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  1. What this ‘really smart’ player might add to South Carolina’s defense in 2019 January 17, 2019 THE STATE The first thing people involved in the South Carolina football program said about Ernest Jones centered around something those outside the program couldn’t see. To a degree, that makes sense with a player who missed the spring with a back injury and spent most of his first year on campus on track to redshirt. But it might also speak to something coming down the line. “He’s smart,” starting middle linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “That was the first thing I noticed. He’ll call something and see something. Sometimes he’ll beat the running back or whoever the ball carrier is to the spot.” His head coach, Will Muschamp, echoed the sentiment. “He’s really intelligent,” Muschamp said. “He’s really smart. That’s one of the reasons we really liked him in the recruiting process … able to make the calls in our defense.” But all that was something fans mostly had to wait to see. The fracture in Jones’ back had him out all spring. He got into the season opener late in a blowout and then didn’t play in the next eight games. But then he got some snaps against Chattanooga. Then with the team’s avalanche of injuries, he played against Clemson and Akron. By the bowl game, he was facing the choice of burning his redshirt and ended up playing seven snaps on defense plus special teams. Now the 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker goes into the offseason unencumbered by injury. “He’s a tough kid for sure,” Brunson said. “I like watching him play, he’s going to be really good. I’m not sure about the whole back injury story, but I’m sure that’s something that took a lot for him to overcome and to come out here and play and make plays at practice and come in a game and make plays, that’s’ huge for us. I know he’s excited to finally get more comfortable with working out and stuff this offseason.” For the season, he posted 16 tackles, a pair of quarterback hurries and forced a fumble. The team will return a group of linebackers that is experienced, but also needs to produce more in 2019. Only Bryson Allen-Williams projects to be gone, and he was mostly a Buck defensive end. Brunson is back for a third year starting and Sherrod Greene is back for a second, but at times the starting pair had struggles and was overworked. Veteran Eldridrige Thompson is waiting on a medical sixth season after a shoulder injury ended his 2018 early. Beyond them, it’s Jones, others who got spot duty and the freshmen. Damani Staley had 31 tackles as an often-used backup, but also had some struggles. Rosendo Louis projected as a rotation player at the start of the season, but ended up playing sparingly through the middle of the season, bouncing between positions and then getting hurt. Then there’s the freshmen, the smaller Jahmar Brown and a bigger option in Derek Boykins. With all those bodies, USC will have to sort out a rotation that probably needs more production and more depth to shore up a defense hammered by injuries. Muschamp spoke highly of what the team saw from Jones in the meeting room, how he took to understanding South Carolina’s defensive concepts and how he progressed through the season. But Jones is still a linebacker, and for as much as one can talk about his understanding, there is the other part of his game. “He is also a guy who is really heavy handed,” Brunson said. “I remember seeing, we were doing a power foot and hands drill working with running backs, and just watching him punch and knock someone’s head back and jar somebody as a freshman, that’s pretty good.”
  2. USC signee CB Cam Smith still plans to enroll in school early January 16, 2019 USC signee CB Cam Smith still plans to enroll in school early and is just waiting on the go-ahead from the NCAA. Smith said the hold up for him was his SAT score improved quite a bit from his first test to the second, so he had to get the second score validated and sent into the NCAA. That has been done and he expects to hear back from the NCAA later this week or next. He will enroll at that point.
  3. Gamecock signee Ryan Hilinski jumps more than 20 spots in final Rivals rankings January 15, 2019 South Carolina signee Ryan Hilinski made a huge jump in the final Rivals Top 100 rankings, released Tuesday. The four-star quarterback moved up 23 spots and is No. 45 on the Top 100 list. He is listed as third-ranked quarterback in the country. Hilinski is the second USC signee in the rankings. On Monday, Gamecock signee Zacch Pickens was ranked as No. 9 overall player in Rivals final rankings. This season, Hilinski completed 64.2 percent of his passes and threw for 2,771 yards and 29 touchdowns. In three seasons at Orange Lutheran High School in California, he completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 8,102 yards and 74 TD passes. Hilinski played in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio earlier this month. He already signed with South Carolina began classes at the school Monday.
