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  1. FeatheredCock

    Urban Meyer on Paid Leave.

    Urban Meyer on Paid Leave. Michigan smiling plus celebrating likely an OSU slide
  2. 2018 Heisman Trophy Odds: Best Bets, Values, Longshots The latest 2018 Heisman Trophy Odds are out from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Who’ll win, what are the best longshots, and what’s the best value? Always take The Field. Baker Mayfield was a gettable pick before last season began, but Lamar Jackson came out of left field – or, at least, just outside of the infield – to win two years ago. This season, considering it’s usually a quarterback-driven honor, the race is more wide open than ever. But here’s the problem, IT’S REALLY HARD TO WIN THE HEISMAN. The NFL is loaded with Hall of Fame talents who couldn’t even become finalists, much less win the thing. So remembering that this only works if the player WINS it … Just … Don’t You’re not crazy. The Heisman race can always get a bit funky, and all of these players have the upside to have big seasons. But when it comes to the Heisman, just … don’t. Jalen Hurd, WR Baylor 300/1 Jake Bentley, QB South Carolina, 100/1 Stephen Carr, RB USC 100/1 JT Daniels, QB USC 100/1 Sam Ehlinger, QB Texas 100/1 Travis Etienne, RB Clemson 100/1 Ryan Finley, QB NC State 100/1 Alex Hornibrook, QB Wisconsin 100/1 Dexter Lawrence, DT Clemson 100/1 Ed Oliver, DT Houston 100/1 David Sills, WR West Virginia 100/1 J.D. Spielman, WR Nebraska 100/1 Nick Fitzgerald, QB Mississippi State 60/1 Deondre Francois, QB Florida State 50/1
  3. Gamecock great Connor Shaw leaves Furman. Here’s why, and a little on what’s next August 01, 2018 Former South Carolina star quarterback Connor Shaw’s coaching tenure at Furman is over before the start of his first season with the team. The Gamecocks’ winningest all-time quarterback resigned Tuesday to get a jump start on an as-yet undisclosed “private business.” “It’s been a wild couple days, but there are some exciting things coming up,” Shaw told The State. “The move was very difficult and, obviously, unfortunate timing for Furman, and I hate that because they are great people, and I really enjoyed working with them and the players in that room.” Shaw was hired in January as the Paladins tight ends coach. The school announced a new tight ends coach on Tuesday. “I felt like originally I could do both, but it wasn’t fair to Furman, and it wasn’t fair to this new venture,” he said. “Things kind of progressed quickly for this new opportunity, and I really needed to take advantage of it. This call was made that it would benefit my family well, and at the end of the day I have to do what is right by them. A lot of things I learned in the last six months, I will carry over in this venture.” Shaw won 27 games as South Carolina’s starting quarterback from 2010-2013. He is first in school history in completion percentage (65.5), second in touchdown passes (56) and fourth in passing yards (7,597). He played most recently for the Chicago Bears, finishing there in September when he and the team reached an injury settlement after a foot injury. Shaw started one NFL game. In 2014, he started for the Cleveland Browns, completing 14-of-28 passes for 177 yards and an interception. He also rushed seven times for 9 yards in that game. Shaw spent the 2015 season with the Browns rehabbing a thumb injury and was waived by the team in the summer of 2016. Shaw was signed that summer by the Bears.
  4. Bobby Bentley: USC freshman back ‘probably faster than any’ he's worked with June 08, 2018 South Carolina assistant football Bobby Bentley has worked with a few good runners in his day. He’s managed the Gamecocks backfield the past two years. He coached in the high school ranks for a long time, including Marcus Lattimore’s era with Byrnes High School football. So how does early enrollee freshman Lavonte Valentine compare to the guys he’s worked with? “I think he’s probably faster than any of them, just straight-line fast,” Bentley said. “I think it’s going to be great to have him in our room.” That will happen with a player who can run a 100-meter dash in 10.61, as Valentine did to win a 2017 Florida state track title. The Melbourne Central Catholic High School product could add a different dimension to a Gamecocks backfield that has speed with the likes of A.J. Turner, but perhaps not that pure burner. That is, when Valentine gets healthy. A torn ACL his senior season of high school cost him much of the spring. He saw progress throughout, and that had improved even after practice wrapped at the end of match. “He’s almost full speed,” Bentley said. “He’s definitely 100 percent linear. He’s getting ready to cut now, working all of his cut. We just want to take it very slow and let it be on his pace and have him ready so that we don’t rush him.” It remains to be seen if he’ll redshirt next season or not. Bentley said the decision wasn’t made in the spring, but he came in with fellow freshman Deshaun Fenwick and joins a backfield returning its top five runners from 2017. Although his senior year was limited, he was an explosive presence as a junior. Leading a 12-1 team, he posted 884 rushing yards yards (9.6 per carry) and caught six passes for 175 yards (29.1 yards per reception). He and Fenwick have the potential of a thunder and lightning pairing, but both probably need to learn the finer points of running at the college level. And there too, the injury and missing spring factors in. “That’s where I can’t wait to have him out there so I can gauge him even more,” Bentley said. THE STATE
  5. Will Muschamp on Jaylin Dickerson: 'That's what's killing us right now' May 23, 2018 Jaylin Dickerson remains on schedule to return to the South Carolina football team, but Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp is still disappointing it didn’t happen sooner. “The guys a good football player and would have played for us this year,” Muschamp said of Dickerson. “That’s what’s killing us right now at the safety position. Here’s a guy that would have played for us last year and been on all special teams, and he’s missed a year of experience, but it is what it is. We have to make it work.” Dickerson was an early enrollee in 2017 and impressed the coaching staff during spring practice, however a shoulder injury he suffered that fall has kept him off the field ever since. Dickerson, who suffered nerve damage in his shoulder, still hasn’t been cleared for contact but is “on time for everything,” Muschamp said. “We will know more about that in August, but everything to this point has been exactly where it needs to be,” Muschamp said. “I have been pleased so far with what I’ve heard. He’s got full range of motion. He’s got most of his strength back, and he’s on time for everything.” The Gamecocks left spring practice with Steven Montac and former walk-on wide receiver Javon Charleston as the projected starters at safety, but Dickerson and Jamyest Williams (shoulder) will get a chance to compete for those spots when they return from injury.
