THE HISTORY: 2019 marks the 126th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 113th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 612-584-44, a .511 winning percentage.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: The 2019 season marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 South Carolina squad that won the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a perfect 6-0 mark under Paul Dietzel. That team was rewarded with a trip to the Peach Bowl. 2019 also marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 South Carolina team that went 7-5 including the school's first bowl victory - a 24-21 win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The 2019 season marks South Carolina's 28th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 97-125-1 (.437) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 42-37 (.532) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
SENIOR SALUTE: The Gamecocks will recognize their 2019 senior class prior to Saturday's kick. The 26 players expected to take part in Senior Day festivities include Michael Almond, Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Joseph Charlton, Chavis Dawkins, Mon Denson, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Daniel Fennell, Tavien Feaster, Jaylan Foster, Bailey Hart, Sadarius Hutcherson, J.T. Ibe, Javon Kinlaw, Caleb Kinlaw, Kyle Markway, Matt Oliveira, Jazuun Outlaw, Kiel Pollard, Kobe Smith, Donell Stanley, Will Tommie, A.J. Turner, Eldridge Thompson and D.J. Wonnum.
CAROLINA VS. APP STATE: This is the 10th gridiron match between South Carolina and Appalachian State, but the first time the two schools have met as FBS members. The Gamecocks and Mountaineers played nine times between 1972 and 1988 when App State was in the FCS or Division I-AA, with Carolina winning eight of those nine contests, which were all played in Columbia.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: South Carolina rolled to a 35-9 win over App State on Oct. 1, 1988 at Williams-Brice Stadium in their last meeting. The seventh-ranked Gamecocks limited ASU, the second-ranked team in Division I-AA to 33 yards rushing on 35 carries and forced six turnovers, including a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by Dale Campbell. The offense took advantage of the positive field position. Harold Green and Mike Dingle both scored twice from inside five yards, while Todd Ellis completed 19-of-34 passes for 205 yards. Carolina, under head coach Joe Morrison, finished the '88 season with an 8-4 mark, while App State went 6-4-1 under Sparky Woods.
OUT OF THE WOODS: Sparky Woods was the App State head coach the last time the Mountaineers visited Columbia back in 1988. The next season, Woods was the Carolina head coach, replacing the late Joe Morrison. Woods spent five seasons as the head coach in Boone, logging a 38-19-2 record from 1984-88, before heading up the Gamecock program for five seasons from 1989-93, posting a 24-28-3 mark. Woods was the Southern Conference Coach of the Year for three-straight seasons from 1985-87.
THE LONE MOUNTAINEER WIN: App State's Robbie Price put on an offensive show in a 39-34 triumph over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 8, 1975. After South Carolina scooped up a Price fumble and returned it for a score, ASU got on the board with a 77-yard drive that was capped off by a John Craig score. The TD was especially sweet for Craig who began his career with the Gamecocks two years earlier. Appalachian led at the half, 24-14, but South Carolina came out quick in the third quarter, and reduced the Appalachian lead to four when Jeff Grantz scored from two yards out. Price answered with a 32-yard touchdown pass. Carolina rallied again to take the lead, 34-30. However, the Mountaineers responded with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Price to Donnie Holt. An interception led to a late field goal, providing the margin of victory.
FUN IN THE SUN BELT: The Gamecocks own a 16-1 all-time record against teams that currently comprise the Sun Belt Conference, with all 17 contests held in Columbia. In addition to being 8-1 against Appalachian State, Carolina is 3-0 vs. Troy (2004, '05, '10), 2-0 against Coastal Carolina (2013, '18) and Louisiana-Lafayette (2003, '07), and 1-0 vs. South Alabama (2014). The Gamecocks are scheduled to host Troy in 2021, Georgia State in 2022, and App State in 2027, and will travel to Boone in 2025.
WELCOME BACK PAT: Appalachian State wide receivers coach Pat Washington returns to Columbia, where he served as the tight ends coach on Coach Muschamp's staff from 2016-18. He most notably coached first-round draft pick Hayden Hurst during his time in Columbia.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: Carolina strength & Conditioning Coach Jeff Dillman served in a similar capacity at Appalachian State from 2006-09. Gamecock offensive graduate assistants Jamal Londry-Jackson (2009-13) and Taylor Lamb (2013-17) both were highly-successful quarterbacks at App State. Lamb is the second-leading passer in Mountaineer school history, while Londry-Jackson is fifth on that list.
