Weight Gains/Losses in #Gamecocks Defensive Line Roster @Jeff_Dillman

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Earlier this week, I wrote why @Jeff_Dillman’s weight program would make the Gamecocks better in 2016. I asked a friend what he thought about my post.

My friend is a sad Gamecock. He’s a skeptic. He believes the national touts are probably right about the 2016 team sucking. He argued that comparing the 2015 and 2016 rosters showed little change in the defensive linemen weight. Therefore, he saw little evidence for hope Jeff Dillman’s program was any better than last years.

Was my friend right? Sure enough, the average weight of the Gamecocks returning defensive linemen changed hardly at all, only about 2 pounds per man. But I am looking closer at the data and think there is still a lot of room for optimism. Here’s a chart with my findings:

DL Off-season Weight Change

The defensive linemen who were undersized last year and needed to gain weight did gain. Both Shameik Blackshear and Darius English put on significant weight, 15 and 20 pounds respectively.

On the other hand, the defensive tackles who last year looked overweight lost a lot of weight. Defensive linemen Griffin, Lamin, Sawyer, and Wideman, all lost significant pounds.

I don’t know if these numbers will correlate to a quicker, faster, stronger, and more effective defensive line. But it sure looks like Jeff Dillman’s S&C staff addressed issues on the defensive line on an individualized basis. That is exactly how a good S&C team works. The art of it is working with individual athletes on a person by person basis.

#Gamecocks Face a Vanderbilt Offensive Line in a state of flux

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On July 29, Vanderbilt released a statement called, “The ‘Dore offensive line.” The statement touted the full-strength return of redshirt senior Andrew Jelks (pictured above):

Jelks, a 2013 Freshman All-America and SEC All-Freshman performer, suffered a season-ending injury in [2014] summer camp. Jelks has returned with an impressive offseason regiment and enters his final season at full strength.

It is obvious Jelks was a big part of Vanderbilt’s 2016 plan. Unfortunately, Jelks recently suffered another season-ending knee injury.

 

 

Losing a veteran leader like Jelks is a blow. Nobody wants to see that happen to a player. It’s just sad. Losing Jelks hurts Vanderbilt particularly because Vandy was hoping for stability on the OL–not another repeat of the 2015 season. In 2015, its offensive line was beset by injuries. Players moved around from position to position like they were stuck in a horrible game of musical chairs.

Following the 2015 season, Derek Mason fired the OL Coach, Keven Lightner. I watched the replay of the Vandy game against Kentucky and thought that Lightner’s OL looked pretty good. Two guys, Jake Bernstein and Spencer Pulley, even signed free agent NFL deals after the season. However, Mason saw it differently and let Lightner go citing, “a difference in philosophy.”

Vanderbilt is scrambling in camp to find young offensive linemen who can replace Berstein, Pulley, and now Jelks.  On August 10, Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig’s statement indicated the Vanderbilt OL situation is still fluid.

Offensive line. Different guys at different positions. That’s a group we’re still looking to jell.

Norcross (1)Adding to the OL yo-yo, Vanderbilt is breaking in a new offensive line coach, Cameron Norcross. Norcross comes from Fresno State (3-9).

Like Vanderbilt’s star running back Ralph Webb, Norcross talks a good game.

I want guys who are nasty. I want guys who are right on the edge. I want guys who push the envelope a little bit.

Hopefully, the Gamecocks defensive front seven creates chaos in an offensive line on a learning curve. Mercilessly out-nasty the nasty. Show no sympathy to Vanderbilt. Pressure its young quarterback Kyle Shurmur all night. And, shut up Ralph Webb.

 

 

DL Coach @Coach_LThompson Praises #Gamecocks OL: “a really good SEC Offensive Line.”

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The offensive line is probably the most important (if unheralded) position group on any team. The OL allows a team to control the clock. It gives your defense rest. It helps put points on the board. A good offensive line imposes its will on a defense. It takes away the energy of opposing crowds. The offensive line is the heart and soul of your football team. It is the first and foremost reason why I remain optimistic about 2016 despite the drumbeat of negativity from national and regional touts about how much the Gamecocks suck.

It could be disheartening to hear such an important position group disrespected by touts. Like we heard this summer when they published this crap.

ESPN spoke with an anonymous coach who didn’t sound too excited about the Gamecocks’ offensive line: “There are a lot of third-year sophomores, fourth-year juniors that just aren’t SEC players.”

College football magazines: What are they saying about South Carolina?

On the other hand, it is invigorating and inspiring to hear a contrary opinion, even if it’s a biased one from a Gamecocks assistant coach.

LT2

This is a real deal offensive line. These guys are good. @DJPark2013, @bigdonell72, @MasonZandi. These guys are real deals. Their big. Their physical. Their good kids. Their hard-nosed. @poppa_A. All those guys. And you know what? To me that’s the best thing about our situation right now. To me, we’re [the defensive line] competing against a really good SEC offensive line. So, I tell our guys, if we can compete against these guys and we can perform at a high level consistently against these guys, we’re going to be ok when we get to Saturdays. So that part has really been beneficial. @ShawnElliottUSC‘s been great. We’ve had a lot of drills against each other. That does nothing but make our guys better.

Lance Thompson has coached as an assistant football coach on SEC defenses for 11 years over a span of two decades. He coached on premier SEC defenses like those at Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee.  With all due respect to ESPN and its anonymous coach sources, it seems like Thompson might have a sound basis upon which to base an opinion about whether an offensive line stinks or not. Not.