  6. Why one national writer thinks Will Muschamp is 'underrated' May 20, 2018 Barrett Sallee had a vote and a voice in CBS Sports' rankings that put USC's Will Muschamp as the No. 37 coach in Power Five. But the writer who also hosts SiriusXM's College Sports Nation, didn't buy that South Carolina's head man shouldn't have been higher after a nine-win 2017 season. "I had him ahead of Willie Taggart, Mike McIntyre, Dana Holgerson, Larry Fedora, Scott Frost, Kevin Sumlin, P.J. Fleck and on and on and on," Sallee said in his daily podcast. "Because I think Will Muschamp gets sort of unfairly labeled. Sallee said he ranked Muschamp No. 33, and that he considers him "underrated." In two years in Columbia, Muschamp led the Gamecocks from three wins to six and then to 9-4 last season. His teams have yet to produce big offensive numbers, but they've managed to excel in close games (9-4 with a final margin of seven points are less). Sallee said his history is something he's not been able to shake. "I think a lot of people remember Will Muschamp from the Florida days, but refuse to accept the fact that he evolved," Sallee said. "He even evolved his last year at Florida. He decided to go more up-tempo, more shotgun. Jeff Driskel was a mess. Florida was a mess in general. He had all kinds of issues behind the scenes. It was too little too late. The minute he got the South Carolina job, he was doing the exact same thing." Muschamp had a breakthrough in his second year in Gainesville, winning 11 games with a defensive style. Injuries saw his team fall to 4-8 the next year, and a 6-5 season in 2014 ended things there. He came to Columbia promising a push toward up-tempo. USC's sometimes-thin defenses have performed well overall, but the offenses have been slow and often inconsistent or ineffective. He changed offensive coordinators from Kurt Roper to Bryan McClendon in hopes of changing that. Sallee has also been bullish on the Gamecocks going into 2018, saying there's a good chance for 9-10 regular season wins and pushing Georgia in the SEC East. "It takes a lot for a coach to swallow his pride and recognize that all he's been doing throughout the course of his assistant coaching career was wrong," Sallee said. "And that's what Will Muschamp recognized. "Will Muschamp didn't get the respect he deserves."
  7. ESPN predicts which player breaks out in 2018 May 22, 2018 Well, ESPN thinks South Carolina football will be one of the 25 best teams in 2018. Which player could have a breakout season for the Gamecocks? The answer might surprise you. Nothing against Sadarius Hutcherson. Shoot, his name was at the top of SEC Country’s list of breakout candidates in January, so kudos to Alex Scarborough for making the call on Hutcherson, a redshirt sophomore who started four games in 2017. Here’s what Scarborough wrote about Hutcherson: http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/23434813/college-football-spring-breakout-players-top-25-team With Jake Bentley at quarterback and Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards at receiver, the Gamecocks’ passing game has a chance to be special. But it needs protection, and it might have found a key in that respect in former defensive line recruit and current offensive tackle standout Hutcherson, who was one of two offensive players of the spring. Hutcherson, who’s listed as the Gamecocks’ starting right guard, is on a veteran offensive line that includes Dennis Daley (left tackle), Zack Bailey (left guard), Donell Stanley (center) and Blake Camper (right tackle). “[Hutcherson] pretty much worked hard at what he had to do,” Daley said, during spring practice. “He kept working at it and he improved a whole lot. I told him that myself.”
  8. Where does Jake Bentley rank among SEC quarterbacks? May 08, 2018 It’s list season, an annual rite of summer that helps countdown the days until the start of another year of South Carolina football. On Tuesday morning, Athlon Sports unveiled its ranking of the best starting quarterbacks in college football, which, of course, includes South Carolina junior Jake Bentley. Nationally, Bentley checks in as the No. 14-ranked quarterback. Among signal-callers from the SEC, he’s listed at No. 6. The five starting SEC quarterbacks ranked ahead of Bentley are among the top 11 in the country. One might assume that Alabama junior Jalen Hurts, a multi-year starter, would be somewhere in that conversation, too. Without a doubt, it is the year of the quarterback in the SEC. Here’s what Athlon had to say about Bentley, who’s started the last 20 games for the Gamecocks:New play-caller Bryan McClendon is tasked with helping Bentley elevate his play after South Carolina’s offense averaged only 24.2 points a game last fall. More up-tempo looks are in the works for McClendon, which is a good fit for an offense featuring one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. Bentley showed promise in a late stint as South Carolina’s starter in 2016 and threw for 2,794 yards and 18 scores last fall. Entering his junior year, Bentley looks poised to take the next step in his development. Bentley will have plenty of weapons to work with, including wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and OrTre Smith, to go along with running backs Rico Dowdle, A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams. Plus, with new quarterbacks coach Dan Werner in his ear and a group of veteran offensive linemen to protect him, Bentley could be in store for a monster third season at South Carolina.
  9. Where CBS ranks Will Muschamp among all power conference coaches May 08, 2018 Will Muschamp oversaw South Carolina football making three-win jumps in each of his first two seasons. But that only did so much to help him in the eyes of a group of writers from CBS Sports. They ranked him 37th among 65 Power Five conference coaches, the same spot he was in last year. He's coming off a 9-4 season with the Gamecocks, only the seventh nine-win season in program history. "The Gamecocks improved from six wins to nine in Muschamp's second season, but he doesn't move in our rankings," CBS's Tom Fornelli wrote. "My guess is that we aren't sure if the team really improved, or it just took advantage of an SEC East that was feeble outside of Georgia." Muschamp came in sixth among SEC coaches. Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Dan Mullen, Kirby Smart and Jimbo Fisher were in the top 25, which won't be released until Wednesday. Other conference coaches ranked were: 46. Mark Stoops, Kentucky 50. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt 52. Chad Morris, Arkansas 55. Barry Odom, Missouri 56. Ed Orgeron, LSU 57. Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee 58. Joe Moorehead, Mississippi State 62. Matt Luke, Ole Miss
  10. Gamecocks wide receivers listed among top draft prospects May 07, 2018 Two wide receivers on the South Carolina football team are listed among the top 2019 draft prospects at the position, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Deebo Samuel, a redshirt senior, checks in as the No. 4-ranked wide receiver on Miller’s list. Bryan Edwards, who has started every game as a freshman and sophomore, is No. 9. Neither is listed among the top 25 overall prospects. Both, however, could be in store for big seasons in 2018. Samuel, who already has been projected by some as a first-round selection in early mock drafts, scored 6 touchdowns in three games before his 2017 season was cut short. In 2016, Samuel had 59 catches for 783 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns over 10 games. He was also third among SEC pass catchers with 5.9 receptions per game. Samuel caught 12 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in five games as a redshirt freshman. Most of that production was in the season finale against Clemson: 5 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Edwards has 108 receptions for 1,383 yards and 9 touchdowns over 25 career games. His 108 catches are good enough for 13th-most in school history. With 10 more grabs, Edwards will vault past running backs Brandon Bennett, Stanley Pritchett and Cory Boyd to move inside the top 10.
