COLUMBIA — Like plenty of college football programs across the country, South Carolina has had a viable, established partnerships with Pro Football Focus, a well-known analytical and data service that rates myriad of aspects of the game.
Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer holds PFF in high regard, as well as other similar analytical companies. But where these national services rank South Carolina’s pass protection has irked the first-year coach.
“I got tons of respect for what PFF is. They help us, and we rely on their stuff,” Beamer said Tuesday ahead of his team opening SEC play Saturday night at No. 2 Georgia.
“A lot of what has been made of the pass blocking is a bunch of crap.”
In the first two games, both wins against Eastern Illinois and at East Carolina last week, PFF graded the USC offense as 12th and last, respectively, in the SEC in pass blocking.
According to PFF’s analytics, only right guard Jovaughn Gwyn ranks among the SEC’s top 30 offensive linemen in pass blocking who have played at least half of the team’s pass plays. Gwyn is listed 10th overall. Senior center Eric Douglas is next best for the Gamecocks, coming in 34th in the league.
Since South Carolina’s 20-17 win against ECU, Beamer twice has said he thinks the line, along with the tight ends, have protected quarterback Zeb Noland well. The Pirates sacked Noland three times and hit him three more times.
Beamer noted protection calls made at the line of scrimmage by Noland as well as tight ends and running backs missing blocks have all contributed to the struggles and the wrong guesses.
“But (PFF doesn’t) know when our quarterback goes up to the line of scrimmage, makes a protection call, slides the offensive line one way because he thinks the pressure’s coming, which means a tackles for us is going to slide one way and then he realizes that the quarterback guessed wrong and there’s a free guy coming outside,” Beamer said. “To the average eye, they’re going to say, ‘Oh my God, what is that offensive tackle doing?’ That offensive tackle is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s trying to get the hit off the quarterback and the quarterback slid the line the wrong way.
“Have we been perfect on pass pro? No. Is it as bad as some people want to analyze and say it’s been? Absolutely not. It’s on all of us. Quarterback, running back, receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen.”
Make no mistake, South Carolina’s pass protection and play up front needs to improve drastically. The Georgia defense, which PFF ranks inside the top 25 in FBC in pass rush, awaits the Gamecocks inside Sanford Stadium.
“It’s a concern every week, but it is against these guys because they’re really good up front. All you got to do is turn on the tape from the Clemson game and they’re swallowing up Clemson’s quarterback it seems on every play when he drops back to pass,” Beamer said.
“It’ll be a huge challenge for us. A lot more than what we’ve faced the last two weeks. But like I told our guys this morning, ‘This is SEC football. You better strap it on for the next eight SEC games we got the rest of the season because it gets real. If you don’t want to play against the best, you shouldn’t be playing in this conference.’ ”
Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his work for all things Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN