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  1. South Carolina will attempt to get defensive end D.J. Wonnum an additional year of eligibility following an injury-shortened 2018 December 13, 2018 .mcclatchy-embed{position:relative;padding:40px 0 56.25%;height:0;overflow:hidden;max-width:100%}.mcclatchy-embed iframe{position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%} "South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp previews his team's Dec. 29 Belk Bowl matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers" “We are going to try to get a medical redshirt for him,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said Thursday at a news conference for the Dec. 29 Belk Bowl. If the medical redshirt season is approved, Wonnum would play next year as a junior again and would have the option of returning for the 2020 season. Wonnum played in only five games this year after suffering an ankle injury in the first game of the season. He had 11 tackles and two sacks and will not play in the Belk Bowl against Virginia after having surgery to repair the injury. The team is also applying for medical redshirts for safeties J.T. Ibe and Nick Harvey and linebacker Eldridge Thompson.
  2. South Carolina football: 5 recruits who can help immediately in 2019 December 10, 2018 South Carolina is in decent position with a 5-star in-state recruit and 4 4-stars. The Gamecocks plan to sign 18-20 recruits this month, coach Will Muschamp said after the Akron game, so that means there’s work to be done. The staff was on the road immediately after the Akron game with a push to close the Early Signing Period (Dec. 19-21). The tough part for the Gamecocks is, even though they have the No. 21 recruiting class nationally, that’s still in the bottom third of the SEC. That’s a departure from the past three classes that each ranked in the top 10 of the SEC. The Gamecocks need a strong close. The key piece of the recruiting class is QB Ryan Hilinski, the No. 2-ranked pro-style QB in the country, but South Carolina is set at quarterback with Jake Bentley, so Hilinski is not the kind of recruit expected to play as a freshman. South Carolina easily had a handful of impact players from the 2018 class, so this is not only plausible, it’s likely. Here are five recruits who can help immediately: Cameron Smith, CB If this season proved anything, it’s South Carolina needed more depth in the secondary. It was so bad late in the season, they played a walk-on. By the looks of visits to Columbia, and staff travel, the Gamecocks are trying to close on at least three other DB recruits, too. Smith, listed at 6-1, 175, is a talented prospect, but his talent is even more valuable because of what position he plays. Another bonus? He’s the No. 2-ranked player in the state. Zacch Pickens, DE The Gamecocks were 11th in the SEC in sacks, and that included 5 against Akron to close the regular season. They do get key players back like Javon Kinlaw, but the team in general needs an upgrade in production. If he signs, Pickens would be the first 5-star recruit to land at South Carolina since Jadeveon Clowney in 2011, so obviously the first for Muschamp. Pickens, who is 6-4, 268, is not only the state’s best prospect, but he’s the No. 2 SDE in the country, and No. 18 player in the country in this class. The Gatorade Player of the Year for South Carolina, Pickens showed his athleticism by rushing for more than 800 yards and 21 touchdowns. Traevon Kenion, TE When Hayden Hurst left for the NFL, the production from the tight end position experienced a significant drop. Hurst had 44 catches in 2017, and the top tight end this year, Kiel Pollard, had 15 catches. Now it loses K.C. Crosby and Jacob August, who had a combined 18 catches. Kenion’s 6-4, 220-pound frame also lends itself nicely to a college transition. Kenion can also split out as a wide receiver, and the Gamecocks beat out several ACC schools to reel in that talent from a top 20 player from North Carolina. He’s from the same high school (Wake Forest) that produced Clemson DE Dexter Lawrence and Stanford RB Bryce Love. Keveon Mullins, ATH Mullins, a 4-star, is listed as an athlete, but he is expected to play wide receiver, and help cushion the blow from the loss of Deebo Samuel. He’s arguably the best receiver in the Memphis, Tennessee area, and his 6-4, 220-pound frame is well-suited to transition to the college level. He flipped after originally committing to Memphis. Joseph Anderson, DL The simple reason the fourth-ranked player from Tennessee has a chance to play early is his versatility: He can play defensive end and outside linebacker, which is where he is being recruited. Along those pass rush deficiencies, the defense also loses LB Bryson Allen-Williams. A coveted 4-star, he chose the Gamecocks over Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee, among others.
  3. The five biggest surprises from South Carolina’s football season December 06, 2018 THE STATE South Carolina’s regular season is finished. The Gamecocks (7-5) will play one more game, against Virginia (7-5) in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29, but most of what their season will be remembered for has already happened. With that in mind, here are the five biggest surprises from the 2018 football season: The offense against Clemson It is still stunning that South Carolina gained 600 yards against the No. 2 Tigers and their second-ranked defense. Muschamp’s first two teams gained 425 yards against Clemson combined. The Tigers boast one of the most decorated (and rightly so) defensive lines in recent college football history, and South Carolina scorched them. It was enough to make a 21-point loss, and a fifth loss in a row to Clemson at that, almost palatable to swallow for South Carolina fans. In terms of cementing confidence in first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon and giving the Gamecocks something positive to build on in the offseason, it was tremendously important. The injuries There were a couple of areas where the Gamecocks just couldn’t afford many if any injuries if they were going to have a competitive defense, those being at defensive end and in the secondary. Both were leveled by injuries. Five safeties suffered season-ending injuries, including the two graduate transfers brought in during the offseason because the safety depth was poor before all the injuries. At defensive end, the top three players — D.J. Wonnum, Bryson Allen-Williams and Aaron Sterling — missed a combined 15 games during the regular season. Michael Scarnecchia Throughout the offseason, many South Carolina fans thought the senior backup was just keeping the clipboard warm until freshman Dakereon Joyner unseated him, so the first surprise was how early and how definitively Scarnecchia locked up the No. 2 job. The second surprise, of course, was the Missouri game. Filling in for an injured Jake Bentley, Scarnecchia threw for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and led a dramatic comeback victory in a second half rain storm. His performance has been somewhat forgotten because of how well Bentley played in the second half of the season, but Scarnecchia’s moment came in a moment when South Carolina badly needed him. Parker White White was terrible as a freshman, hitting only 14-of-25 kicks and leaving fans wondering what the Gamecocks were going to do for a kicker in 2018. Instead of being undone by the failure, though, White bounced back to hit 13-of-15 kicks this year, including a 33-yarder with two seconds remaining that gave the Gamecocks their 37-35 win over Missouri. His 84 points this season put him in the top 10 of single-season scoring seasons in USC history. Who would have thought that would happen a year ago? Jaycee Horn The true freshman defensive back started nine games this year not because injuries left South Carolina shorthanded but because he was one of the best defensive backs on the team the minute he got to campus. Horn finished the regular season with 39 tackles, eight pass breakups and a sack. The son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn could be a first-team All-SEC cornerback next year. He’s that good.