  11. ESPN’s key spring takeaway for 2018 Gamecocks May 04, 2018 We’re into summer No. 3 for the South Carolina football program under coach Will Muschamp, and it feels like big things could be in store for the Gamecocks in 2018. In South Carolina’s key spring takeaway, ESPN reporter Alex Scarborough wrote about the Gamecocks new look offense, under the direction of first-year coordinator Bryan McClendon: “Don’t be surprised if the Gamecocks’ offense takes a big step forward this season,” Scarborough wrote. “Quarterback Jake Bentley having a year under his belt will help, as will the return of receiver Deebo Samuel, but more important there will be a new look to the unit with an emphasis on playing with greater pace.” As a sophomore in 2017, Bentley completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,794 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also led the team with 6 rushing touchdowns. Samuel, who played in just three games as a redshirt junior before exiting with a leg injury, scored 6 touchdowns last season. He caught 15 passes for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. He returned a pair of kickoffs for scores and rushed for another. All seven of the Gamecocks wide receivers who caught passes in 2017 are set to be back. Sophomore Chad Terrell suffered an ACL tear during spring practice and may not be available until after the start of the season. But top-ranked offensive signee, 4-star wide receiver Josh Vann, arrives later this month. South Carolina will have to find a replacement for tight end Hayden Hurst, who was selected in the first-round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
  12. ESPN analyst suggests position switch for Gamecocks quarterback May 02, 2018 Freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner hasn’t even finished his first semester as a member of the South Carolina football team. But according to ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill, the former 4-star recruit already needs to change positions. After Luginbill’s appearance on The Rich Taylor Show, he doubled down on his take in a response on Twitter.[/size] Before he arrived to South Carolina in January, Joyner was rated as a 4-star. According to the 247Sports composite, he was ranked as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback from the Class of 2018. Joyner completed 1 of 5 passes for 25 yards with an interception in the Garnet and Black spring game. He also rushed for 17 yards. On Wednesday morning, Joyner tweeted what is assumed to be a response to Luginbill’s thoughts about his future. Through much of his career at Fort Dorchester High School (North Charleston, S.C.), Joyner made it clear that he wanted to play quarterback in college. Last Thursday, following the first-round of the NFL Draft, Joyner (6-1, 206) stayed firm with his preferred position. Joyner is one of four scholarship quarterbacks on the South Carolina roster for 2018. Junior Jake Bentley has started the last 20 games and is expected to remain as the Gamecocks starter for at least one more season. Senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia has played only a handful of snaps at South Carolina. The other scholarship signal-caller, Jay Urich, redshirted in 2017.
  13. Deebo Samuel lands on multiple 2019 NFL mock drafts April 30, 2018 Even though the dust is just starting to settle on the 2018 NFL Draft, there’s already one South Carolina football player whose name has popped up on 2019 NFL mock drafts. Senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel is projected as a first-round selection in the 2019 draft by at least two outlets. R.J. White of CBSSports.com listed Samuel as a selection for the Dallas Cowboys at No. 21 overall. “The Cowboys drafted a nice receiver in Michael Gallup but should still be looking for impact players at the position,” White wrote. “The 2019 draft could be a good place to find starting-caliber receivers in Round 1. Samuel missed most of his junior year with a broken leg but still managed 6 combined touchdowns (3 receiving, 1 rushing, 2 as a return man) in three games. ” Joe Tansey from Bleacher Report had Samuel going with the No. 24 selection by the Atlanta Falcons. Throughout his career with the Gamecocks, Samuel has dealt with a series of hamstring injuries, in addition to the fractured leg, which cut his 2017 season short. Samuel (6-0, 210) was voted as the team’s co-MVP for the 2016, during which he had 59 catches for 783 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns over 10 games. He was also third among SEC pass catchers with 5.9 receptions per game. In five games as a redshirt freshman in 2015, Samuel caught 12 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. A majority of that production came in the season finale against Clemson: 5 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. If Samuel can stay on the field for every game in 2018, one would have to imagine that his draft stock will be helped tremendously, but that’s a bit if. SECCOUNTRY
  14. FeatheredCock

    Gamecock NFL draft wrap up

    Gamecock NFL draft wrap up April 30, 2018 South Carolina defensive lineman Ulric Jones is headed west (and north) for his first shot in the NFL. Jones tweeted Sunday night that he'll get a free agent opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks. The fifth-year senior played in all 13 games, making one start and recording 29 tackles and a sack. Hayden Hurst was Baltimore’s top pick in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft, but the former South Carolina tight end wasn’t the biggest name introduced to Ravens fans on Friday. Hurst appeared with fellow Baltimore first-round pick Lamar Jackson at a news conference Friday afternoon. The first four questions were directed to Jackson, and the first question Hurst received was about Jackson. “It’s a little bizarre,” Hurst said, “but he’s a dynamic player. He’s done it on the field. He deserves the recognition.” Hurst was picked with the 25th overall selection in the draft, becoming the first Gamecock taken in the first round since 2014 and the first offensive player from USC taken in the first round since Troy Williamson in 2007. Jackson was taken seven picks later at No. 32 overall, the final pick of the first round. Jackson, the former Louisville quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, was a polarizing figure in the draft because some analysts believe he was the best quarterback prospect while others believe his skillset won’t fit in the professional game. He was the fifth quarterback taken in the first round, behind Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. “I got my tight end right here,” Jackson said of Hurst. “He’s nice. I’ve watched the highlights.” “I have watched his tape as much as he’s watched mine, and I couldn’t be happier to be in the same organization,” Hurst said. “I saw them pick Lamar and just to know that he is going to be throwing me passes for the next however many years … He’s a dynamic player. I’m a dynamic player as well. That connection is going to be going on for a long time. It’s a great combination.” Skai Moore is reportedly headed to the heartland. The South Carolina football linebacker and longtime defensive stalwart expects to sign with the Indianapolis Colts according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The former Gamecocks linebacker , who is one of 15 players in the history of Division I football to lead his team in tackles for four seasons and tied South Carolina's career record for interceptions (14), was not selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. As productive as Moore was in his collegiate career, his size (6-foot-2, 224 