By Josh Hyber | Photo courtesy of SC Athletics
When Bryan McClendon took over as South Carolina’s offensive coordinator in January 2018, much to do was made about his promise to quicken the unit’s pace.
Under control, of course, but in summary: More plays. More yards. More points.
South Carolina (include one pick-six) averaged 32.6 points and 440.2 yards per game last season, its best numbers since averaging 33.0 and 450.8 in those respective categories in 2014.
But the unit’s production last season may have only been a teaser on what’s to come.
When meeting with reporters on Wednesday, McClendon said he only changed about 50 percent of the offense previous coordinator Kurt Roper had installed. This spring — as well as summer workouts and fall practice — will be about changing over the other half.
“I didn’t want to completely flip and turn everything, just because it’s hard [to do that],” he said. “I have not seen a first-year offense just go in and roll up and down the field on people.
“… What I wanted to do was keep as much familiar [as I could].”
South Carolina’s offense was Jekyll and Hyde for most of last season.
It was a unit that threw for 510 yards at No. 2 Clemson and 363 yards at Ole Miss but threw for 152 yards against Tennessee and 199 yards against Akron.
It was a unit that rushed for 273 yards at Vanderbilt and 224 yards against the Volunteers but failed to rush for 100 or more yards for times.
For McClendon, spring practices have been about improving consistency — specifically making those impressive performances against the team’s toughest opponents happen more often.
They have also been about maximizing potential.
“In some of those games that we scored 30, we could have scored 60,” McClendon said. “In some of those games we didn’t score, we could have scored 30.”
“… No matter what, we’re still a work in progress. We’re still a long way away.”
Again, the coach went back to a one-day-at-a-time mantra. He talked about the strong performance against Clemson, but also added that he thought the Gamecock offense played well at times in its shutout loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl.
He talked about the season being about more than the final six quarters — quarters in which the Gamecock offense didn’t score in.
“We got our tails kicked, you know?” McClendon said. “That’s what happened. We lined up and [Virginia] beat us. And so there’s some stuff I feel like we left out there, for sure. … But there was no glaring thing that happened. We just got beat. When you get beat and turn the ball over you don’t do well on offense.
“… But the bottom line is we’re not where we need to be offensively. And we weren’t last year. We made improvements in a lot of areas, but we still left a lot out there.”
McClendon — who will begin the season coaching from the sideline, where he ended last season after coming down from the coaches’ box — hopes that changes this season, with quarterback Jake Bentley, receivers Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith and an improved offensive line returning.