  4. 2018 Belk Bowl: Bowl Gifts and Swag, plus Schedule of Events https://www.streakingthelawn.com/football/2018/12/2/18122789/belk-bowl-2018-virginia-cavaliers-south-carolina-gamecocks-schedule-gifts-swag One of the things we enjoy most about the bowl season is finding out about all the cool swag that these student athletes get from the bowls as part of their welcome gifts. The Virginia Cavaliersare headed to the Belk Bowl to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks...what’s in store for the teams the week of Christmas? Monday-Tuesday (December 24-25, 2018) Teams will start arriving in Charlotte based on each team’s schedules. Nothing official is scheduled that the media is invited to. Wednesday (December 26, 2018) Team Outing to Charlotte Motor Speedway Both teams will arrive for a pretty cool experience at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. All participants will take part in a three-lap ride-along with a driver from the Richard Petty Driving Experience, plus they’ll get to take a tour of the facilities, play with some interactive displays, and compete against the other school in tire-changing competitions. Thursday, December 27 Team visit to Second Harvest Food Bank Each of the two teams will partake in some volunteer work, spreading holiday cheer by handing out food to those in need at the Second Harvest Food Bank. Team Shopping Spree at Belk (SouthPark Mall) Now this is what you’ve all been looking for! The teams will have 90 minutes to go through the flagship Belk store at SouthPark Mall to pick up their own bowl gifts. The NCAA allows a maximum bowl gift value of $550. Last year, teams not only went on a shopping spree, but each player also received a nice Fossil watch, so the shopping spree may not be for the full amount there. Play your cards right with some after-Christmas sales, and you could score some pretty great deals! Nest thermostat? Amazon Echo? Nintendo Switch? Belk’s more than just khakis, folks. Friday, December 28 For the players, it’s time to get down to work. The coaches and select players will give their last few interviews for the media before hunkering down and finalizing pregame preparations. But that doesn’t mean there’s not still a ton of fun for fans! Belk Bowl Pep Rally (The Square at Trade and Tryon), 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. Fans can take part in the official pep rally of the Belk Bowl by heading over to the center of Uptown, where there will be performances from and plenty of chances to interact with cheerleaders, full marching bands and mascots. But the party doesn’t stop at 7:00! Belk Bowl Fan Central (EpiCentre), 7:00 - 11:00 p.m. The official fan party of the Belk Bowl, EpiCentre will be THE place to be the night before the game. In addition to the restaurants, bars, and other attractions, the main courtyard will host cheerleaders, pep bands, and mascots to get fans ready for the big game. Wahoo Welcome (UVA!), 9:00 - 11:00 p.m. As you get into town, join UVA Clubs and the Office of Engagement for the official Wahoo Welcome! Your ticket gets you appetizers and a cash bar. Tickets are $10 (Early bird through December 14), $15 in advance, or $20 at the door, and free if you’re under 12. Purchase your ticket here. Saturday, December 29 Belk Bowl FanFest, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Finally, if you don’t have your own tailgating plans, either individually or through the school, join the Belk Bowl FanFest, which will provide a ton of great family fun, food, and entertainment for fans of all ages. That’s where you’ll find the cheerleaders and the bands before the game, plus of course, lots of opportunities to spend some of your Christmas money on Belk Bowl and UVA swag! Cavalier Countdown Tailgate, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The Office of Engagement and the VAF are throwing a giant tailgate for all Wahoo fans. Your ticket gets you a tailgate buffet, beverages, a cash bar, and music. Tickets are $30 early (through December 14), $35 in advance, or $40 at the door. It’s free for those 3 and under, or $10 for children 4-12. Purchase your ticket here.
  5. What a bowl win could mean for Gamecocks’ program, recruiting December 04, 2018 South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp will have a chance to lead his Gamecocks to a second consecutive bowl win in late December when they play in the just-announced Belk Bowlgame against Virginia. There are a lot of areas in which finishing the season with a victory can help a team. Some are important. Some are not, such as one Muschamp mentioned an hour after it was announced: the wardrobe. “You get a bunch of bowl gear, and if you lose the game, you damn sure don’t want to wear any of it,” Muschamp said. “I haven’t put anything on from the Birmingham Bowl, I’ll tell you that.” That Birmingham Bowl capped his first season, an overtime affair where a rally against South Florida fell short. The mood at the end of that 6-7 season was far different from the one after upsetting Michigan to gain a ninth win in 2017. “When you win the bowl game, it just makes everybody feel better about what’s going on, where the program is headed,” Muschamp said. The people he perhaps most wants to feel that emotion are the recruits he’ll be working to bring in. When asked about the benefits, he started on that front. He and his staff plan to have the vast majority of the 2019 class locked in on Dec. 19, more than a week before the team faces Virginia in Bank of America Stadium. But there will be a few more pieces to lock in, and more building toward the future. “That’s the here and now, as far as, you come off the early signing period, two weeks later, you’re in a bowl game,” Muschamp said. “You’re on national TV. You’re out on the road within the next 10 days, seeing prospective student-athletes. I think that’s a huge part of it.” His staff has spent a lot of time in the Charlotte area, pulling in the likes of Rick Sandidge, Jovaughn Gwyn and commit Derek Boykins. His last bowl win produced the slogan “All Gas, No Brakes” in the moments after. That was a theme for most of the year, and he said the bowl win helps launch a team in another way. “It also helps in the offseason program,” Muschamp said. ”Our guys understand that coming off a win gives you a little more confidence in your program about where you are. But the 2018 team will close its book in Charlotte.”