EXTRA PREP TIME: Each of South Carolina's final four opponents have extra time to prepare for the Gamecocks. Vandy was coming off a bye week before last week's game. App State last played on Thursday, Oct. 31, so the Mountaineers have nine days to prepare for South Carolina. Carolina's final two opponents, Texas A&M and Clemson, also have a bye week before meeting the Gamecocks, giving them two weeks to prepare.
NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are 32-9 in their last 41 non-conference games, with five of the nine losses in that stretch coming against Clemson.
THE POWER OF FIVE: Since the turn of the century, the Gamecocks have a 46-3 mark against teams not currently in a Power 5 conference. The only three losses in that stretch came to UConn in the 2010 Papajohns.com Bowl, to The Citadel in 2015 and to South Florida in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl. It should be noted that UConn was in the Big East, which was a BCS automatic qualifier during the 2009 season.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE: Carolina has won 31 of its last 34 home games against non-conference foes. The Gamecocks had won a school-record 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to The Citadel and Clemson.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks posted a convincing 24-7 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Gamecocks used a balanced offense, rushing 49 times for 205 yards and passing 31 times for 235 yards. Bryan Edwards was the star, matching a school record with 14 receptions for 139 yards and a score. Redshirt freshman Deshaun Fenwick, who hadn't had a carry all season, rushed 18 times for 102 yards. Defensively, the Gamecocks held Vandy to just 189 yards, 95 in the first quarter and just 94 over the final three periods. It was the fewest yards allowed by a Carolina defense since Florida logged 183 in the 2012 game.
ANOTHER RECORD FOR EDWARDS: Senior wide receiver Bryan Edwards caught a career-high 14 passes for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt. The 14 receptions tied the school record for a single game, jointly held by Zola Davis, Kenny McKinley, Tori Gurley and Deebo Samuel.
OFF THE BENCH: Redshirt freshman Deshaun Fenwick came off the bench to rush 18 times for 102 yards in the win over Vandy. They were Fenwick's first carries of the season. He has carries in just three games in his career, but has gone over the 100-yard barrier twice. Fenwick became the fifth Gamecock to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, joining Rico Dowdle, Tavien Feaster, Mon Denson and Kevin Harris.
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks started true freshmen wide receiver Xavier Legette and right tackle Jakai Moore for the first time against Vanderbilt. Legette and Moore join Ryan Hilinski, Jaylen Nichols, Jammie Robinson and John Dixon as true freshmen who have cracked the starting lineup this season.
AMONG THE LEADERS: Several Gamecocks are listed in the SEC's top-10 this week:
Passing Avg/Game - Ryan Hilinski - 5th - 219.0
Receptions/Game - Bryan Edwards -1st - 6.9
Receiving Yds/Game - Bryan Edwards - 5th - 80.7
Total Offense - Ryan Hilinski - 8th - 214.5
Scoring - Parker White - 10th - 6.8
Scoring (Kick) - Parker White - 8th - 6.8
Kick Returns - Shi Smith - 6th - 21.9
Punting - Joseph Charlton - 3rd - 47.9
Field Goals - Parker White - t5th - 1.33
PAT Kicking Pct. - Parker White - t1st - 100.0
Tackles - T.J. Brunson - 10th - 7.3
Sacks - Aaron Sterling - t2nd -0.67
Sacks - Javon Kinlaw - t6th - 0.56
Sacks - D.J. Wonnum - t9th - 0.50
Tackles for loss - D.J. Wonnum - 1st - 1.06
Tackles for loss - Aaron Sterling - 4th - 1.00
Passes Defended - Israel Mukuamu - 6th - 1.11
Interceptions - Israel Mukuamu - 4th - 0.44
Fumbles Forced - Jaycee Horn - t7th - 0.22
Fumbles Recovered - Javon Kinlaw - t3rd - 0.22
BENTLEY IS IN THE GARAGE: Senior Jake Bentley triggered the offense from the middle of the 2016 season through the first game of the 2019 campaign. A 6-4, 220-pounder from Opelika, Ala., Bentley suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot on the last play against North Carolina and is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery during the second week of September. Bentley logged a 19-14 record as the starting signal-caller. He ranks near the top of many Carolina career statistical categories:
Pass Attempts - 1,002 (4th)
Pass Completions - 626 (3rd)
Completion Percentage - 62.5 (2nd)
Passing Yards - 7,527 (4th)
Passing Touchdowns - 55 (3rd)
Career Wins - 19 (6th)
Touchdowns Responsible For - 63 (t3rd)
NEXT MAN UP: True freshman Ryan Hilinski has taken the starting quarterback reins. Like Bentley, Hilinski, a highly-touted 6-3, 230-pound signal-caller from California, comes from a quarterbacking family. His brother Kelly played QB at Columbia and Weber State, while his brother, the late Tyler Hilinski, was a quarterback at Washington State. Hilinski joined the team in January and went through spring drills. He made his debut against Charleston Southern by hitting his first 12 passes and finished the day 24-of-30 for 282 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. His 259 yards in the first half is the most passing yards by a true freshman quarterback in a single half this season. He followed that up with a 36-for-57, 324-yard, two-touchdown performance against Alabama, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. He recorded his second 300-yard passing game at Tennessee, completing 28-of-51 for 319 yards. He is 4-4 as a starter, connecting on 172-of-281 passes (61.2 pct.) for 1,752 yards with 10 TDs and three interceptions. His 219.0 passing yards per game is tops among SEC freshmen quarterbacks, fifth overall in the SEC and seventh among all freshmen quarterbacks in the country.