  4. Is South Carolina’s running back by committee approach working? The stats show this January 15, 2019 It turns out that nobody is a big fan of “running back by committee” — even the committee. “When I played we rotated four or five guys at a time. I was not a big fan of that,” new South Carolina running backs coach Thomas Brown said this week. “I don’t think anybody in the room was a big fan of that.” Gamecocks fans certainly are getting a little tired of it. South Carolina hasn’t had a true lead running back since Mike Davis gained 1,197 yards in 2013 and another 982 in 2014. Since that time, the Gamecocks have searched for a player who can carry the bulk of the led but had to settle for group of running backs sharing the carries on a week-to-week basis — the clichéd “committee.” It has been as effective as most committees. The Gamecocks haven’t finished higher than 10th in the SEC in rushing in the last four seasons. In 2018, South Carolina had four junior running backs and head coach Will Muschamp said he considered them all starter quality. In fact, all four of them started at least one game at tailback but none of them had more than 123 carries or 654 yards. Both of those marks were reached by Rico Dowdle, whose yardage total was the second-lowest among the SEC players who led their team in rushing. Only Tennessee’s Ty Chandler (630) had fewer yards while leading his team in rushing, and the Volunteers finished last in the league in rushing. Alabama and Tennessee were the only teams in the conference whose leading rusher got a smaller percentage of the running back carries (based on distribution of the top four running backs on the team). Dowdle ended up with 37.8 percent of the running back carries based on the distribution among the top four. Mon Denson finished with 86 carries for 432 yards. Ty’Son Williams had 70 carries for 328 yards, and A.J. Turner had 46 carries for 294 yards. All four will return in 2019, although Turner may play primarily defensive back. Brown has met his new running backs and said the playing rotation “depends on what those guys bring to the table.” “Everything is going to be earned by every guy who’s on the football field for us,” said Brown, a former Georgia running back. “From personal experience, playing with three or four other NFL caliber running backs when I was playing, competition makes you better, every single day, understanding there are guys in the room just as good as you are who can take your spot every day.” However Brown divides up the carries, the Gamecocks’ rushing total needs to add up to more. No team in the SEC has rushed for fewer total yards than South Carolina in the last three seasons. The running game “is what the SEC is about,” Brown said. “I’m well-versed in this conference and you have to have a balanced running attack.” Total rushing yards in SEC last three seasons Alabama 10,160 Georgia 9,705 Mississippi State 9,176 Auburn 8,760 Texas A&M 7,624 LSU 7,752 Kentucky 7,738 Missouri 7,608 Florida 6,158 Arkansas 5,872 Tennessee 5,646 Vanderbilt 5,599 Ole Miss 5,369 South Carolina 5,321
  5. Bentley -- Final Total QBR Ranking (+ other ranking tibits) Bentley finished with a Total QBR (see below for explanation) of 73.9, which was good enough for 31st in the country. His Raw QBR (not adjusting for strength of defense faced) was 65.9, indicating that he actually played better against better competition (taking out his clunker vs UK and 1st half A&M, this seem to make sense). Bentley ranked 6th in the SEC, ahead of Schumer, Ta'amu, Guarantano, Franks, Stidham, Fitzgerald, Wilson and Storey, in that order. Some other notable QBs ratings: The top 2 (Murray and Tua) were on a completely different level than the next tier of QBs with 95.9 and 94.5 ratings, respectively. Jake Fromm came in at 3rd with 86.4 and Haskins at 4th with 86.3. Drew Lock was the only other SEC QB inside the top 10 at #8. Trevor Lawrence came in at 10th with 80.8. Terry Wilson was ranked 71st with a 57.4, which is really shocking considering the success UK had. They really did rely on Benny Snell and their D... I expect them to be far worse next year. SC actually faced three QBs in the top 10 of QBR this year, but only 4 total that were rated higher than Bentley (in the final rankings). Bentley's top QBR game this year--Clemson at 93.8--was ranked the 90th best game by a QB in 2018, and even behind