Key Matchup: Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers vs. South Carolina Secondary
By Zach Crowl
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers came onto the scene last year for the Commodores in relief of senior Larry Smith. While he was ineffective in limited action against the Gamecocks in 2011, Rodgers experienced much success in the seven games he started. In only his second game as a starter, the junior quarterback scored four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) in a close loss to a great Arkansas team. Rodgers also had an excellent performance against Florida in which he accounted for 317 total yards of offense. Statistics like these in big games make it hard not to notice the potential talent of the senior quarterback. And it doesn’t hurt that his brother is superstar NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. After appearing in all thirteen games last season, Rodgers now has a whole year of experience under his belt with the first team, so he’ll likely be more comfortable in the starting spot. This Thursday, Rodgers will most likely look to draw the secondary in with his running ability and skilled backfield. Once the secondary becomes lackadaisical, expecting another run, look for Rodgers to fire a deep ball downfield to one of his talented receivers.
Countering Rodgers will be a South Carolina secondary that returns two experienced players to the unit that ranked second in the nation in yards allowed per pass attempt in 2011. However, after D.J. Swearinger and Victor Hampton, the depth chart is nearly void of experience. Akeem Auguste was listed as the starting cornerback, but is now out indefinitely with a thigh injury. This leaves the starting role to Jimmy Legree, a junior who saw limited action last year after starting the first two games. While the Gamecocks might not be full of experience in the secondary, all four starters are incredible athletes. The secondary must guard against complacency while facing a Vanderbilt offense that primarily runs the ball. Their main goal will be to ensure that Jordan Rodgers does not catch them off guard and exploit their lack of experience through the air.
Edge: With Swearinger’s leadership, the athleticism of the Carolina secondary should be enough to keep Rodgers in check through the air. The nod goes to the Gamecocks.