South Carolina coaches outline areas of focus ahead of ECU and ‘electric’ atmosphere

Clayton White’s first policy is to celebrate wins. In a 46-0 rout of FCS Eastern Illinois, there was plenty for South Carolina’s first-year defensive coordinator to be pleased with.

But the Gamecocks get 24 hours to soak in the victories before turning to the next opponent. This week, it’s a road meeting with the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina, and the coaching staff has areas to hone in on before the Gamecocks’ first away game of the 2021 schedule.

Cut down on penalties

It makes sense that Shane Beamer’s point of emphasis this week would be mitigating penalties.

The Gamecocks won their season opener against Eastern Illinois in a 46-point shutout, but without eight flags thrown on Saturday, they could’ve won by more.

Penalties brought back two of South Carolina’s more exciting moments. A Jaylan Foster interception was returned 33 yards to the EIU 7-yard line and tight end Jaheim Bell could’ve had a 65-yard touchdown rush, if not for penalties.

Beamer wasn’t pleased.

“Looking back at the video today, some of them were even dumber than they first looked live,” Beamer told the media on a Sunday teleconference.

In a game where Beamer felt like South Carolina met most of its goals on offense, defense and special teams, penalties were the obvious blip where he’s looking to see improvement against East Carolina.

Lowering ‘big play potential’ on defense

White wants any questions about his defense answered before they’re asked.

The Gamecocks had plenty going well for them against Eastern Illinois, allowing just 109 yards and forcing two turnovers.

But when he re-watched South Carolina’s season opener, White saw where things could’ve gone wrong.

“There was some big play potential out there that you guys probably didn’t see on tape that we’re going to harp on all week,” White said. “At (defensive back) and linebacker, that’s where the big plays happen at. We’re going to make sure that we’re covering those things that didn’t happen.”

Preparing for a ‘highly skilled’ East Carolina offense

White is familiar with East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers. At his previous stop with North Carolina State, White remembers the efforts to recruit Ahlers to the Wolfpack.

He knows the Pirates rely on Ahlers, who completed 22 of his 40 passes for 295 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in ECU’s Week 1 loss to Appalachian State. White knows Ahlers, paired with running backs Keaton Mitchell and Rahjai Harris, are going to be a challenge for the Gamecocks’ defense.

“It’s a highly skilled football unit,” White said. “They play fast. They play hard.”

Preparing for ECU’s front seven

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield will always narrow in on his own mistakes, he said, 46-point victory or not.

“My wife is like, ‘You just won the game,’ but all I see is just five or six calls that maybe I didn’t like, or it didn’t flow,” Satterfield said. “It eats me up. I think we did well enough.”

Satterfield aims for the Gamecocks to improve their pass protection and run blocking against the Pirates’ front seven, which he called the “strength of their defense.” He had particularly high praise for East Carolina’s defensive line.

“Those four defensive linemen get after it,” Satterfield said. “We’re going to have to be at our very best to be able to have success in the running game and protecting our quarterback because those guys can get after you without even blitzing anyone but those front four.”

Staying energized and focused on the road

Satterfield is preparing the offense for a hostile environment at East Carolina. He’s been to Greenville before, during his time as offensive coordinator at Temple, and he remembers it well.

“We know that this is going to be one of the hardest games that the coaches (and) players have ever been in,” Satterfield said. “The environment’s going to be electric. … It’s one of the toughest places to play a college football game.”

From White’s perspective, it’s more challenging to regain focus after a win than a loss. He gains that attention by “flipping the script,” focusing on mistakes that could be costly in the future.

“Some of those plays, 7-yard runs, could have been 25-yard runs versus another opponent,” White said. “We want to clean those things up and make sure that it doesn’t happen in the weeks to come.”

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