Lawrence in same game (70th overall game with 94.5). Bentley's RAW (unadjusted) QBR for that game was only a 73, but he got a huge bump for it coming against a great defense. Lawrence on the other hand, had a 93.1 Raw and got almost no bump (b/c our D sucks). Interestingly, Jarrett Stidham, while coming in well behind Bentley in the final season average QBR (#56 with 56.3) actually turned in the very best QBR game by any QB all season with his performance in the bowl game vs. Purdue... scoring a 99.9... basically the highest score you can get. Not sure what we can glean from this data exactly other than Bentley wasn't really as bad as some make him out to be, but he also wasn't anywhere close to the top tier (or even second tier) of QBs in P5 football. What Total QBR Captures: Since college football has imbalanced schedules, QBR will be seen in both a form that adjusts for defenses faced - called Total QBR - and in a form that doesn't adjust for defense called Raw QBR. The scale of QBR is from zero to 100, where 50 is average. Top quarterbacks are in the upper 80s and 90s for a season. The increase from unadjusted to adjusted reflects that he did face good defenses overall. Unlike NCAA Passer Efficiency, which uses only box score statistics, Total QBR accounts for what a quarterback does on a play-by-play level, meaning it accounts for down, distance, field position, as well as the clock and score. A 5-yard gain on third-and-4 is a good play, whereas a 5-yard gain on third-and-14 isn't. A 20-yard touchdown pass when tied in the second quarter means more than a 20-yard touchdown pass when down 30 points late in the fourth quarter. QBR accounts for those things using analysis that turns traditional productivity into points on the scoreboard and wins in the standings. It also accounts for a quarterback's ability to scramble, his ability to run on designed rush plays, how well he avoids sacks, drawing and committing penalties, and all-important fumbles, which can be significant for quarterbacks. If a team gained 5 yards on third-and-4, the QB's contribution to that play is captured. The benefit of the 0-to-100 scale is that it strongly relates to a winning percentage. For example: A QBR of 86.4 implies that that QB's team should win 86.4 percent of its games given his performance and an average supporting cast (defense, special teams and non-QB rush offense). If the team had a quarterback whose rating was 50, they probably would have lost an extra 36.4 percent of their games.
  6. What Thomas Brown, Will Muschamp like about South Carolina’s newest tailback January 14, 2019 THE STATE Incoming South Carolina running backs coach Thomas Brown wouldn’t rule out adding another running back with the three remaining spots in the Gamecocks’ 2019 recruiting class. But he likes the incoming runner the staff already has on campus. Georgia tailback Kevin Harris was one of the early enrollees introduced to Gamecocks fans on Sunday alongside Brown. The bigger runner wasn’t the most heralded recruit, but Thomas spoke highly of him. “Real excited about him,” Brown said. “I watched his tape and met him. Great looking young man. So I’m excited about working with him. “He’s just tough. I think it’s a really underrated trait. A lot of guys kind of put a high premium on how fast a guy runs a 40. I think that’s probably one of the most overrated stats about running backs. I care more about can you break tackles? Can you make guys miss in a short-area space, and can you just be tough from a mental and physical standpoint. He definitely has it in my opinion.” That echoed some of what Will Muschamp said on signing day in December. “Kevin really came and earned his scholarship at camp,” Muschamp said. “We really liked his film. We weren’t totally certain about his top end speed. He came into camp and ran 4.55 in the 40 and vertical jumped 34 inches, which is really good. He has a really big lower body and is a difficult guy to tackle, when you talk in terms of a power running game and getting better there and adding some toughness to that position.” The 5-foot-10, 230 pounder ran for 1,556 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior. He was the No. 6 rusher in the state of Georgia. He had 1,680 yards as a junior. Brown has already reached out to at least one top recruit in Jerrion Ealy, the No. 45 player in the 247 Sports composite rankings.