  6. Scouting South Carolina’s Belk Bowl opponent: Virginia December 03, 2018 Three storylines 1. South Carolina is seeking its 10th season of at least eight wins since 2000, but a victory over Virginia and the Gamecocks will have at least eight wins in consecutive years for the first time since 2012-13. Will Muschamp is already the winningest coach in USC history through the first three seasons. He’s 1-1 in bowl games. Lou Holtz are Steve Spurrier are the only Carolina coaches with at least two bowl wins. 2. Facing those not-named Clemson, USC hasn’t lost to an ACC foe since falling to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Gamecocks are 4-0 over their last four tries. This will be their first game against UVa since beating the Cavaliers on Sept. 6, 2003, in Columbia. Virginia hasn’t faced an SEC team since falling to Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl. 3. The second bowl appearance in the three-year Bronco Mendenhall-era is only Virginia’s second bowl appearance since 2011. Mendenhall, who won 99 games in 11 seasons at BYU, has turned around the UVa program. A bowl win would be a big deal in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers were crushed by Navy in last year’s Military Bowl, extending their bowl winless streak to 12 years. Three Virginia players to watch 1. Virginia’s seven wins are its most since 2011 and a big reason why is quarterback Bryce Perkins. The former Arizona State Sun Devil transferred to UVa from junior college last January and has been the the dual-threat QB Mendenhall desired. Perkins has already set a school record with 3,314 yards of offense. 2. Perkins’ favorite target is Olamide Zaccheaus. The All-ACC selection is Virginia’s all-time leader in receptions. He’s got 81 grabs for 958 yards and six scores this season, making the speedy 5-foot-8 Zaccheaus one to watch against USC’s depleted secondary. 3. The best NFL prospect in this game might be on the Virginia side. Cornerback Bryce Hall is projected as a first round pick, according to CBS Sports. The physical 6-1, 200-pounder leads the nation with 20 pass breakups.
  7. Who will play in Belk bowl vs Virginia, who might and who won’t December 03, 2018 As in the rest of South Carolina’s injury-ravaged season, Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp won’t know for a while exactly who will be available to play in the Belk Bowl. South Carolina (7-5) takes on Virginia (7-5) in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium at noon on Dec. 29. In addition to the injured players who are questionable, the Gamecocks could have some players skip the bowl game to prepare for professional careers. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards were asked Saturday after the Gamecocks beat Akron if they would play in the bowl game and neither gave a definitive answer. “Who knows, that’s a good question though,” said Edwards, a junior. Muschamp said Sunday night that he hasn’t had any conversations with players who expressed an interest in skipping the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. “We will visit that at the appropriate time,” he said. Asked what he would do if a player came to him about that decision, he said, “I’m going to support the student-athlete.” The Gamecocks do expect senior defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams to play after missing the last four games due to an ankle injury. “He’s doing extremely well,” Muschamp said. Junior defensive end D.J. Wonnum, who has missed seven games due to an ankle injury, remains questionable, as does defensive end Aaron Sterling due to a knee injury. Defensive backs Jaycee Horn (ankle) and Jaylin Dickerson (hamstring) will play. Freshman linebacker Ernest Jones might be held out of the game because he has only played four games this year and could take a redshirt season if he does not play in another game.
  8. Home away from home: Why playing in Charlotte is important for Gamecocks December 03, 2018 THE STATE South Carolina will officially be the visiting team in the Dec. 29 Belk Bowl against Virginia, but it probably won’t feel like it to the Gamecocks, who are becoming very familiar with Bank of America Stadium. South Carolina (7-5) accepted an invitation Sunday to play Virginia (7-5) in the Belk Bowl, which will kick off at noon in Charlotte, N.C. It will be the Gamecocks’ first appearance in the Belk Bowl but fourth appearance in the last eight seasons in the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. “Certainly familiar with Bank of America Stadium,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. “One of our best alumni bases is there in Charlotte, and we do a lot of recruiting there and in the state of North Carolina.” While the Gamecocks are in their third year under Muschamp, the Cavaliers of the ACC are in their third year under Bronco Mendenhall. “I don’t know Bronco Mendenhall personally, but I have a lot of respect for what he did with the BYU program and certainly the way he’s turned around Virginia,” Muschamp said. South Carolina will be trying to get to eight wins for the 15th time in its football history. A victory would give the Gamecocks back-to-back seasons of at least eight wins for the second time in school history. “When you win the bowl game, it just makes everybody feel better about what’s going on, where the program is headed,” Muschamp said. “You get a bunch of bowl gear, and if you lose the game, you damn sure don’t want to wear any of it. I haven’t put anything on from the Birmingham Bowl, I can tell you that.” The Gamecocks are 3-0 all-time in Bank of America Stadium, most recently beating N.C. State 35-28 to open the 2017 season. South Carolina will play its next two games in the stadium because it opens the 2019 season against North Carolina in Charlotte. That’s fine with Muschamp, who has said since he took the South Carolina job that he hoped to make Charlotte a home field in recruiting for the Gamecocks. “The 2018 team will close its book in Charlotte there and when we get back to work we’ll be on the 2019 team,” Muschamp said. “Our fan base is phenomenal and I know they will travel. It’s really important to us and for future bowl games. Bowl sites want to see you travel and our guys travel. We had a great crowd in Tampa last year (for the Outback Bowl) and certainly looking forward to another great crowd in Bank of America.” Belk Bowl info Who: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5) Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina When: Noon Dec. 29 TV: ABC
  9. Will Muschamp Press Conference With Video– 12/2/18 – Belk Bowl Announcement South Carolina vs. Virginia – 12/29/18 – Charlotte, N.C. Opening Statement WATCH VIDEO “We’re really excited about going to the Belk Bowl, our first trip here at the University of South Carolina. (We’re) certainly familiar with the Bank of America Stadium, one of the finest venues in the National Football League. (We) opened up last year against NC State in a great football game with them, and we open up the 2019 season with the University of North Carolina. One of our best alumni bases is there in Charlotte. We do a lot of recruiting in that area and the state of North Carolina. We’ve been able to attract some really good football players here to South Carolina in our short time. [MORE]
  10. Gamecock Javon Kinlaw makes his decision on leaving early December 02, 2018 One South Carolina football junior with questions about the draft answered them on Sunday. Gamecocks defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw tweeted he’ll return for his senior season. There were rumblings the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder might leave after his junior campaign Kinlaw, a former four-star recruit, battled a hip injury much of the 2018 season, but was still quite productive. He had 38 tackles, 10 for loss, 4 1/2 sacks, five pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles. He came to campus at 340 pounds and slimmed down through the 2017 season, stepping into the starting lineup. Kinlaw originally committed to USC out of high school in Goose Creek, but had to play a season in junior college. He decommitted for a short period, flirted with Alabama and ultimately chose to stay with the Gamecocks. Kinlaw’s return means USC should return in 2019 with a deep and seasoned line. The Gamecocks will also return, D.J. Wonnum, Aaron Sterling, the other five top defensive tackles, including a pair of four-star freshmen and will add five-star Zacch Pickens into the mix.