pounds) wasn’t ideal to play linebacker in the NFL, and he ran a 4.73 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. By comparison, Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who was selected in the first round, is 256 pounds and ran a 4.65 40-yard dash. Moore also missed an entire season because of a neck injury. Jamarcus King went a long way from Alabama to Kansas for junior college on the way to joining South Carolina football. He'll make another long trip for his next step. King tweeted he's joining the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent after not getting picked in the NFL Draft. King came to USC as a four-star junior college prospect from Coffeyville. He took a few games to get into the starting lineup, and started his final 24 games. He had 51 and and 41 tackles in his two years, breaking up 21 passes and and picking off five. The 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, he ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Guard Cory Helms and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth probably squared off more than a few times across two years of South Carolina football practice. They might get a few more chances at one another. According to tweets from Helms and Stallworth's agent, both are headed to the New Orleans Saints as undrafted free agents. Hayden Hurst was the only Gamecock taken in the 2018 NFL draft. Stallworth (6-foot-2, 312 pounds) started career 31 games, including all 26 in his final two seasons. He made 41 and 30 tackles his final two seasons, with 5 1/2 tackles for loss and 12 hurries. He was a key factor in USC's run defense. Helms started 23 games at guard after transferring from Wake Forest. He is 6-foot-4, 309 pounds. Alan Knott was a longtime presence on South Carolina's offensive line. Dante Sawyer was an understated disruptor for the Gamecocks defensive front. Both tweeted Saturday night they'd found where they'll get their first chances in the NFL. Knott said he's bound for the San Francisco 49ers, while Sawyer is heading off to join the Kansas City Chiefs. They're part of a cadre of Gamecocks seniors who did not hear their name called across three days of the NFL draft. Hayden Hurst was the only Gamecock picked. Sawyer (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) bounced between end and tackle. He made some subtly impressive plays as a junior and then blossomed as a senior. In 2017, he had 30 tackles, 5 loss, 3 sacks, five pass breakups and forced five fumbles to tie for the most in the nation. He was named Second-Team All-SEC. Knott, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound center who spent five years in the program, started 42 games in Columbia. The rest of USC's players who signed as undrafted free agents included: ▪ CoryHelms signed with the New Orleans Saints, according to his Twitter account. ▪ Chris Lammons signed with the Atlanta Falcons, per the NFL Network. ▪ Taylro Stallworth signed with the New Orleans Saints, according to his agent's Twitter account. ▪ Jamarcus King signed with the Oakland Raiders, according to his Twitter account. ▪ Skai Moore is set to sign with the Indianapolis Colts according to a report from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
  15. Travaris Robinson sheds more light on Jamyest Williams, outlook for USC safeties April 20, 2018 With more than four months left before the 2018 football season, South Carolina’s coaches aren’t thinking of Jamyest Williams as a “safety” or a “cornerback.” “He’s a football player,” Gamecocks defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson told The State. Williams, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound defensive back who was the crown of the 2017 recruiting class, played nickel back as a true freshman and had 38 tackles and two interceptions, earning a spot on the All-SEC freshman team. However, he missed the Outback Bowl and spring practice due to a shoulder injury, and head coach Will Muschamp indicated this spring that he planned to move Williams to safety in the fall. “I’ve been around a lot of football players in my mind and one thing about guys like that, guys that compete, guys that can tackle, guys that can cover, they can play anywhere you need them,” Robinson said. “Jam is a guy who is an unselfish dude who is excited about the opportunity to learn more. That will help his career as he tries to get to the next level.” Robinson spoke to the Augusta Gamecock Club on Thursday and indicated to the crowd that Williams’ height is a major factor in the decision to give him a look at safety. South Carolina would like to keep Williams out of “jump ball” situations in which a taller receiver can simply out leap him for a reception in man-to-man coverage. The Gamecocks' lack of depth at safety also is a factor in Williams possible position switch. Muschamp indicated this spring that Steven Montac is the only safety he feels comfortable can play “championship football” at the moment. “I’m just as nervous, but we have some young guys who can help us,” said Robinson, who also is the team’s defensive backs coach. “You look at a young guy like R.J. Roderick, was a high school quarterback, hadn’t really done anything in the secondary, from practice one to practice 15 he’s a totally different dude. Jaylin Dickerson, we’ve got a couple guys that I’m very excited about.” THE STATE
  16. It’s goofy but I thought some of y’all might want to read this.
  17. Muschamp has move in mind for him, and it could shuffle the back of USC's defense April 19, 2018 South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp has something specific he wants out of defensive back Keisean Nixon. But what he wants him to do is something two of USC’s most experienced secondary players can also handle. If Muschamp does in fact slide Nixon inside to the slot corner position, it will create a shuffling effect in the back end of the Gamecocks defense. “Keisean can give you a physical presence in there against some of the bubble (screen) teams,” Muschamp said in an interview with SportsTalk. “Quite frankly, we’ve struggled on the perimeter supporting and setting edges of our defense. You look at some of the big plays we gave up last year.” Nixon spent his first season in Columbia working back from a late start. He didn’t arrive until after camp started in August, and it took a while for him to settle at corner instead of safety. He was never quite fully versed enough in the system for the staff to trust him in big spots. But he learned through the season, and the staff raved about his physicality. He picked off a pair of passes in garbage time, and after getting the bowl break to work on his skills, he started against Michigan and played well (four tackles). USC was actually one of the better teams in the country in terms of big-play prevention. But that was slanted toward the passing game, and Muschamp explained why Nixon’s strength could help moving into the box. “A lot of them were on the perimeter of not setting edges of the defense and tackling well in space,” Muschamp said. “That’s something we put an emphasis on. We did last year and made a little progress. I don’t know that we did much. We’ve got to continue to do a better job there.” The thing is, USC will return its primary nickel from 2017. Jamyest Williams played the spot last season, starting well but having to overcome injuries and inconsistency through the latter half of the season. The next nickel was starting safety Chris Lammons, now graduated, followed by Steven Montac, a backup safety who Muschamp said is the only returner he fully trusts at that spot. So things might well be shuffled. “Jamyest can be a safety of nickel for us,” Muschamp said. “He can play either safety position. Steven Montac can play nickel or safety.” If both players are at those spots, plus Rice grad transfer J.T. Ibe, it still means Nixon moving inside creates other questions. The former junior college star was also USC’s second-best outside corner at the moment, only behind Rashad Fenton. The next man up would be from the group of Tavyn Jackson (hurt last year and this spring), true freshman Israel Mukuamu, former receiver Korey Banks or freshman Jaycee Horn, who has yet to enroll. That’s a group that boasts some talent, but is also frightfully short on any kind of experience (zero college snaps on defense). But that might well be the way USC has to play things. “We’ve got some freshmen coming in that we think are talented,” Muschamp said. “We think they can help us, so we’ve got to get those guys on campus and see where it goes.” THE STATE