  7. Gamecocks defensive back has been entered in the NCAA’s transfer portal January 12, 2019 South Carolina football could be losing a veteran in the defensive backfield. The State confirmed Friday that Gamecocks defensive back Javon Charleson’s name has been entered in the NCAA’s transfer portal. That allows other coaches to find him and contact him with sights on bringing him in, but it does not guarantee he will transfer from USC. Gamecock Central and The Big Spur were first to report the news. The portal, which the NCAA unveiled in October, is part of an overhaul in the transfer process, eliminating the need for student-athletes to request permission from their current school to transfer and acting as a database for coaches to search for players. Charleston has been a reserve and ace special teamer for most of his career. He arrived at USC as a walk-on wide receiver, then moved to the defensive backfield before the 2016 season. He was put on scholarship before the 2017 season and earned the special teams Unselfish and Tenacity awards that year. This past offseason, Charleston was involved in an alleged domestic dispute and suspended from the team pending court proceedings. He was accepted in pretrial intervention and the charges were dropped, leading to his reinstatement after missing the first game of the season. After his return, Charleston recorded eight tackles on the year before going down with a season-ending foot injury against Ole Miss.
  8. Gamecocks expected to lose another football assistant coach January 11, 2019 South Carolina defensive line coach Lance Thompson is not expected to return to the Gamecocks next season, a source told The State on Thursday. Thompson “will not be kept,” ABC of Columbia reported on Thursday. He has coached South Carolina’s defensive line since head coach Will Muschamp was hired prior to the 2016 season. He was one of Muschamp’s first hires, coming with the head coach from Auburn. South Carolina had already added Thomas Brown this offseason. Brown will coach running backs in 2019 and took assistant coach Pat Washington’s position on the staff. When Brown’s hiring became official Wednesday, athletics director Ray Tanner indicated that more football staff changes could be coming. It’s not clear when the Gamecocks will officially address Thompson’s status. “Believe Will already has his replacement lined up,” FootballScoop tweeted Thursday. Thompson has had a long career in the Southeast, coaching at Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, LSU and UCF, often for Nick Saban. He is listed by 247Sports as a key recruiter for five-star defensive end Zacch Pickens, plus four-star Joseph Anderson. At past spots, he played roles in recruiting the likes of Julio Jones, Da’Shawn Hand and Jonathan Allen to Alabama. Thompson came to USC as the defensive line coach, but his role was switched to tackles coach before this season. Mike Peterson worked with the outside linebackers, Bucks and defensive ends. Whoever gets the job will inherit a stocked cupboard of blue chippers, which includes Pickens, Anderson, Josh Belk, Rick Sandidge, Javon Kinlaw and Kingsley Enagbare.
  9. On South Carolina’s newest coach: ‘You could never outwork him’ January 10, 2019 THE STATE The hiring of Thomas Brown as South Carolina’s running backs coach allows him and Bryan McClendon to reunite at least part of a group that spent a lot of time together at the University of Georgia. “They had a group; it was like four or five of them. You’d always see them together,” said SEC Network analyst D.J. Shockley, who was a teammate of both Brown and McClendon with the Bulldogs. “They had a name for themselves. I’ll let you ask them that, and that’ll be pretty fun.” Asking Brown, 32, or McClendon about their relationship will have to wait because Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp traditionally only allows his assistant coaches to speak to the media twice a year. Brown became one of those coaches Wednesday when the USC Board of Trustees approved his hiring. “I think the chance to be with BMac is the big reason he went there,” Shockley said. “I think that’s something that they will look back on as they get older and say, ‘This is something pretty special to do.’ ” Brown and McClendon were teammates at Georgia in 2004 and 2005, during which time the Bulldogs won the 2005 SEC Championship. Brown left Georgia as the school’s fifth-leading rusher all-time. “As a teammate, he (was) the ultimate guy you wanted to play with,” Shockley said. “Probably one of the best competitors I have been around, and easily he was one of the strongest guys on our team pound for pound, not just physically but mentally as well.” Bryan Lamar — the head coach at Tucker High School in Atlanta, where Brown played high school football — also remembers Brown’s physical strength. “He wasn’t the biggest running back to play here, but he was fast and he was pound-for-pound one of the strongest guys ever to come through here or play at Georgia,” Lamar said. “A lot of that is his character and how hard he worked as an individual. You never could outwork him as a player, and I would think it would be very hard to outwork him as a coach.” Brown recruited Tucker for Georgia and Miami, where he worked prior to coming to South Carolina. He also coached at Wisconsin and Marshall, and he has coached current NFL running backs Melvin Gordon, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. “His background with all the running backs he’s had has been well documented,” Shockley said. “Him as a coach is a direct result of how he played, and players can respect it because he can turn on tape and show them.” Brown rushed for 2,646 yards and 23 touchdowns in four years at Georgia. “He’s always liked by all his teammates,” Shockley said. “He was always smiling and laughing and played with a toughness.”