  11. South Carolina reveals uniform combination for home finale against Akron November 30, 2018 South Carolina football on Thursday unveiled its uniform look for the hurricane-rescheduled home finale against Akron. The theme for the video to announce it: “It has never been about what we wear, it’s who we are. “ The Gamecocks will go with garnet pants, black jerseys, garnet helmets as they look clinch a .500 or better record for the third year in a row and the 10th time in 11 seasons.
  12. He’s gained a following for jumping around. Meet South Carolina’s ‘Third Down Guy’ November 29, 2018 THE STATE Before he gave them a full highlight reel, Hampton McIver’s grandparents collected snippets of their grandson’s fame. On Thanksgiving, two days prior to ESPN and Twitter combining to give him a new nickname, McIver was home in Jackson, South Carolina. He was then just a sophomore student equipment manager for the USC football team happy to have a few free moments on a holiday. McIver’s family is deeply rooted in Gamecock fandom. Growing up, McIver watched every game on television with his father until they scored season tickets in 2013. Carolina is important to them, so when one of their own could be seen every Saturday on the Gamecocks’ sideline, they wanted it documented. After turkey, McIver discovered his grandparents’ findings. “They had all the games recorded on their DVR,” McIver said. “They knew exactly what time of the game that I was shown. They had it all set up to where they could start it and just rewind a little bit to see me. You could barely see the back of my head in some. It’s me in the corner of the picture in others.” McIver has many roles on the USC equipment staff. During the week, he helps set up for practice, tweaking things specifically to the needs of special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler. On gamedays, he helps the Carolina specialists warm up, runs to grab the tee after each kickoff, hangs around the bench in case a player needs to swap out cleats and goes crazy every time the Gamecock defense is facing third down. The latter of these duties became its own spectacle during last week’s Clemson game. ESPN’s broadcast crew of Steve Levy and Brian Griese referenced McIver on several occasions as the civil engineering major was seen bouncing up and down while USC tried to get Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers offense off the field. “Third Down Guy” is the title Griese gave him. You can now find #thirddownguy as part of McIver’s Twitter bio. “It’s been surreal, honestly,” McIver said, “because I never thought that the third down sign would give me that.” McIver said he’s gained up to 700 Twitter followers and 300 Instagram followers since Saturday. He didn’t realize he had become a viral sensation until after the game. He was in the Memorial Stadium press box, packing up the coaches’ headsets, when he turned on his phone. “It was vibrating like crazy,” he said. “I had hundreds of notifications. I was like, ‘What happened?’ ” As noted by his grandparents, McIver had been on TV before. He’s been USC’s designated Third Down Guy, a role head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson created last season to further emphasize making a stop, since Carolina’s win at Vanderbilt on Sept. 22. But this was a different kind of exposure. “The Florida game,” McIver said, “I got maybe five seconds of air time and I got like four or five text messages from my mom and grandparents and some friends that said they saw me. “I said, this is more than just a quick little picture of me. I went up to the press box and I was just kind of looking down on the field. I took a seat and I was basically trying to digest it all. The first thing I went to was my mom’s texts and she was saying how they were spending so much time talking about me and she basically gave me an outline of the night through her texts.” McIver has been on the USC equipment staff since winter workouts. A former cross-country runner at South Aiken Baptist Christian School, McIver said his calves are still in good form after a nine-game stint as Third Down Guy. The Gamecocks, entering Saturday’s regular season finale with Akron, are ninth in the SEC in third down defense. McIver takes great pride in seeing the opposing punter take the field. “I’m pumped because one, I know I’m not going to have to jump again for a little while,” he said, “but two, I’m excited to get the offense back out there and have some things happen.” After Akron, USC will be back on national television for its bowl game. Beyond Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel, perhaps it’s Hampton McIver who will get the most air time. Granddday, as McIver calls him, will be happy to set the DVR. “That’s honestly the thing that’s meant more to me than all of the Twitter followers and stuff,” McIver said. “I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at home for Thanksgiving this year and we’re a really close-knit family. Most of my family lives in about a five-minute radius. “So for me not being able to be home the whole break, I’m happy that they kind of got something to brag about to their friends and everyone around the neighborhood.”
  13. Jake Bentley changes make him a better Quarterback November 26, 2018 On Oct. 23, three days after South Carolina was beaten 26-23 by Texas A&M in Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecocks junior quarterback Jake Bentley met with the media and said he intended to get a better, or at least different, handle on his emotions. In the five games since, Bentley has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,603 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions, and South Carolina is 3-2. The Gamecocks (6-5) finish the regular season Saturday against Akron (4-7) in Williams-Brice Stadium. “He’s an emotional guy,” head coach Will Muschamp said of Bentley. “That’s why he’s got the respect of his teammates. Are there times at that position you need to tone it down? Certainly you could point to things, but I’m glad he’s our quarterback. The confidence that our football team and our staff have in him is pretty evident. His emotions make him who he is. I think he’s played really good football. I thought he was pretty emotional Saturday night and I thought he played well. His emotions are fine with me.” Muschamp said that a day after Bentley threw for a career-high 510 yards, five touchdowns and one interception against the nation’s No. 2 defense in a 56-35 loss to Clemson. Muschamp also said he hasn’t “noticed a whole lot of change” in Bentley’s emotions since the quarterback pledged to channel those emotions differently. “He’s a competitive son of a gun now, he gets after it,” Muschamp said. Bentley’s proclamation came after a video showing him slamming his helmet into a chair on the sideline against Texas A&M. In the five games prior to that, he had completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. “I have to be the same guy the whole game,” he said that week. “Motivation is temporary. We have to have the mindset to be fired up and be ready to go each and every play, each and every quarter. I have to be that even-keeled guy. If it’s going good or going bad, I want to be that guy that is consistent. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy. I get fired up more than some others, but I have to be able to control that.” He’s controlling that, and everything else, better since that moment.
  14. Defense is really bad due to being utterly decimated by injuries, but a lot of young kids are getting some great experience, and our offense is playing great against one of the best defenses in the country. The effort is there, and from a coaching perspective, it's starting to look more and more like Muschamp and co. knows how to compete against Clemson. I'm enjoying this one for the first time in a while. I'm excited to see a healthy defense next year which will have some depth due to the experience that the young players have gotten this year, and an offense that returns most of its players. Add in a solid recruiting class, the fact that Clemson loses their entire D-line starters, more good news Gamecocks have a bye week before Clemson to prepare next year, and it's at Williams-Brice, and I'm predicting a much more competitive game next year. It's been a disappointing year in terms of losing the big games, and the Gamecocks could've rocked the world-beating UF and Clemson if not for a massive slew of defensive injuries, but it's been a solid rebuilding year nevertheless. Next year may just be the year The Gamecocks beat them. Next year is a big opportunity for this program to take a major step forward, and I think they will finally have the depth and experience to do it.