THE SIXTH MAN: When he got the call against Charleston Southern in week 2, Ryan Hilinki became just the sixth true freshman to start at quarterback for the Gamecocks since joining the SEC. Steve Taneyhill (1992), Mikal Goodman (1999), Lorenzo Nuñez (2015), Brandon McIlwain (2016) and Jake Bentley (2016) were the others. Here's how they each fared in their first career start:
Quarterback Opp. W/L C A I Yds TD
S. Taneyhill Miss State W 7 14 1 183 2
M. Goodman Ole Miss L 8 15 0 147 0
L. Nuñez UCF W 12 22 0 184 2
B. McIlwain ECU W 16 28 0 195 0
J. Bentley UMass W 17 26 0 201 2
R. Hilinski Chas. So. W 24 30 1 282 2
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: Making just his second career start and his first against an FBS opponent, true freshman Ryan Hilinski completed 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns against Alabama, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. The 57 attempts were the second-most in a single-game in school history, topped only by the 58 that Steve Taneyhill threw against East Carolina in 1994, while the 36 completions ranks third in school history, topped only by Taneyhill on two occasions - 39 vs. ECU in '94 and 38 vs. Mississippi State in 1995. Hilinski became just the second freshman in program history to throw for more than 300 yards against an SEC opponent, joining Todd Ellis, who threw for 342 yards against Georgia in 1986. Hilinski also completed 28-of-51 passes for 319 yards at Tennessee, becoming the first Carolina true freshman to throw for over 300 yards twice.
PASS ATTEMPTS - GAME
1. Steve Taneyhill vs. East Carolina (10/8/94)....... 58
2. Ryan Hilinski vs. Alabama (9/14/19)................ 57
3. Todd Ellis vs. Virginia Tech (10/8/88).............. 53
Stephen Garcia at Georgia (9/12/09)................. 53
5. 4 players tied, last: Hilinski at Tenn. (10/26/19).... 51
PASS COMPLETIONS - GAME
1. Steve Taneyhill vs. East Carolina (10/8/94)....... 39
2. Steve Taneyhill vs. Mississippi St. (10/14/95).... 38
3. Ryan Hilinski vs. Alabama (9/14/19)................ 36
PROTECT THE BALL: Since throwing a pick-6 at Missouri, Ryan Hilinski has fired 167 passes without an interception, the longest current active streak in the FBS. Connor Shaw holds the school record for consecutive passes without an interception at 177.
ACTIVE PASS ATTEMPTS WITHOUT AN INT
1. Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina.................... 167
2. Shai Werts, Georgia Southern...................... 166
3. Tommy DeVito, Syracuse............................ 131
4. Mason Fine, North Texas............................... 97
5. Bryce Carpenter, Coastal Carolina.................. 96
6. Dillon Gabriel, UCF...................................... 92
SOUTH CAROLINA CONSECUTIVE PASSES WITHOUT AN INT
1. Connor Shaw (2012-13).............................. 177
2. Ryan Hilinski (2019)................................... 167
3. Steve Taneyhill (1995)................................. 163
BUT HE'S SO YOUNG: Ryan Hilinski already holds the school record for a true freshman quarterback in pass completions (172), pass attempts (281), yards passing (1,752) and touchdowns thrown (10). He is the only true freshman quarterback to have a pair of 300-yard passing games in school history. Todd Ellis had three 300-yard passing games as a redshirt freshman in 1986.