  10. Thomas Brown is added to the Gamecock coaching staff, Pat Washington out as Gamecocks shift coaching duties Januar 09, 2019 South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp shook up the Gamecocks coaching staff on Wednesday, hiring one new assistant, pushing another out and giving another a raise and contract extension. (MORE)
  11. Gamecock WR Bryan Edwards announces NFL decision January 19, 2019 South Carolina football will hold onto one of its top pass catchers for the 2019 season. (MORE)
  12. Gamecocks to hire former Miami coordinator, well-regarded recruiter January 08, 2019 Multiple outlets are reporting South Carolina is shaking up its offensive coaching staff (MORE)
  13. An early look at the Gamecocks 2019 Two Deep chart OFFENSE QB - Bentley/Hilinski RB - Williams/Dowdle/Denson WR - Edwards/Dawkins WR - S. Smith/Terrell WR - Vann/O. Smith TE - Markway/Hinson TE - Pollard/Register LT - Hutcherson/Carty LG - Gwynn/Douglass C - Manos/Farrell RG - Stanley/Rhodes RT - Wonnum/Ilyama DEFENSE DE - Enagbare/Pickens NT - Kinlaw/Belk DT - Thomas/Sandidge BUCK - Wonnum/Johnson WLB - Greene/Jones MLB - Brunson/Thompson SAM - Louis/Staley CB - Horn/Dixon N - Williams/Harvey FS - Mukuamu/Charleston SS - Roderick/Dickerson CB - Smith/Cook This could be the most talented team Gamecocks have had in a few years 40% Blue Chip ratio on offense 50% Blue Chip ratio on defense Things are headed in the right direction
  14. What South Carolina’s four-star talent who had to sit out has shown Jake Bentley January 07, 2019 THE STATE At times this football season, it seemed South Carolina would send in any defensive back who was vertical just to have a complete secondary on the field. That’s every defensive back save for Jamel Cook, a four-star talent, who had to say in the wings, waiting for his chance. Next year, the former Southern Cal recruit will be a part of South Carolina’s defense. At 6-foot-4, the South Florida product brings something unusual with his ability to play corner at that size. All season, he’s been a part of South Carolina’s scout team, working against the starting offense. That means matching up with Jake Bentley and leaving a bit of an impression. “He’s really long,” Bentley said. “That’s one thing that you kind of look at him and see similarities between him and Israel (Mukuamu). “Just super long. Really hard to get it over the top of them. Just a guy that’s really going to just get better.” The third-year sophomore played sparingly in his two seasons with the Trojans. He’d been a dominant player at Miami Central High School and a top-100 recruit, and he departed the West Coast last offseason. So the question now becomes; how do the Gamecocks use him next season? USC coach Will Muschamp has said again and again that his aim is getting his best four, five or six defensive backs on the field. His team is set to lose a trio of starters, but will also return a large batch of defensive backs with some experience. The freshman trio of Mukuamu (a safety and corner), R.J. Roderick (a safety) and Jaycee Horn (can play anywhere) are all back and have a lot of promise. Injured starter Jamyest Williams will return, as will developing safety Jaylin Dickerson. USC will possibly have former grad transfers J.T. Ibe and Nick Harvey, who are both seeking medical redshirts, and add intriguing corners Cam Smith and John Dixon to the mix. And then there’s Cook, who has played all three spots at points in his college career. Despite a build that would fit a safety, Will Muschamp insisted he was a corner, and Bentley confirmed that’s where he mostly played. He or Mukuamu could find themselves at the safety spot simply because both being a different dimension with their size, and South Carolina never got all that consistent there outside maybe Roderick, a true freshman coming off a high school career at quarterback. But for the moment, that pair of 6-foot-4 players are corners, and if they end up USC’s duo on the outside, it would present quite a look for the opposition. “It’s a different challenge of how you’ve got to throw at them,” Bentley said. “You’re not going to get a lot over the top on them because they have enough speed to go get it, and so long, just able to cover so much area. “It’s a really unique skillse