  15. This was Will Muschamp’s message to his team after the Clemson loss November 25, 2018 THE STATE South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp came out after his team’s 56-35 loss to Clemson a little snappy, getting gruff with the first question from the media before apologizing. He made clear the goal was to win, even against a 26-point favorite, on the road. “Our guys fought their guts out,” Muschamp said. “We came here to win the game. We didn’t.” So what did he tell his team after playing the best it has against its No. 1 rival during his tenure? “He knew what kind of group he had,” middle linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “Guys didn’t lay down and quit. Guys were still hungry regardless of the score or anything. He was just really proud of us for fighting. That was the biggest thing. We have some more to go, but it’s coming.” The Gamecocks stayed within a score of the Tigers for much of the first half. After falling behind by 28, they kept after it, adding a pair of scores in the late going, throwing again and again. It was by far the most competitive meeting between the teams in Muschamp’s tenure. The Gamecocks were down 35 before even getting on the scoreboard two years ago. Last season, USC was down 34-0 at the start of the fourth quarter. South Carolina’s season has been a strange one. The offense underperformed early and came on late. The defense had its share of issues and has now been cut to ribbons by injuries. Kentucky’s sudden rise and close losses to Florida and Texas A&M marred what was projected by many to be a big season. Instead, the Gamecocks, which picked up close wins against Tennessee, Ole Miss and Missouri, will go for seven wins next week. There’s a case Saturday could be taken as a moral victory, but in a larger sense the players took it as a small sign of progress, even just learning to work day-in, day-out. “It hasn’t paid off how we wanted to,” Brunson said. “We wish we were in a different spot, going back to the beginning of the year. But everybody’s learned to just deal with what you have. Just keep growing. Each week, just keep growing, keep getting better. It’s just, looking back to when I first got here, it’s been a complete culture change. We had guys that didn’t necessarily understand what it took to win. “It’s happening. I don’t know about the outside. I don’t really care honestly. But from when I was first here, my freshman year to now, the culture change has been night and day. We’ve got guys who want to win, who are hungry, who are willing to put in the work. It takes time. It definitely takes time. But it’s coming.”
  16. Gamecocks, black helmets in years 1 and 2 against Clemson. Those didn’t go very well. But we seem to like black at night and are due to wear them again. I’m predicting: Helmet: Black Jersey: White Pants: Garnet
  17. South Carolina where will they go bowling? November 18, 2018 South Carolina is now bowl eligible at 6-5 with only Clemson & Akron left to play, at the least, the Gamecock should finish the regular season at 7-5. At this point, most projections do not believe that the Southeastern Conference will have enough teams qualify for the postseason to fill all of its bowl spots. And that could be good news for the fans who don’t want to make a trip to Birmingham, Ala. for the second time in three years. (MORE)
  18. To coach his team this week, Will Muschamp will have to miss a big moment as a dad November 14, 2018 THE STATE Last season, South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp was fortunate to not have to make the choice between the job of being a college football coach and being a dad. This year, he’ll have to miss a big moment for his son Jackson, as many coaches do while they guide other parents’ kids. Jackson Muschamp will quarterback Hammond in the SCISA Class 3A state title game Saturday night. He was on a title winning team last year, but playing safety rather than quarterback. His dad made it for at least part of the game, slipping out of the postgame of a Gamecocks win against Wofford. But this season, South Carolina’s tilt with FCS Chattanooga starts at 7:30 p.m., the same time his son’s game kicks off. Will Muschamp didn’t directly address missing the game but he spoke about the line a college coach with kids has to walk. “I’m a dad,” Will Muschamp said. “I’m not a coach. I’m probably the easiest guy coach Kimrey’s got out there to deal with. I understand the things he goes through. I just enjoy watching my son play.” At one point this season, he relinquished his weekly radio show to assistants to go watch his son. Missing a child’s moments are something all too common in the competitive, high-stress world of college spots. It’s also the first time Jackson Muschamp will have a game while his father coaches. “I never experienced it before,” Jackson Muschamp said. “It is going to be kind of weird but I am excited for our game.” Jackson Muschamp worked behind Corbett Glick last season. Glick is now a walk-on with the Gamecocks. In his first season starting, Muschamp has completed 169 of 253 passes (66.8 percent) for 2,695 yards, 33 touchdowns and only six interceptions and is trying to lead the SkyHawks to their 10th title in 15 seasons. Hammond will face a First Baptist squad it beat 28-21 earlier this season. First Baptist won last year’s 2A title. Will Muschamp has recruiting ties to both schools, as he was at one point looking at First Baptist tailback Michel Dukes and he is currently recruiting Hammond five-star lineman Jordan Burch and four-star Alex Huntley. So he had a few thoughts on the game. “Erik Kimrey does a fantastic job at Hammond, and they’ve got a really good football team and a bunch of good players and an outstanding staff,” Will Muschamp said. “Really proud of Jackson and the year he’s had. He’s got a lot of weapons to throw to. I guess I can’t comment on them. “They’ve got a really talented bunch and First Baptist and Johnny Water, the head coach there, does an outstanding job. They had a really tight ballgame down in Charleston.” So what will the father be able to offer his son for pregame advice? “He will send me a long text telling me good luck, play hard, everything,” Jackson Muschamp said. “All that good stuff.”
  19. There is a silver lining in South Carolina’s less-than-stellar season November 14, 2018 THE STATE We all missed a positive milestone amidst the wreckage of South Carolina’s deflating 35-31 loss to Florida last week. Coming on the heels of the Gamecocks 48-44 win over Ole Miss, it marked the first time under head coach Will Muschamp that South Carolina has scored more than 30 points in back-to-back games. It’s only the second time the Gamecocks have done it in any games. The defense may be hanging on by a thread, but South Carolina’s offense is getting better. Under first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, the Gamecocks are averaging 31 points, 160 rushing yards and 250.7 passing yards per game. All three numbers are the highest since Muschamp took over the program in 2016. “I think the offense as a whole it kind of gave us a boost to play well (against Florida),” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “At the end of the day though, we didn’t win. We had the opportunity to win the game and go score, and we didn’t. That’s the glaring thing for sure.” Still, South Carolina is fifth in the SEC in scoring and sixth in total offense. “The way we are scoring points is how we want to play no matter what,” Muschamp said. “We want to be high-powered on offense and score a lot of points.” The concern of many USC fans when Muschamp was hired was that his inability to field a first-rate offense during his time as Florida’s head coach was a sign that he was unable to do that. This year has proven those worries unfounded. Now, about that defense.