  18. The glaring problem with South Carolina's defense this spring April 17, 2018 For all the good things T.J. Brunson saw from South Carolina’s defense during spring practice, there was one thing that really bothered him. “We just need to keep working on getting the ball out,” the Gamecocks junior middle linebacker said. “The offense is doing a great job of holding onto the ball but defensively we still need to get the ball out. We definitely need more. It’s coming out but not enough.” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is glad Brunson noticed. “It’s something we chart every day,” Muschamp said. “(Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson) and our defensive staff do a fantastic job of coaching turnovers and emphasizing turnovers, we have not gotten the ball out well this spring at all.” The Gamecocks led the SEC and were tied for ninth in the nation last year with 28 takeaways (14 interceptions, 14 fumbles). Their plus-11 turnover margin was second in the SEC and tied for 13th in the nation. While Muschamp emphasized some of the lack of turnovers in spring practice should be credited to an offense which is doing a better job of protecting the ball, he pointed out some important things that the defense is missing this year. Those things are Skai Moore, Dante Sawyer, Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King. Those four players, who all exhausted their eligibility last year, combined for five interceptions, 24 pass breakups, six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Sawyer was tied for the national lead in five forced fumbles last year. “You take away a guy like Skai Moore and Dante Sawyer. Dante Sawyer led all defensive linemen in the SEC with havoc on the ball, getting the ball off people,” Muschamp said. “Those two guys were the two guys that jump out. Chris Lammons got his hands on a lot of balls. Jamarcus King got his hand on a lot of balls. Those four guys, we’re missing them.” So far, safety Steven Montac is the only player Muschamp has seen on the 2018 squad who has proven a similar ability to force turnovers. “Steven Montac has done a really good job this spring of getting the ball off people. He’s always had a knack,” the coach said. “A little bit of it is a knack a little bit of it is from an experience standpoint of being confident to be in position to make a play and when to take a shot at the ball. Sometimes with younger players if it’s not natural for them, you have to continue to rep it and talk about it.” Montac had three interceptions, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery last season. “We led the SEC in turnovers last year, but we haven’t been on that same pace,” safety Javon Charleston acknowledged during spring practice. “Right now, we’ve been trying to up the turnovers. THE STATE
  19. Projected Gamecocks pre-summer defensive depth chart April 17, 2018 Spring practice in the SEC is starting to wind down, but the South Carolina football team has been finished for almost two weeks. Several of the potential contributors for the 2018 defense were either injured, limited by injury or not on campus for spring practice last month, so the unit was never at full strength. What the Gamecocks 4-3 base defense could look like in the fall. Buck D.J. Wonnum, junior Brad Johnson, sophomore After emerging last season as the team’s top pass-rusher, Wonnum is set to contend for All-SEC honors in 2018. He could potentially see action at defensive end, in part because of Johnson’s emergence, who’s one of several potential options at the Buck position, which is a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end spot. Defensive end Shameik Blackshear, redshirt junior Aaron Sterling, sophomore It’s full-steam ahead for Blackshear, who looks and sounds like a guy ready to show on game days that he was worth the 4-star ranking in high school. He worked with the No. 1 defense in the spring game. Sterling gained valuable experience as a freshman and is expected to be a significant contributor again this fall, maybe even a starter. Defensive tackle Keir Thomas, junior Kobe Smith, junior Thomas, who’s played both tackle and end along the Gamecocks defensive line, is projected to start inside. Smith could be in line for starts, too. At the very least, he’ll be one of the first two backup options at tackle. Javon Kinlaw, junior Kingsley Enagbare, freshman A junior college transfer, Kinlaw was one of the top first-year players for South Carolina in 2017, if not the best. During the 15 practices this spring, Enagbare might have been the top first-year performer. Strongside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, senior Daniel Fennell, redshirt junior Allen-Williams is the wild-card. South Carolina’s defense may not have a more versatile or experienced player. Expect him to be used in variety of ways, not just strongside linebacker. Like Fennell, Allen-Williams could see time at Buck. Middle linebacker T.J. Brunson, junior Rosendo Louis, freshman The voice of the Gamecocks on this side of ball finished last season with the second-most tackles on the team. Brunson’s now primed to start making a name for himself around the SEC. At 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, Louis has the build to help out in goal line and short-yardage situations this fall. Weakside linebacker Sherrod Greene, sophomore Eldridge Thompson, senior Both are expected to have significant roles this fall. Greene can also play middle linebacker while Thompson is slated to work primarily at Skai Moore’s old position. Cornerback Rashad Fenton, senior Israel Mukuamu, freshman As a junior, Fenton was the Gamecocks best cornerback, and he’s back to occupy one of the starting spots in 2018. At 6-foot-4, 196 pounds, Mukuamu adds some much needed size and length to the position. Redshirt freshman Tavyn Jackson (hamstring) missed time this spring. Keisean Nixon, senior Korey Banks, redshirt sophomore Though Nixon played a limited number of snaps in 2017, he made the most of his opportunities. Now, he’s ready to start full-time, either at cornerback or nickel back. More competition is on the way for Banks, including 4-star signee Jaycee Horn. Safety Steven Montac, senior R.J. Roderick, freshman During his two seasons at South Carolina, Montac’s value has been in his versatility. He can play safety, nickel or cornerback, in a pinch. He’ll try to hold on to a starting safety job, but graduate transfer J.T. Ibe will arrive shortly from Rice. Jamyest Williams, sophomore Javon Charleston, redshirt junior Most of Williams’ playing time last season was at nickel back, but he’s set for a move to safety, once fully recovered from a shoulder injury, which sidelined him during spring practice. Charleston, a former walk-on wide receiver, entered and exited spring ball as the starter alongside Montac. Jaylin Dickerson (shoulder) was limited this spring. SECCOUNTRY