  15. An early look at 2019 Gamecock Football Schedule plus where the program stands as of 2018 and beyond under Coach Muschamp December 30, 2018, Gamecockfanatics Corner by Henry Fusco An early look at South Carolina’s tough 2019 football schedule The Gamecocks’ 2018 season is now in the books With a disappointing 28-0 loss vs Virginia in the Belk Bowl, (shut out for the first time in bowl history) has been ten years since the Gamecocks last shutout. Gamecocks finish the season 7-6. Now let's look ahead to 2019, a season in which South Carolina will play Alabama, Georgia, and Clemson, all of whom could be ranked in the top five at the time of the game. It would mark the toughest season on paper since South Carolina played No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Ole Miss in the 2009 season. Here’s a look at each game of next year’s regular season: (MORE)
  16. Shameik Blackshear leaving the Gamecocks December 31, 2018 Defensive end Shameik Blackshear apparently is ending his South Carolina football career despite having one year of eligibility remaining. “I am grateful for my lessons learned as I transition to the next phase of my life and my career,” Blackshear tweeted Monday. Blackshear told The State that he will graduate in May and plans to play at another college next year as a graduate transfer. The Bluffton native finishes his Gamecocks career with 34 tackles and a sack. He played in 13 games this year, mostly as a reserve, but he started two games, including Saturday’s 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl and the regular season finale against Akron. “I would like to express my sincere thanks to the University of South Carolina Football program and coaching staff for affording me the Gamecock experience,” Blackshear wrote on a statement posted on social media. “Also, I would like to express my gratitude for the love and support of Gamecock Nation. In addition, the Gamecock staff was an intricate part of my success as a student athlete. During my college experience at South Carolina, I was afforded great opportunity to grow as a person and develop on and off the field. I will Forever be connected to my teammates and friends that I have made while at South Carolina. I am grateful for my lessons learned as I transition to the next phase of my life and my career. Thank you GAMECOCK NATION!” Blackshear was a four-star prospect with scholarship offers from Clemson, Florida State, Florida and Georgia when he signed with the Gamecocks in 2015. He was rated the No. 12 player in his recruiting class at any position after his sophomore season, but a high school knee injury and injuries suffered at South Carolina when he was shot in December of 2015 slowed his development. The Gamecocks were hopeful before this season began that Blackshear would develop into the player who once was ranked a five-star prospect in high school. “He earned everything,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said in August. “He’s playing well, and he’s working hard. He’s a guy that also can play some different spots on the defensive line. I’m very proud of Shamiek. I really am. We came in, and he had all the stuff going when we first got here, and he cleaned up his life and he’s doing a lot, lot better.” He had a career-best five tackles against Florida this year. The only experienced defensive ends South Carolina will return in 2019 are Danny Fennell, Keir Thomas, D.J. Wonnum, Brad Johnson and Aaron Sterling. Fennell, Wonnum and Sterling all will be returning from surgery.