  20. South Carolina vs. Norfolk State South Carolina-Norfolk State basketball: How to watch, what to watch for November 12, 2018 Game info Who: Norfolk State (2-1) at South Carolina (1-1) When: 7 p.m. Tuesday Where: Colonial Life Arena KenPom prediction: South Carolina 81, Norfolk State 62 TV: SEC Network Plus (Accessed via ESPN3.com or the WatchESPN app) Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area Series: South Carolina leads, 1-0. Last meeting: Nov. 14, 2015 – South Carolina won 84-69 in Columbia NORFOLK STATE Coach: Robert Jones (89-83 in six seasons at Norfolk State) Projected starters: G Mastadi Pitt (6.7 points per game), G Nic Thomas (13.7), G Derrick Jamerson (7.3), F Alex Long (6.3), F Jordan Butler (7.7) Last game: Beat Clarion 74-46 on Nov. 10 in Norfolk, Va. Notes: The Spartans have wins over a Division II opponent (Clarion) and Division III opponent (Mid-Atlantic Christian University). Their loss was to No. 19 Michigan. ... NSU’s lone NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2012 when, playing as a No. 15 seed, upset No. 2 Missouri. ... Norfolk State was picked third in the preseason MEAC poll. ... Butler (173) and Long (107) rank second and fifth among NSU’s career blocks leaders. SOUTH CAROLINA Coach: Frank Martin (231-145 in 12 seasons overall; seventh season at USC — 114-91). Projected starters: G Tre Campbell (9.0), G A.J. Lawson (16.0), G/F Justin Minaya (370), F Chris Silva (10.0), F Maik Kotsar (6.5) Last game: Fell to Stony Brook 83-81 on Nov. 9 at home Notes: The Stony Brook result snapped USC’s 28-game home winning streak against non-Power 5 conference opponents. ... Through a week of action, the Gamecocks are last in the SEC in field goal percentage (39.7) and next-to-last in 3-point field goal percentage (22.0). ... Kotsar didn’t record a rebound against Stony Brook. That was a first in the junior’s career. ... Lawson’s 23 points against the Seawolves were the most by a USC freshman since Sindarius Thornwell dropped 25 at Georgia on Jan. 22, 2014. STORYLINES 1. Needed bounce-back South Carolina could not only use a win, but a comfortable win where there’s little doubt about the best team on the floor. Through three opportunities this season (exhibition loss to Augusta included), the Gamecocks have hardly looked mighty despite on-paper inferior competition. Frank Martin said after the Stony Brook loss that he’s still excited about his team. A convincing victory can help the fan base feel that way, too. 2. Spotlight on Silva, Kotsar USC lost to Stony Brook and Chris Silva couldn’t do anything about it. Carolina’s All-SEC forward sat the final 10:18 with four fouls. Martin said he didn’t even consider bringing the senior back because his ball-screen defense was so porous. Maik Kotsar was involved in Friday’s stretch run, but the junior’s goose-egg in the rebound column didn’t sit well with Martin. Two years after starting on a Final Four team, Silva and Kotsar are showing signs of regression. There’s still plenty of season left, but Martin’s been cleared about the pressure he’s putting on his most veteran players. 3. A look-ahead? Norfolk State and South Carolina share Michigan as a common opponent. The Wolverines are scheduled to face the Gamecocks on Dec. 8 — and could match up with them this weekend in Connecticut as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Here’s what the Wolverines did to the Spartans on Nov. 6: Held them to 13 first half points, three 3-pointers (on 12 attempts) and forced 13 turnovers. Michigan won, 63-44. Can USC compete with the Wolverines? Perhaps Tuesday’s game can provide a few clues.
  21. As losses vs. ranked teams mount, what exactly is Will Muschamp's ceiling? November 13, 2018 SDS When the clock hit zero in Gainesville on Saturday, reality set in for South Carolina. Another ranked team, another loss. The latest was even more crushing than usual after Will Muschamp blew a 17-point lead in the final 16 minutes against his former team. It marked the fourth time in as many games this year that the Gamecocks dropped to a ranked opponent, and it was actually the ninth consecutive loss to a Top-25 foe dating to 2016. Not since Muschamp’s first year in Columbia have the Gamecocks taken down a ranked team (and it was against Butch Jones, so there should probably be an asterisk on that one). A 1-11 record vs. Top 25 teams in his first 3 years isn’t ideal. With a road trip to unbeaten Clemson in a couple weeks, the odds of that getting better before bowl season aren’t great. As a result of that woeful record against quality foes, South Carolina hasn’t been recognized as one. The Gamecocks spent a total of 1 week of the Muschamp era in the Associated Press Top 25 … which ended when they got their teeth kicked in by Georgia at home in Week 2. With Muschamp staring at a mediocre Year 3 that’ll ultimately fall short of high preseason expectations, the question is not about his job security. Someone a year removed from being an SEC Coach of the Year candidate doesn’t deserve that, especially if you look at what he inherited. But it’s perfectly fair to ask the question now — what’s South Carolina’s upside with Muschamp? One of my unpopular offseason takes was that I thought the Gamecocks overachieved in 2017 and that they were due for some regression. I repeatedly brought up the stat about going 6-1 in 1-score games. South Carolina only faced 2 ranked teams in 2017 and was outscored by an average of 19 points. So yeah, even with all of that offensive talent returning combined with the upgrades to the offensive coaching staff, I questioned how South Carolina was going to take another next step. Muschamp’s defense was young and I thought the division would be tougher than it was last year. That’s the thing that probably doesn’t sit well long-term with Gamecocks. With new coaches, Florida and Tennessee already look like they have higher ceilings than South Carolina. After all, the Gators and Vols each have multiple wins against ranked opponents this year. This year hasn’t exactly been a good sign that Muschamp’s group will rise above mediocrity in what looked like an extremely winnable division when he arrived. There’s also the “here we go again” concern. Muschamp, as many remember, took that major Year 2 leap at Florida. In Year 3, the Gators went from contender to 4-win team. Ultimately, he couldn’t get close enough back to contender status in Year 4 to warrant him keeping his job. Even he admitted that. Obviously expectations at South Carolina aren’t that high and to be fair, the Year 3 drop-off won’t be nearly as drastic as it was in Gainesville. That’s why Muschamp shouldn’t be a “hot seat” candidate this offseason. But in the coming months, expect to see plenty people in the anti-Muschamp crowd throw these numbers out: .ms-elegant-main { border: 2.25pt double black; background-color: white; } .ms-elegant-tl { font-family: small-caps; font-weight: normal; color: black; border-left-style: none; border-right: .75pt solid black; border-top-style: none; border-bottom: .75pt solid