  20. Projected Gamecocks pre-summer offensive depth chart April 16, 2018 Spring practice in the SEC is starting to wind down, but the South Carolina football team has been finished for almost two weeks. Most, if not all, of the Gamecocks’ contributors on offense were on campus for spring ball, though a few were unable to participate in practice. SEC Country takes a look below at South Carolina’s projected offensive depth chart, before the third summer of the Will Muschamp era. Quarterback Jake Bentley, junior Michael Scarnecchia, redshirt senior If there was any doubt as to which quarterback was the top option on the South Carolina roster, it was settled during the spring game. Bentley, a 20-game starter, has more than solidified himself as the Gamecocks’ best signal-caller. There was, however, some question as to which backup would emerge this spring as the top option. Scarnecchia settled that, followed by Muschamp, who named him the No. 2 on Mar. 31. Redshirt freshman Jay Urich and freshman Dakereon Joyner will continue to battle for the third-team spot. Running back Ty’Son Williams, redshirt junior A.J. Turner, redshirt junior Rico Dowdle, junior Williams and Turner had explosive runs during the spring game, but the top spot is still up for grabs. Dowdle, who led the team in rushing as a freshman in 2016, missed all of spring practice with a hamstring injury. That trio, along with Mon Denson and Caleb Kinlaw, gives South Carolina plenty of options to pair with Bentley in the offensive backfield. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel, redshirt senior OrTre Smith, sophomore The injury concerns continue for Samuel, who looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate after two games last season. He’s back, but continues to battle back from a series of leg injuries that kept him off the field for a bulk of the 2017 campaign. When Samuel went down, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and was productive as a freshman. Later this year, former 4-star recruit Josh Vann could work into the mix, too. Shi Smith, sophomore Randrecous Davis, redshirt sophomore Working out of the slot, Smith didn’t drop a single pass as a freshman in 2017. Because there were so many injuries in the wide receiver group this spring, he was able to move around and work at a number of different spots, not just the slot. Davis was limited throughout the spring by injury, which has been the case for much of his career with the Gamecocks. Bryan Edwards, junior Chavis Dawkins, junior Edwards, the team’s best wide receiver not named Samuel, has had one of the most productive starts to a career in school history. Edwards could be in the midst of a breakout season in 2018. Injuries forced Dawkins to miss time near the end of spring practice. Assuming Chad Terrell can bounce back from ACL surgery from earlier this spring, he’ll compete for a rotation spot. Tight end Jacob August, senior Kyle Markway, redshirt junior Evan Hinson, redshirt sophomore The trio of tight ends will attempt to combine forces and replace Hayden Hurst, as he marches toward a career in the NFL. Hinson, who missed most of the spring because of basketball and class scheduling conflicts, could emerge as the starter before the end of the season. K.C. Crosby, redshirt senior Kiel Pollard, junior These tight ends are expected to continue to serve as H-backs. Both will chip into the effort to match Hurst’s production, but Crosby could be on the way to matching to the production he enjoyed in 2016. Left tackle Dennis Daley, senior Maxwell Iyama, freshman Daley took over at the position early last season and hasn’t let go. The junior college product has a couple of younger players nipping at his heels, including Iyama, who enrolled in January. Redshirt freshman Jordon Carty is also expected to compete for time behind Daley. Left guard Zack Bailey, senior Chandler Farrell, redshirt sophomore After serving as the starting right tackle in 2017, Bailey is back to his natural position. Farrell, a walk-on, was the first second-team left guard to join the offensive line for the spring game. There are a number of other options for the position. One might include 2018 signee Jovaughn Gwyn. Center Donell Stanley, redshirt junior Hank Manos, freshman Though Stanley was recently granted another season of eligibility, we suspect his fifth season will be his final season for the Gamecocks. He certainly has plenty of experience at guard. Manos, a highly-touted freshman, was among the midyear enrollees. Right guard Sadarius Hutcherson, redshirt sophomore Jordan Rhodes, redshirt freshman Hutcherson gained valuable experience last season, as he continued to learn how to play along the offensive line. Rhodes was recruited as a right tackle, but worked with the second-team at right guard during the spring game. Right tackle Blake Camper, senior Eric Douglas, redshirt freshman Camper proved last season that he’s capable of being a reliable right tackle. If the Gamecocks ever need to look in another direction, Malik Young would certainly be an option, in addition to Douglas. Douglas worked at the position with the second-team offense during the spring game while Young was out with an injury. But Young started several games at right tackle in 2016. SECCOUNTRY
  21. What South Carolina's coaches demand of players when they're outside the facility April 16, 2018 There’s a simple reason football, and really most other sports, has grown into a year-round pursuit for many athletes. The body is a machine that requires constant upkeep to operate at a peak level. The skills surely matter too, and there are arguments about honing them constantly or diversifying to avoid overuse. But athletes can gain a lot from living well and treating their bodies correctly. It’s not always the easiest to get a young person, athlete or not, to do that. College football players fall into that category, and while teams can do a lot, with offseason-scheduled lifts and training tables to feed players, much falls on their shoulders. “Anybody can do what’s asked of them when they’re in the building,” South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford said. “What about when you’re away from the building?” To a degree, that’s about getting in extra time in the weight room. He said in the past, a player like Blake Camper only attended when things were scheduled. Tight end Hayden Hurst, now getting ready for the NFL draft, was known as a constant presence on those weekends when no one said he needed to come in (and it paid off). Wolford had some other key tips: ▪ Get eight hours sleep ▪ Taking care of one’s body ▪ Eating, especially enough protein Although Wolford didn’t mention it, Will Muschamp has pointed to hydration as something players are responsible for numerous times. The head coach had to have a talk with tailback Rico Dowdle, potentially his top running back, about what he called “hydration, living the right way, getting the right amount of sleep and straining all the time. THE STATE