  17. ‘Remember this feeling,’ Gamecocks hope to salvage good from Belk Bowl December 31, 2018 South Carolina’s football team hoped to leave Charlotte on a high note, with the kind of momentum that would propel it toward what even from this distance is a daunting 2019 schedule. Instead, the Gamecocks wandered out of their locker room and into the hallways at Bank of America Stadium with shocked looks on their faces and a different kind of motivation to spur them through the offseason. South Carolina was humbled 28-0 by an average Virginia team in the Belk Bowl, a result that almost no one, least of all the Gamecocks themselves, saw coming. Now, they hope that the embarrassment they felt will push them toward a better 2019. “This is just a learning lesson,” junior linebacker T.J. Brunson said “You just take this feeling that you have after a game like this and you invest it and you put in the work so it doesn’t happen again.” Head coach Will Muschamp, who looked as surprised as his players by the result, promised that his team is “going to be fine” and “going to have a great offseason.” “It’s extremely frustrating, but you know what? These guys will fight their (butt) off,” Muschamp said. “We have recruited the right guys, and they are talented guys, and they are going to fight their (butt) off, and that’s what really bright about the future. None of them are going to lay down, I’ll tell you that.” There’s plenty to stoke South Carolina’s fire through the eight months between now and the Aug. 31, 2019 season opener against North Carolina in Bank of America Stadium. The Gamecocks had season-lows in yards (261), rushing yards (43) and time of possession (17:25). Junior quarterback Jake Bentley was 17-of-40 passing with two interceptions and no touchdowns. “Remember this feeling, that was kind of Coach Muschamp’s message, ‘Remember how this feels and do what we’ve got to do to change that,’” Bentley said after the game. South Carolina (7-6) ended Muschamp’s first regular season with a similarly disheartening effort, losing 56-7 to archrival Clemson. There were similar “never again” pronouncements after that loss, and the Gamecocks bounced back with a 9-4 record the next season. Next year’s schedule won’t make a rebound easy, though. South Carolina will face Alabama, Clemson and Georgia, all of whom figure to be ranked in the nation’s top five, plus a No. 10 Florida team coming off a 41-15 bowl victory over No. 7 Michigan and a Texas A&M lead that just signed the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class. Muschamp remains optimistic in the face of that and despite what happened in Charlotte on Saturday. “We have recruited well. We have a lot of good players coming back. We had a really good signing class,” he said. “Are we better from Day 1? It’s night and day. The future is extremely bright. This is a disappointing day.”
  18. I personly feel all three need another year before going pro to really have a chance even to be drafted at this point at best free agents. Stay more possible being drafted just my Bentley’s afternoon wasn’t helped by his receivers, who dropped several critical passes early on; his offensive line, which often appeared confused by Virginia’s exotic blitzing packages; or the flow of the game, which forced him to take riskier and riskier shots in hopes of sparking a comeback. Still, for a player who is still deciding whether or not he wants to return to Columbia for his senior season or depart for the NFL, Saturday’s game was a bitter pill to swallow. Whether or not it will effect his decision is another matter. “You never like to end this way, a season or anything, but I don’t think it really has an effect overall on me. Just (waiting) a couple of days. Just going to kind of process everything. Just going to wait,” Bentley said of the game’s impact. Bentley has indicated in the past that the opportunity to set school records could impact his choice of whether or not to go pro. On Saturday, he at least reached one major milestone, surpassing 3,000 passing yards on the season, a mark only four other USC signal callers have ever reached. Still, when discussing the bowl loss Saturday, Bentley did at one point seem to refer to a future with the Gamecocks. “We just have to go back to work and remember this feeling,” Bentley said. USC’s other juniors facing NFL decisions — wide receiver Bryan Edwards and offensive lineman Donell Stanley — echoed Bentley on Saturday in saying that they will take some time before announcing their choices. “I’m going to get a few vacation days, clear my head and talk to my people about it,” Stanley said. “I’ll probably tweet something out there, or something like that.” “I don’t want to make any decision based off emotion or anything like that. I am just going to take a couple days and let everything smooth out and make a decision,” Edwards said.