DO IT ALL DAKEREON: Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner began the season as the number 3 quarterback, moved to wide receiver, and has now returned to quarterback on a full-time basis. Joyner saw his first extended action at quarterback at Missouri, completing 6-of-11 passes for 89 yards. He was not available for the Kentucky game with a hamstring injury, then, despite not being 100 percent, was forced into action at Georgia after Hilinski was injured. He was 6-for-12 in that contest for 39 yards and rushed six times for 28 yards. He sat out the two games while continuing to allow the hamstring to heal, before returning against Vanderbilt. For the season, he is 13-of-24 for 128 yards, and has rushed 22 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. If Hilinski and Joyner were unavailable, Jay Urich, who also has been used as a wide receiver this season, would be next in line.
TAILBACK BY COMMITTEE: Running backs coach Thomas Brown has a trio of senior running backs at his disposal in Rico Dowdle, graduate transfer Tavien Feaster and Mon Denson, but has also dipped in to use a pair of freshmen in Deshaun Fenwick and Kevin Harris.
FIVE REACH THE CENTURY MARK: The Gamecocks have had five rushers reach the 100-yard mark this season, with Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster both eclipsing the mark twice, and Mon Denson, Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick each doing so once. South Carolina is one of only three schools in the country to have five different 100-yard rushers in a game this season, joining Georgia Southern (6) and Houston (5).
DOWDLE DOES IT: Rico Dowdle (6-0, 215) started each of the first seven games before missing the last two contests with a knee injury. He has rushed 78 times for 457 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and four scores. He has two 100-yard rushing games in 2019 (Alabama and Kentucky), and eight in his career. He owns 2,126 yards, 15th on the school's all-time list. He has scored 16 rushing TDs (three shy of breaking into the school's top 10) in 36 games including 25 starts. He left the Florida game with a knee injury after just one carry, the 400th of his career.
FEASTER STEPS IN: Tavien Feaster (6-0, 221) has been the Gamecocks' top rusher four times this season, rushing for 72 yards in the season opener against North Carolina, for 107 yards in the win over Kentucky, for a career-high 175 yards on 25 carries against Florida and for 80 yards at Tennessee. For the season, he has carried 112 times for a team-leading 625 yards, a 5.6-yard average, with five TDs. Feaster, who played at Clemson in each of the previous three seasons, has rushed 334 times for 1,955 yards with 20 touchdowns over 50 career games including 14 starts.
NO FAMINE FOR FEASTER: When starting running back Rico Dowdle left the Florida game with a knee injury after just one carry, senior Tavien Feaster stepped in and put together the best game of his career, rushing 25 times for 175 yards and a touchdown. It was the most rushing yards for a Gamecock since Dowdle logged 226 yards against Western Carolina in 2016 and the most for a Carolina running back against an SEC opponent since Mike Davis went for 183 against Kentucky in 2014. Here are the top rushing performances by Carolina running backs against SEC defenses:
Date Name Opponent Yards
11/13/10 Marcus Lattimore Florida 212
10/12/96 Duce Staley Kentucky 193
10/30/10 Marcus Lattimore Tennessee 184
10/04/14 Mike Davis Kentucky 183
09/11/10 Marcus Lattimore Georgia 176
10/19/19 Tavien Feaster Florida 175
HE'S THE MON: Mon Denson (5-10, 215) has carried the ball in five games this season, including nine times for a career-high 118 yards against Charleston Southern, highlighted by a 57-yard touchdown burst, his third-career 100-yard rushing game. For the season, he is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, rushing 39 times for 232 yards. He has seven rushing touchdowns in 30 games including a pair of starts.
DESHAUN DE MAN: Redshirt freshman Deshaun Fenwick had not had a carry all season and had not seen the field since the season opener against North Carolina when his number was called against Vanderbilt. He responded with an 18-carry, 102-yard performance in the Carolina win. The situation was not completely unfamiliar for Fenwick, as he watched the first nine games of the 2018 season from the bench before making his collegiate debut against Chattanooga, and responded with a 17-carry, 112-yard effort in that contest. He has carried 39 times for 217 yards in four games in his career.
