Defense getting ready for fast pace

South Carolina opened the season facing the fast-paced, no-huddle offense of Southern Miss. The Gamecocks' defense responded holding the Golden Eagles to just 13 points. They'll look to do the same Saturday afternoon when they face a similar offense in Troy and its 13th-ranked passing attack. The Gamecocks and Trojons kick off at 12:21 Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"There's three elements I think that are almost identical, it's mirror of (Southern Miss)," Johnson said. "Fast, fast, fast-paced operation, which takes a lot of things out of your call system. You can't go to a lot of your stuff because you don't have time to check and change plays and those type things.

"The spread with four-wides out there and going to the five-wides, and even when they've got two backs in there, they've got three-wides. [They're] spreading the field in order to try to get you spread out, to run the football. If you don't spread out with them, they throw the quick passes extremely well."

Much like Southern Miss, Troy will throw tons of quick passes in an effort to keep the Gamecocks' defensive line off its quarterback. Fades, quick outs, quick stops and screens are a major part of the Trojan's passing game.

"You say, 'well a lot of people throw those,'" Johnson says. "But they don't make a living off of it the way these guys do. And the timing of it and the execution of it is very good."

Jerrel Jernigan leads the Troy offense with 58 catches while Tebiarus Gill and Jason Bruce have 30+ catches a piece.

Corey Robinson is the trigger-man completing 216 of 352 passes (61.4 percent) for 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

"The quarterback - timing, delivery, and the way he hands the offense – they're a really good football team on the offensive side of the ball," Johnson said. "They execute some elements a lot better than some of the teams we've faced that have better athletes."

When Troy isn't attacking with the short passing game, it's running the football against reduced fronts due to its spread formations. Running backs DuJuan Harris, Shawn Southward and Chris Anderson, and receiver Jernigan have each rushed for 250+ yards on the season. Harris leads the way with 410 yards and 4 touchdowns.

"If you spread out with them," Johnson says, "they love to run the football."

Ultimately, a South Carolina secondary that has struggled for much of the season -- but played its best game of the season against Florida -- will be tested by the Troy passing game.

"I don't think they were ever at a point where they didn't think they could play against anybody," Johnson said of the secondary. "But I think they definitely reached a point where they knew they weren't playing well and it was a level of frustration more than a lack of confidence."

As good as the unit played against Florida, they were not pressed in the passing game by the Gators the way they were against Arkansas and will be Saturday against Troy.

"So there's going to be more opportunity and more responsibility for our defensive backs to be out on an island making plays in the throwing game, so we'll find out how much we've improved."

Notes:

Left tackle Jarriel King practiced for the first time in two weeks after suffering a concussion against Arkansas. His status for Troy is unknown.

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