I was checking out some USC message boards when I came across something that's pretty eye-opening for Gamecock fans. Here's the statistic that I came across:
NCAA Division 1-A Football Teams without A Kickoff or Punt Return TD in the Past Seven Seasons" has dwindled down to two: Rice and South Carolina.
Wow. South Carolina is one of only 2 teams to not have a punt return or a kickoff return for a touchdown in the past seven seasons. I believe the last punt return was in 2003 when Chavez Donnings returned a 1st half punt against the Florida Gators for a touchdown. The last kickoff return is Matthew Thomas in 2002 against Virginia.
Call it dumb luck, lack of talent, or inadequate coaching but something needs to be done here. USC is giving up valuable field position by failing to have a viable return threat on both kickoffs and punt returns. Bryce Sherman has speed but just doesn't appear to have the vision of a kick returner. I'm sure it has to do with the talent level blocking for him as well but you've got to have a guy who can make people miss. Ace Sanders stepping in for Stephon Gilmore last year on punt returns and put up an absolute atrocious return average. We know he's got the speed. We've seen it on offense. If USC can find people capable of blocking then there might be a chance to see a return for a touchdown. They may have a guy coming to campus who could do it with the players we have on hand right now. Damiere Byrd is a big time speedster from the state of New Jersey. He's a 5'9" 160 pound lighting bolt who's been reportedly timed in the sub 4.3 40-yard dash. He looks to have vision and quickness to make things happen in special teams. I imagine he'll get a chance in the offseason and he could be a name to be on the lookout for next year in the return game.
Shane Beamer is our special teams coach. I think there's been improvement in all aspects but the return game. We seem to do a much better job on kickoff and punt coverage and Spencer Lanning became a better overall player the last 2 years. Beamer will need to show improvement on returns in order for South Carolina to step up their level of play. A game can turn around within minutes if you have a big return and this is one thing South Carolina has lacked for the last few years.
Maybe next year will be different.