black; background-color: white; } .ms-elegant-left { font-weight: normal; color: black; border-left-style: none; border-right: .75pt solid black; border-top-style: none; border-bottom: .75pt solid black; background-color: white; } .ms-elegant-top { font-family: small-caps; font-weight: normal; color: black; border-left-style: none; border-right: .75pt solid black; border-top-style: none; border-bottom: .75pt solid black; background-color: white; } .ms-elegant-even { font-weight: normal; color: black; border-left-style: none; border-right: .75pt solid black; border-top-style: none; border-bottom: .75pt solid black; background-color: white; } Will Muschamp First 3 seasons at Florida First 3 seasons at SC Overall record 22-16 20-15 SEC record 13-11 12-12 Winning division records 1 1 Record vs. ranked teams 4-11 1-11 A look at those numbers and it’s natural to wonder just how high Muschamp’s upside is. The other part of this that I haven’t brought up yet is the recruiting. Muschamp recruited well at Florida, and some argued that Jim McElwain’s consecutive division titles to start his tenure were a result of that. Maybe that’s true. It’s amazing to think that there were still players that Muschamp recruited who partook in Florida’s comeback win on Saturday. Muschamp is in position to sign his fourth Top 25 class at South Carolina. If he can finish better than No. 18 — that’s where the 2019 class is ranked nationally — he’ll have one-upped South Carolina’s recruiting every year since he’s been there. The fact that he has commitments from blue-chip quarterback recruit Ryan Hilinski and 5-star defensive end and South Carolina native Zacch Pickens bodes well for this year’s class. Muschamp also signed an extension in January that’ll keep him under contract through 2023, which bodes well for him continuing to make strides on the recruiting trail (there’s still probably a ceiling of somewhere around No. 15 nationally given what Clemson is right now). That’s the good news. But the bad news is that until South Carolina starts beating at least some ranked teams, many will question how much the recruiting rankings really matter. In Muschamp’s 3 full recruiting cycles at Florida, he signed 3 top-9 classes, 2 of which were in the top 3. Still, when those recruits should have been the heart of his roster in 2013 and 2014, his teams were 1-6 against ranked opponents. That wasn’t just because of Muschamp’s quarterback issues. That’s all in the past, though. There’s no guarantee that history repeats itself as South Carolina continues to rebuild its roster after Steve Spurrier let it deteriorate. Let’s not forget that coming into this season, South Carolina was ranked No. 119 in percentage of returning defensive production. The Gamecocks do have promising young defensive players in the secondary who figure to be the backbone of an improved defense in 2019. And while the Gamecocks still struggle to run the ball too much, one should feel better about the overall direction of the offense under Bryan McClendon and Dan Werner compared to the previous staff. That’s true regardless of if Jake Bentley returns for his senior season (I expect he will). So what does that all add up to? I honestly think that South Carolina’s ceiling is as a fringe Top 25 team that can beat at least 1 ranked foe per season. The Gamecocks simply don’t have the upside they did under Spurrier, which is fine. It doesn’t mean Muschamp is a bad coach and that he should be replaced. The fact that his arrival happened to coincide with Clemson and Georgia turning into juggernauts is going to continue to frustrate the fan base. If Florida sustains its place as a top-15 program as many expect it will, it’ll be even tougher for some to accept the Gamecocks playing second fiddle. But keep this in mind: A little over 2 years ago, we were talking about a program that was off to a 2-4 start and looking like it was destined for its second consecutive season in the East cellar. Muschamp has indeed raised the expectations in Columbia. Only time will tell if he can actually beat some quality foes and raise them again.
  22. South Carolina Gamecock vs Stony Brook Seawolves November 08, 2018 Game info Who: Stony Brook (1-0) at South Carolina (1-0) When: 7 p.m. Friday Where: Colonial Life Arena KenPom prediction: South Carolina 78, Stony Brook 62 TV: SEC Network Plus (Accessed via ESPN3.com or the WatchESPN app) Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area Series: First meeting STONY BROOK Coach: Jeff Boals (32-33 in three seasons at Stony Brook) Projected starters: G Miles Latimer (15.0 points per game), G Jaron Cornish (5.0), G Elijah Olaniyi (18.0), F Akwasi Yeboah (12.0), C Jeff Otchere (4.0) Last game: Beat George Washington, 77-74 (overtime), in Washington, D.C. Notes: The Seawolves, 13-19 finishers last year, were picked fourth in the preseason American East poll. They’re three seasons removed from their last NCAA Tournament appearance. ... Yeboah, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, was a preseason all-conference pick. Olaniyi is the reigning American East Rookie of the Year. ... Cornish is the only senior on the roster. Stony Brook features five freshmen, six sophomores and two juniors. SOUTH CAROLINA Coach: Frank Martin (231-144 in 12 seasons overall; seventh season at USC — 114-90). Projected starters: G Tre Campbell (3.0), G A.J. Lawson (9.0), G/F Justin Minaya (3.0), F Chris Silva (13.0), F Maik Kotsar (6.0) Last game: Beat USC Upstate, 65-52, at home Notes: The Gamecocks are seeking a 2-0 start for a fourth straight season. ... Despite a limited bench, Carolina’s reserves — Hassani Gravett, Felipe Haase and Keyshawn Bryant — made up 48 percent of the Gamecocks’ scoring and 42 percent of their rebounding against USC Upstate. ... South Carolina had 13 more turnovers than assists Tuesday. The last time it had a ratio that bad? Feb. 24, 2018, when the Gamecocks had 21 turnovers to just eight assists in an overtime loss to Mississippi State. STORYLINES 1. No lead is safe South Carolina is playing a team that just pulled off the most stunning comeback of this young college basketball season. Stony Brook was down 22-0 nearly 10 minutes into its opener against George Washington. The Sewolves didn’t make their first field goal until the 9:17 mark of the first half. They trailed for 39:59 of regulation before outscoring the Colonials, 14-11, in overtime. No USC lead is safe Friday. 2. 3-pointer watch After going 0-for-18 against USC Upstate, the Gamecocks are on 3-pointer watch Friday. They’re due for at least a couple makes against Stony Brook. The Seawolves, though, allowed GW to hit just six of 20 3s Tuesday. Who’s the top candidate to give Carolina its first 3 of the 2018-19 season? Campbell led the team in attempts Tuesday with four. Lawson, Minaya and Gravett each tried three times from deep. 3. Bryant’s encore What’s next for the freshman? Bryant drove and dunked his way to 21 points in his Gamecock debut. The 6-foot-6 wing won’t be as much a mystery to Stony Brook than what he was to Upstate.