  22. Numbers not pretty for Gamecocks running game, which explains some things April 13, 2018 Since being hired in December of 2015, South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp has been harping about his team’s ability to run the football. Here’s why: Only one team in the Southeastern Conference has averaged fewer yards per rushing attempt in the last decade than the Gamecocks. South Carolina is averaging 4 yards per carry the last 10 years, which ranks 13th in the league, ahead of only Vanderbilt (3.91), and the correlation between yards per carry and the conference title is clear. The average finish of the SEC champion in yards per carry the last 10 years is 2.3. Only once in that time has the SEC champion finished outside the top four in the conference in yards per carry (Alabama, sixth, 2015). Four times, the champ has finished first (Georgia, 2017; Auburn, 2013; Auburn, 2010; Florida, 2008). On the flip side, South Carolina has finished last in the conference in yards per carry four times in the last 10 years – 2016, 2012, 2009 and 2008. No other team in the league has done it as many times. Only once in that time span has South Carolina finished in the top half of the SEC in yards per carry (2011, third). In Muschamp’s two seasons, the Gamecocks have finished 12th and 14th in the conference in yards per carry. South Carolina returns its top three running backs from the 2017 team – A.J. Turner (5.4 ypc), Ty’Son Williams (5 ypc) and Rico Dowdle (3.8 ypc). GROUNDED We took at yards per carry in the last 10 years in the Southeastern Conference. The numbers are not pretty for the Gamecocks, which explains why head coach Will Muschamp keeps talking about improving the run game. Last Ten Years 1. Alabama 5.278 2. Auburn 4.985 3. Texas A&M 4.96 4. LSU 4.837 5. Georgia 4.828 6. Mississippi State 4.644 7. Missouri 4.59 8. Mississippi 4.456 9. Arkansas 4.462 10. Florida 4.361 11. Kentucky 4.308 12. Tennessee 4.064 13. South Carolina 4.004 14. Vanderbilt 3.910 2017 Georgia 5.79 Alabama 5.73 Missouri 5.18 Mississippi State 5.16 LSU 4.79 Auburn 4.76 Arkansas 4.36 Mississippi 4.34 Kentucky 4.31 Florida 4.30 Texas A&M 4.00 South Carolina 3.92 Vanderbilt 3.70 Tennessee 3.41 2016 LSU 6.09 Alabama 5.75 Texas A&M 5.69 Mississippi State 5.63 Auburn 5.47 Kentucky 5.44 Tennessee 5.16 Missouri 4.92 Georgia 4.66 Vanderbilt 4.30 Mississippi 4.25 Arkansas 4.13 Florida 3.69 South Carolina 3.68 2015 LSU 6.10 Georgia 5.14 Mississippi 5.14 Arkansas 5.01 Tennessee 4.71 Alabama 4.67 Kentucky 4.66 South Carolina 4.39 Mississippi State 4.39 Auburn 4.35 Texas A&M 4.35 Vanderbilt 3.75 Missouri 3.49 Florida 3.48 2014 Georgia 6.04 Auburn 5.47 Mississippi State 5.24 Alabama 5.10 Arkansas 5.09 LSU 4.70 Texas A&M 4.63 Missouri 4.62 South Carolina 4.37 Florida 4.36 Mississippi 4.25 Kentucky 4.14 Tennessee 3.63 Vanderbilt 3.42 2013 Auburn 6.30 Alabama 5.80 Missouri 5.66 Arkansas 5.28 Texas A&M 5.17 LSU 5.03 Tennessee 4.92 South Carolina 4.80 Mississippi State 4.69 Mississippi 4.68 Georgia 4.55 Kentucky 4.12 Florida 3.63 Vanderbilt 3.59 2012 Texas A&M 5.90 Alabama 5.59 Georgia 4.87 Tennessee 4.66 Florida 4.53 Mississippi State 4.42 LSU 4.28 Vanderbilt 4.13 Kentucky 4.13 Mississippi 4.09 Auburn 4.07 Arkansas 3.88 Missouri 3.67 South Carolina 3.67 2011 Alabama 5.49 LSU 4.80 South Carolina 4.52 Mississippi State 4.44 Auburn 4.42 Arkansas 4.33 Vanderbilt 4.30 Florida 3.96 Georgia 3.95 Kentucky 3.48 Mississippi 3.36 Tennessee 2.76 2010 Auburn 6.12 Alabama 5.09 Mississippi 5.02 Arkansas 4.60 Kentucky 4.56 Mississippi State 4.53 LSU 4.53 Florida 4.13 South Carolina 4.14 Georgia 4.07 Vanderbilt 3.96 Tennessee 3.48 2009 Florida 5.59 Alabama 5.01 Auburn 5.01 Mississippi State 4.87 Mississippi 4.78 Georgia 4.68 Kentucky 4.51 Arkansas 4.34 Tennessee 4.30 Vanderbilt 4.26 LSU 3.67 South Carolina 3.62 2008 Florida 5.94 Mississippi 4.65 Alabama 4.55 Georgia 4.53 LSU 4.38 Kentucky 3.73 Vanderbilt 3.69 Tennessee 3.61 Arkansas 3.60 Auburn 3.50 Mississippi State 3.07 South Carolina 2.93
  23. Who blossomed, who's still around from Muschamp's first USC class April 12, 2018 Will Muschamp's first class at South Carolina fit the bill of what it was: a transition class. There were holdovers from Steve Spurrier's commits, local talent the last staff hadn't gotten in on, the odd decommit who had to be brought back into the fold and a headlong rush to fill the group. So two year's later, how did the No. 25 class in the 247Composite do and who is still around? Stars Bryan Edwards, WR – A starter from Day 1, he’s had 1,383 yards and nine scores on 108 catches in two seasons. That includes 793 yards last season, when he was USC’s top pass catcher. T.J. Brunson, LB – A local product who spent his first season working behind a crew of veterans. As a sophomore, he started and was second on the team with 88 tackles, plus two sacks, three fumbles and a couple sacks. He's considered the leader of USC's defense going forward. Dennis Wonnum, Buck – Now D.J., he’s blossomed into one of the better pass rushers in the conference. After working as the No. 2 behind Darius English, he was fourth on the team with 57 tackles, plus 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. Rico Dowdle, RB – After recovering from a groin injury at the start of his freshman year, he ran for 764 yards and six touchdowns. He only averaged 3.8 yards a carry in an injury plagued sophomore season before an ankle put him on the shelf for five of the final six games. Keir Thomas, DT – Forced into action early as an undersized defensive tackle, Thomas has grown into a key part of USC’s defensive line. He’s shown a knack for plays that are subtly impressive and made 38 tackles with 4 1/2 loss and a pair of sacks last season. He projects as a key part of the interior line next fall. Contributors Jamarcus King, CB – One of the top junior college players in the country, he worked his way into starting two up and down seasons. He showed promise his first year, finished on a down note, started 2017 poorly and then came on late. He made 96 tackles, broke up 21 passes and had five interceptions in his USC career. Randrecous Davis, WR – He started a game as a freshman before getting hurt and was the team’s fourth-most used receiver last season. He has 10 career receptions for 100 yards, four of those receptions against Michigan in the bowl. Sadarius Hutcherson, OL – After coming through a transition to college-level pass blocking, the high-ceilinged athlete made four starts last season. He projects as a starting guard next year. Chavis Dawkins, WR – In a crowded wide receiver room, he’s worked for snaps here and there. He’s played 24 total games with a pair of starts and 84 snaps last season. He has 10 career catches for 87 yards. Kobe Smith, DT – The early enrollee has played in 24 games the past two season, mostly at the back end of the defensive tackle rotation. The coaches have spoken highly of him and what he might be able to do as a potential starter next year. Special teams or less Evan Hinson, TE – After redshirting, he saw a few snaps on offense but was a useful part of special teams. He could be a key player at the position in 2018, but he’s also split time with basketball. Kiel Pollard, TE – A late flip from Arkansas, the 6-foot-1, 236 pound tight end has yet to find his offensive niche. He got fewer than 30 snaps on offense, but has played in 25 of 26 games since coming to campus. He has two career catches for 22 yards. Korey Banks, CB – Played six games at wide receiver as a freshman, catching one pass. Redshirted last season while converting to defense, and coaches mentioned him as a potential contributor in 2018. Aaron Thompson, DT – Has yet to play in two seasons on campus. Griffin Gentry, DL – Has yet to play in two seasons, though coaches mentioned his work this spring. Will Putnam, OL – Has yet to play in a game. Transfers or no longer with team Brandon McIlwain, QB – Started three games, threw for 600 yards and ran for 127 in his freshman season. Left the team after Jake Bentley emerged and was playing more for the baseball team. Currently in spring practice at Cal. Robert Tucker, TE – Career was ended by a neck, spinal issue. Stephon Taylor, DT – Left after spring practice following a redshirt freshman season. Akeem Cooperwood, OL – The 6-foot-7, 359 pounder never made it to campus. Darius Whitfield, OL – Left USC after his first season on campus before the bowl game. Pete Leota, OL – Left the team in January after his freshman season. C.J. Freeman, RB – Left the team following the 2017 season. Never played on account of nagging injuries. Chris Smith, DB – Took a medical hardship before the 2017 season. Bonus pick Jake Bentley, QB – Not part of the signing day class, he was part of Will Muschamp’s first haul after eschewing his fresman season and enrolling early. After looking like a redshirt for half the season, he’s gone 13-7 as a start, including 9-4 last season, and is all but guaranteed to start next year and the year after, give or take health and maybe leaving early. THE STATE