WHO'S THE NEW GUY? True freshman Kevin Harris made his Gamecock debut a memorable one against Charleston Southern. He rushed six times for 147 yards with three touchdowns. The three rushing TDs tied the school record and he became the first true freshman to score three rushing touchdowns since Marcus Lattimore in 2010. Harris scored from 1-, 45- and 75-yards out. He became the third true freshman to rush for 100 yards in his debut in the last 20 years, joining Derek Watson (118 vs. NC State in 1999) and Deshaun Fenwick (112 vs. Chattanooga in 2018). Harris was sidelined with a sports hernia for what was originally thought to be a season-ender, but has made a speedy recovery and returned to the active roster, logging 10 carries for 20 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt. Harris is averaging 10.4 yards per carry in his limited duty.
THIS GUY IS ON FIRE: Senior wide receiver Bryan Edwards is having a tremendous final campaign, as he continues to make his mark among the top wide receivers in school history. He has caught a pass in all 47 games in which he has appeared, surpassing Kenny McKinley's mark of 43 for a school record. After being limited to just one catch for seven yards against North Carolina, Edwards has been "Mr. Consistent," catching at least five passes in every game since, while putting together consecutive games of 5 catches, 112 yards vs Charleston Southern, 9-for-79 vs. Alabama, 6-for-113 at Mizzou, 6-for-37 vs. Kentucky, 6-for-78 yards at Georgia, 7-for-78 vs. Florida, 8-for-83 at Tennessee and a career-best 14-for-139 against Vanderbilt. He is the school record holder with 225 career receptions, breaking Kenny McKinley's mark of 207. Edwards also has moved past McKinley in career receiving yards with 2,955, trailing only Alshon Jeffery (3,042). Edwards owns 21 career TDs, third on the school's all-time list, behind only Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery's mark of 23. He has eight career 100-yard receiving games, including three this season.
TAKING AIM ON THE SEC: Bryan Edwards is also climbing the charts among the SEC all-time receivers. He ranks fifth in career receptions, just three behind Alabama's Amari Cooper, and is eighth in career receiving yards, just 46 yards from moving into the top-5.
SECOND FIDDLE: Junior Shi Smith (5-10, 190) is the Gamecocks' No. 2 receiver. Smith was the top receiver against North Carolina, catching five passes for 55 yards, and logged six receptions for 90 yards and a score against Alabama. He had the best game of his career at Tennessee, catching 11 passes (tying for the ninth-best single game total in school history) for 156 yards (the most by a Gamecock this season), including a career-long 75-yard TD reception. He is second on the team with 36 catches for 408 yards, despite sitting out the Vanderbilt game with a hamstring injury.
OTHERS IN THE MIX: The Gamecocks have had several other receivers make catches this season. Sophomore Josh Vann (3 starts) leads the pack with 19 catches for 171 yards, but broke his hand against Vanderbilt and will miss the remainder of the regular season. Veteran Chavis Dawkins (5 starts) did not have a reception in the first three games, but has six catches for 65 yards over his last five contests. He did not play against Vanderbilt due to injury. Redshirt sophomore OrTre Smith has been seeing more action of late after missing most of last season following knee surgery, He has contributed eight catches for 64 yards, including a touchdown against Florida. True freshman Xavier Legette made his first career start against Vandy and responded with three catches for 34 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown reception, the first of his career.
REVAMPED TIGHT ENDS: Bobby Bentley took over as the tight ends coach and came into a room that had just seven career Division I receptions entering the 2019 campaign. He lost K.C. Crosby and Jacob August to graduation, then lost Kiel Pollard to a career-ending medical situation during fall camp, while Evan Hinson elected to pursue a basketball career at Austin Peay.
MARKWAY A MARKED MAN: Fifth-year junior Kyle Markway (6-4, 250) is having a career year. Markway is fourth on the team with 18 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns on the season after having just six catches coming into 2019. He had a career-high four receptions against CSU, then topped that with five catches for 46 yards against Alabama.