  23. As we get ready to watch the game: Five questions for South Carolina’s game against Florida November 09, 2018 South Carolina (5-3 overall, 4-3 SEC) plays No. 19 Florida (6-3, 4-3) on Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Here are five burning questions heading into that game” Who will carry USC running game? Leading rusher Rico Dowdle returned to practice Wednesday, but it’s tough to believe Dowdle is going to be full strength after watching him get helped off the field last week against Ole Miss due to an ankle injury. Second-leading rusher Ty’Son Williams broke a bone in his hand against the Rebels and was wearing a hard cast early in the week. He hopes to be able to transition to a soft cast for the game, but it could be that Mon Denson and A.J. Turner take most of the carries against Florida. Given that Denson is coming off a career-high 102 yards and Turner led the team in rushing last year that’s hardly cause for panic, but it could create a depth issue for South Carolina. Can Gamecocks stop Gators running game? Florida doesn’t have a running back in the top 10 of the SEC, and the Gators running game statistically is in the middle of the pack, but South Carolina has a lot of respect for Florida backs Lamical Perine, Jordan Scarlett and Dameon Pierce. “They have three great running backs,” safety Steven Montac said. That trio averages 5.77 yards per carry, while the Gamecocks are 12th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 182 yards per game on the ground. Florida doesn’t love the way quarterback Feleipe Franks is playing right now, but that won’t matter if South Carolina can’t stop the run. The Gators run the ball on 57.4 percent of their snaps. Can South Carolina win in The Swamp? No South Carolina coach other than Steve Spurrier has beaten the Gators in Florida. The Gamecocks are 2-14 all-time in The Swamp. South Carolina and then-freshman quarterback Jake Bentley were completely overwhelmed in their last trip to Gainesville, but Bentley and head coach Will Muschamp believe a more veteran Gamecocks team will handle the environment better this week. Florida’s home field certainly hasn’t been invincible this year. The Gators have lost to both Kentucky and Missouri in The Swamp in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach. Will Gamecocks take next step? This is a very significant game for South Carolina for two reasons. First, the Gamecocks could post back-to-back winning seasons in the SEC for just the fourth time in school history with a win. Second, they could snap an eight-game losing streak against ranked teams. Both of those would be meaningful markers of progress in Muschamp’s third season, and the outcome of this game will go a long way toward shaping the narrative of how South Carolina enters the 2019 season. Are the Gators in disarray? The question that might have the most impact on the game has nothing to do with South Carolina. Florida appears to be in some level of turmoil entering Saturday’s game. The Gators were considering a change at quarterback until backup Kyle Trask suffered a season-ending injury in practice this week. Earlier in the week, Mullen denied rumors of a locker room incident involving Franks, the starting quarterback, and the general mood in Gainesville is low. Florida fans were high on Dan Mullen after he beat LSU, but if he loses at home to Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina in his first season, Gator fans aren’t going to be happy. That reality probably is resting heavy on Florida’s coaches and players this week.
  24. Gamecock veteran on having to sit out: ‘I went home, and I was just real sad’ November 08, 2018 THE STATE There’s a certain unbalance that comes with playing football on the college level. Players spend the offseason working. There are endless lifts, practices, film sessions, all that. And it all builds to what? Twelve games a year, maybe 13, maybe more if a team is lucky. So each one carries weight, each chance to a player has a level of preciousness. This season, Gamecocks tailback A.J. Tuner felt the weight of being deprived of it. The fourth-year junior got hurt early, then suffered a concussion that knocked him out against Missouri and kept him out against Texas A&M and through the bye week. He was finally cleared before Tennessee, but didn’t actually get a carry until the last week’s Ole Miss game. And that kind of thing wears on a player, feeling games slipping away. “To be honest, it was definitely hard on me, being hurt,” Turner said. “There’s not a lot of games in the season. At first I was really kind of bummed about it. I still am. I missed games. You don’t really get this year back. At the end of the day, I’m here. I’m still here. I’m still standing. I’m healthy. Not everybody can say that. No everybody has that ability.” There’s a factor of the unknown with a concussion. It’s not a knee or an ankle with a clearer timeline. Gamecocks safety Nick Harvey has been out a month with one, with no end in sight. Turner said the uncertainty left him down, but going through that means he takes less for granted. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp pointed out Turner is that breed of player who just loves playing any way he can. He’s not been as large a part of the rotation because of USC’s running back depth, so he helps on four special teams units, doing the dirty work that often goes unnoticed. “It’s a frustrating time,” Muschamp said. “As much time as we put in as players through the offseason program and the lifting and all the commitment that you have, to just have 12 opportunities that you can go out there and play and you get some of those opportunities taken, it’s very frustrating. People have no idea the amount of time these young men put in.” Quarterback Jake Bentley said he saw teammates supporting Turner and making sure he remained part of the group. Players doing their rehab work are often off to the side, and there can be some isolation in that. “I think it’s a testament to the group of guys that’s in the running back room,” Bentley said. “All those running backs pick each other up. “I think that’s one of the hardest things when someone gets hurt, kind of not feeling like they’re part of the team anymore. But the running backs just do an outstanding job of staying together. Bentley added he’d seen some of the running backs join Turner in “the pit,” a sand pit where players not in full practice work with strength staffers. Turner has been a fixture in USC’s backfield for three years now. He was the opening-day starter in 2016 as a redshirt freshman, beating out veterans such as David Williams. He watched Rico Dowdle take the top spot in the second half of that season, but ended up leading the 2017 Gamecocks in carries, becoming the last back standing after injuries and other factors. This season, working behind Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams, he has 26 carries for 148 yards. He’s been one of USC’s more explosive backs and scored his first touchdown of the year against Ole Miss last week. The Gamecocks will go into this week’s showdown at Florida with Williams nursing a broken hand and Dowdle on a bum ankle. That likely means more Mon Denson and more Turner, something that’s not much of a surprise as the team often seems to turn to him. But whatever the workload, just being out there will be enough. “Just wanted to be out there so bad,” Turner said. “I know there’s days I went home and I was just real sad that I couldn’t play. I’m here now.

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