  24. What do future Gamecocks quarterbacks look like? April 10, 2018 Six days ago, the South Carolina football team landed its first quarterback commitment with Dan Werner as position coach. Four-star Ryan Hilinski, a pro-style passer from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, jumped on board with South Carolina’s Class of 2019 last Thursday afternoon, when he announced his commitment to the Gamecocks. Near the end of South Carolina’s spring practice in March, SEC Country asked Hilinski’s future position coach what he looks for when evaluating high school quarterbacks. “The big thing is, first of all, does he have a good enough arm to play at this level? That’s the first thing you have to look at,” Werner said. “Once you see that, then you look at pocket presence, decision-making. Is he a winner? “If a guy was 2-9, but he was really good, that scares me a little bit, so there’s so many different factors.” In two seasons at Orange Lutheran, Hilinski is 11-11 as the starting quarterback. He has thrown for 5,331 yards with 45 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and completed more than 60 percent of his passes. “If a guy is real big, then he doesn’t have to be quite as fast. If he’s a little smaller, maybe he needs to be faster, so there’s all different things that we look at,” Werner said. “You can see on our roster, we’ve got several different types of players, but if they’re winners and they can help us win football games, let’s get them.” Before Hilinski scored his Elite 11 invite at The Opening in Los Angeles, he was measured at 6-foot-4, 222 pounds. He ran 4.99 in the 40-yard-dash and 4.76 in the shuttle. SECCOUNTRY
  25. USC offense analysis for 2018: Everything I think I know April 10, 2018 People ask me often what I think about South Carolina’s football team, which makes perfect sense considering it’s my job to know things, or at least think things, about the Gamecocks. In that spirit, and since we have 21 long weeks between now and the Sept. 1 season opener against Coastal Carolina, I thought I’d write up everything I think I know about South Carolina football after the Gamecocks’ 2018 spring practice. This might get a little wordy, forgive me. We'll start with offense today and go from there. Quarterback Junior Jake Bentley clearly will be the starting quarterback. Senior Michael Scarnecchia has earned the trust of the coaches and also understands he’s the just-in-case guy. Freshmen Jay Urich and Dakereon Joyner aren’t ready to contribute. And, here’s the thing about Bentley: I don’t get the angst around him as the starting quarterback. Yes, he missed some passes in 2017. Yes, his touchdown-to-interception ratio (27-to-16 for his career) isn’t great, but to think the Gamecocks need to find a different or better option is silly. Bentley has started 20 consecutive games. South Carolina is 13-7 in that time. His career completion percentage is 63.4, which would have ranked 24th in the nation last year, and he’s grown very comfortable in the Gamecocks’ faster offensive system. At 6-foot-4, it’s possible (not likely, but possible) that Bentley could have the type of season that would lead him to skip his final year of college and enter the NFL Draft early. People who believe that South Carolina would be better off if Bentley weren’t the starter better hope they don’t get their wish. Running back What was billed (by people including myself) as a potential three-headed monster at tailback has not developed into that. Instead, A.J. Turner, Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams enter their junior seasons with South Carolina still looking for a lead running back, or a running game at all for that matter. The Gamecocks have finished 13th and 14th in the SEC in yards per carry in head coach Will Muschamp’s first two seasons, and South Carolina’s inability to establish anything resembling a consistent ground game is a big reason Muschamp is fully committed to an up tempo offense this year. It looks like the Gamecocks have decided they can’t run the ball effectively against the types of teams they would like to measure themselves against (Alabama, Clemson and Georgia) with a traditional running attack, and I think they’re right. Offensive Line South Carolina is entering the 10th (heck, maybe the 50th) consecutive season in which it expects its offensive line to be better than it was the year before. It’s also on a pretty long streak of being wrong about, or at least not right enough about, that prediction. Gamecocks offensive line coach Eric Wolford made an interesting statement this spring, saying that offensive line coaches across the country are becoming alarmed at the rate at which defensive line personnel is eclipsing offensive line personnel. This is not excuse-making by Wolford. It’s clear every Saturday that more of the athletic big guys are playing on defensive lines than offensive lines. The Gamecocks appear to have landed on five players up front that they like this year, but they need a big and consistent year from Zack Bailey to reach their potential. The move of 318-pound Donell Stanley to center gives the Gamecocks more bulk than they’ve had at the position in a while, which could help shore up their inside zone run, which has been handicapped of late by an inability to get push in the middle of the offensive line. Depth is an issue, though, a big issue. It looks like Malik Young is the sixth offensive lineman at the moment. Muschamp says nice things about Young, but the fact that he briefly moved him to defensive line this spring speaks louder than those words. Wide Receiver/Tight End It’s hard to quantify the value of Deebo Samuel’s return. Actually, maybe it’s not that hard. South Carolina averaged 33 points in the two games he finished last year and 20.7 points in the 11 games he did not. Samuel was basically healthy this spring, but Muschamp kept him out of all contact drills. Muschamp stopped just short of wrapping Samuel in bubble wrap, and he may actually do that at some point this offseason. Samuel is one of the most dynamic players in the SEC and will be motivated this year to prove to NFL scouts that those two games last year were no joke. The Gamecocks also have the best No. 2 wide receiver in the SEC in Bryan Edwards. He did a fair impression of a No. 1 wide receiver last year with Samuel out, and he’ll be able to take advantage of all the attention Samuel gets this year. The rest of the pass-catching options engender less confidence. Yes, OrTre Smith and Shi Smith have the look of the future, but both need to make strides in consistency to fill out the numbers the Gamecocks need at wide receiver. Randrecous Davis has talent but can’t get healthy to get on the field. In short, South Carolina needs more wide receivers. At tight end, Jacob August will get more passes his way than people think, but neither he nor K.C. Crosby nor Kiel Pollard, nor anybody else, is going to replace Hayden Hurst. THE STATE

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