MUSE WILL BE MISSED: Junior Nick Muse (6-3, 232), a transfer from William & Mary, got a waiver for immediate eligibility a day prior to the CSU game. He made an immediate impact with two catches for 22 yards in that contest and had four catches for 21 yards against Alabama. He had a career-high 31 receiving yards at Georgia and matched his career high with four receptions at Tennessee. He has 17 receptions for 158 yards on the season, but left the Vanderbilt game with a torn ACL after being hurt on a 15-yard reception. He hauled in 30 passes for 453 yards a season ago for the Tribe.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Senior tight end Kiel Pollard was forced to give up his playing career during fall camp. Pollard suffered a small fracture in his neck, which was to have sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. However, during an MRI, the doctors discovered a cyst on his spinal cord, which apparently has been there since he was a child. The severity of the situation and the possible long-term consequences from that medical condition forced him to retire as a player. Pollard, who will graduate in December, is helping as a student-assistant coach. He served as a team captain in the opener vs. UNC.
ATHLETIC O-LINE: The Gamecocks have what offensive line coach Eric Wolford considers his most athletic unit since rejoining the Carolina staff. He has two veterans in left tackle Sadarius Hutcherson and center Donell Stanley, but the other three spots are manned by first-year starters.
STANLEY SET THE TONE: Sixth-year senior Donell Stanley (6-3, 325) anchors the unit. Stanley worked at left guard in the season opener, but has since moved back to center. He worked primarily at center during the 2018 season and has made 22 consecutive starts.
CAN'T MOVE THIS HUTCH: Redshirt junior Sadarius Hutcherson (6-4, 320) protects the quarterback's blind side from the left tackle position. Hutcherson played guard in 2018, but is strong and athletic enough to handle the tackle position. He has made 23-consecutive starts and earned a spot on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list.
LIL' BRO: Sophomore Dylan Wonnum (6-5, 310) started each of the first four games at right tackle before suffering an ankle injury in the Missouri game, which has kept him out of the the last five contests. Wonnum, who is the younger brother of Gamecock defensive end D.J. Wonnum, was a Freshman All-American last season as a true freshman.
REVOLVING DOOR AT RIGHT TACKLE: When Dylan Wonnum was unable to answer the bell, true freshman Jaylen Nichols (6-5, 320) made his first career start against Kentucky at the right tackle position and started four-straight contests. Nichols suffered an ankle injury himself in the Tennessee game, so true freshman Jakai Moore (6-5, 295) made his first collegiate start against Vanderbilt.
THE NEW GUARDS SETTLE IN: The Gamecocks started a new pair of guards against Charleston Southern, with redshirt sophomore Jordan Rhodes (6-4, 330) taking over at left guard and redshirt freshman Jovaughn Gwyn (6-2, 305) getting the nod at right guard. They both have now started eight-straight games.
A LITTLE MISLEADING: The Gamecocks have allowed an average of 25.0 points per game this season, but it's a little unfair to chalk that all up to the defense. The Gamecocks have surrendered four touchdowns, or 28 points, when the defense was not on the field. Taking those points away, the Carolina defense is allowing 21.9 points per game. The Gamecocks have held three opponents to 10 points or less this season. Carolina has allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season.
THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: This is easily the best defensive front in both depth and talent assembled at South Carolina since the days of Jadeveon Clowney and company raised havoc throughout the SEC.
JAVON LAYS DOWN THE LAW: Most of the accolades on the defensive side have gone to Javon Kinlaw (6-6, 310), who some NFL experts have labeled a first-round NFL draft pick. He has filled up the stat line with 24 tackles including 5.0 sacks, tied for sixth in the SEC, three quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. He was the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance at Georgia, was a midseason All-American by both the AP (first team) and The Athletic (second team), and is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award.
BIG BRO: The older of the Wonnum brothers, D.J. Wonnum (6-5, 260) is back after missing eight games a year ago with an ankle injury. Wonnum was named a team captain in 2017 after logging 13.0 tackles for loss including 6.0 sacks. He is on the Mayo Clinic list for Comeback Player of the Year this season. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Kentucky when he registered a career-high 3.0 sacks among his five tackles and forced a fumble. He has been recognized as an SEC weekly award winner four times in his career. He has 29 tackles on the season including an SEC-leading 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks with three hurries. He has moved into ninth on the school's all-time list in tackles for loss with 29.5 and, with 14.0 career sacks, is one sack away from tying four others for ninth on the school's all-time list.
THE GLUE GUY: Kobe Smith (6-2, 300) is a "glue guy" in the middle of the line and has recorded 22 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. He gets extra mention in the notes after serving as a summer marketing intern for Gamecock Athletics.
A STERLING EFFORT: The Gamecocks have been getting stellar play from junior defensive end Aaron Sterling (6-1, 250). For the season, Sterling has registered 33 tackles, while leading the SEC with 6.0 sacks and is tied for second in tackles for loss with 9.0. He also is tied for the team lead with three QB hurries, has forced a fumble and has recovered a fumble.
GETTING IN THE SACK: Carolina has logged 19 sacks, with Aaron Sterling leading the way with 6.0. Javon Kinlaw (5.0) and D.J. Wonnum (4.5) are right behind. The Gamecocks are the only SEC school to have at least three players with 4.0 or more sacks this season.
SACKS 2019 CAREER
D.J. Wonnum 4.5 14.0
Javon Kinlaw 5.0 9.5
Aaron Sterling 6.0 9.0
T.J. Brunson 0.0 6.0
Kier Thomas 0.0 5.5
Daniel Fennell 0.0 4.0
Brad Johnson 0.0 3.5
Jaycee Horn 1.0 3.0
Kingsley Enagbare 1.0 2.0
Kobe Smith 0.5 2.0
R.J. Roderick 1.0 1.0
Jabari Ellis 0.0 1.0
Rick Sandidge 0.0 0.5
BRUNSON BRINGS IT: Senior linebacker T.J. Brunson (6-1, 230) is the veteran leader of the second level of defense. The first player that Coach Muschamp recruiting at Carolina, Brunson has logged 272 career tackles, including 106 last season alone. A 2018 team captain, he opened the 2019 season with nine stops against UNC, had a season-high 12 tackles at Missouri, had 10 stops at Georgia and at Tennessee, and currently leads the team with 66 stops, 10th in the SEC. He had his first career interception late in the Vandy game.
ERNEST GOES TO TOWN: Sophomore Ernest Jones (6-2, 235) earned the starting spot at the MIKE position, allowing Brunson to move back to WILL. An excellent communicator, Jones starred in his first start against UNC, registering a team-high 12 tackles, along with a pair of pass breakups. He also logged a team-high 12 tackles at Georgia. He is second on the team and is tied for 11th in the SEC with 65 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. He logged his first career interception against Kentucky.
GREENE SEES THE FIELD: Sherrod Greene (6-1, 230) started every game last season but began this season in a reserve role. He has been coming on as the season has progressed, starting each of the last six games as Carolina has opened with a 4-3 look, and is playing his best football. He has 26 stops including 3.5 tackles for loss.
EASON-RIDDLE AT YOUR SERVICE: Junior linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle is one of 22 student-athletes selected for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®. The 22 players stood out for their leadership in local communities and overall commitment to giving back. Eason-Riddle has been a regular at both the Dorn VA Medical Center and at the oncology center of the Prisma Health Children's Hospital. He founded and developed the "Sandstorm Buddies Program" which matches USC student-athletes with patients and their families, where they can serve in a mentor capacity with cancer patients.
TOP COVER CORNER: Jaycee Horn (6-1, 200), who is considered the top cover corner, logged a sack and forced a pair of fumbles in the season opener, had two PBUs vs. Alabama and logged seven tackles at Georgia. He has 29 tackles on the season with a team-high eight PBUs and a team-high two forced fumbles.
SIMPLY THE BEST: Sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu had a memorable game in the win at Georgia. He logged a career-high 11 tackles and intercepted Jake Fromm three times, returning one 53 yards for a score. Fromm had entered the game without an INT this season. He became the first Gamecock to record three picks in a game since Patrick Hinton vs. NC State in 1988. Mukuamu was recognized as the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week, the Chuck Bednarik Award National Player of the Week, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy National Defensive Player of the Week, the CollegeSportsMadness.com SEC and National Defensive Player of the Week, and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
MORE ON MUK: Israel Mukuamu (6-4, 205), who ranks third on the team with 49 tackles while playing cornerback, He is one of only four players in the country with three picks in a game this season. He is tied for the SEC lead and is tied for sixth in the country with four interceptions.
SAFETY FIRST: J.T. Ibe (5-10, 195), a sixth-year graduate transfer, is the veteran in the secondary. Ibe missed the opener with a pec injury, something he dealt with at Rice as well, but has since returned to the starting lineup. He has 34 tackles, including a team-high eight stops against Florida. Sophomore R.J. Roderick (6-0, 205) is fourth on the team with 42 tackles and has two interceptions.