  19. Gamecocks offense falls flat in Belk Bowl December 29, 2018 CHARLOTTE Will Muschamp’s third season at South Carolina ended with a thud in the Belk Bowl on Saturday. The Gamecocks lost 28-0 to Virginia in front of a crowd of 48,263 in Bank of America Stadium. It was the first time South Carolina has been shut out since losing 18-0 to Georgia in 2006. “Disappointed with the performance,” Muschamp said. “I appreciate our fan base. We sold our allotment of tickets, and we didn’t put on a good performance, and that’s on me. I apologize.” South Carolina (7-6) had been 3-0 all-time in Bank of America, home to the NFL’s Charlotte Panthers. The Gamecocks will return to the stadium for their next game, the Aug. 31, 2019, season-opener against North Carolina. They might not want to after how poorly Saturday went. South Carolina’s battered defense was run over by the Cavaliers, and the Gamecocks offense, playing without leading receiver Deebo Samuel, was powerless to keep up with Virginia. South Carolina finished with a season-low 261 yards. THREE POINTS Star of the game: Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, who set the school’s single-season record for yardage and touchdowns this season, continued his impressive double duty, throwing for 208 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another 81 yards. Play of the game: On the final play of the first half, South Carolina opted to attempt a Hail Mary pass with six seconds remaining rather than attempt a 52-yard field goal. Quarterback Jake Bentley was sacked, stuffing any chance of momentum the Gamecocks had going into the break. Place-kicker Parker White had missed a 45-yarder earlier in the game. Stat of the game: South Carolina rushed for a season-low 43 yards. OBSERVATIONS Riddle me this: Until Saturday, sophomore linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle was known mostly for being named to the SEC’s community service team this year. That changed when he became the Gamecocks’ primary strongside linebacker against Virginia. Eason-Riddle, a Raleigh, N.C., native who walked on in 2016, was thrust into action with freshman Rosendo Louis still slowed by a shoulder injury. He finished with a career-high four tackles. Youth movement: South Carolina started five true freshmen on Saturday, including center Hank Manos of Chapin, who made the first start of his collegiate career. Dylan Wonnum started at right tackle, and defensive backs Israel Mukuamu, Jaycee Horn and R.J. Roderick started on defense. Slow starts: In three bowl games under Muschamp, the Gamecocks have been outscored 52-17 in the first half. Virginia led 14-0 at halftime on Saturday thanks in large part to controlling the ball for 20:19 of the first half. The Cavaliers had an 8:52 touchdown drive in the second quarter, the longest surrendered by South Carolina this season. NEXT Who: South Carolina vs. North Carolina When: Aug. 31, 2019 Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
  20. ‘No disrespect to Birmingham’: Gamecocks moving up bowl food chain December 28, 2018 THE STATE The weather in Charlotte wasn’t great on Friday, the eve of the Belk Bowl and end of South Carolina’s 2018 football season, but the Gamecocks still were happy not to be in Birmingham … or Shreveport. “I went to the Birmingham Bowl,” South Carolina senior safety Steven Montac said. “I mean, no disrespect to Birmingham, it’s just not where you want to be. Last year, we went to Outback Bowl. This year, we’re here. We have definitely improved going from Birmingham being cold all day.” The Gamecocks (7-5) will face Virginia (7-5) on Saturday in Bank of America Stadium at noon on ABC. In terms of the SEC’s pecking order, the Belk Bowl is not near the top of the list, but still it represents progress for South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ fifth-year seniors started their postseason careers at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., in 2014. The next year was Birmingham, Ala., for the Birmingham Bowl. Last year’s 8-4 regular season resulted in a Florida bowl trip for the Outback Bowl. “This bowl site is probably the best bowl site we’ve had since I’ve been here starting in Shreveport five years ago,” senior tight end Jacob August said. “This is a big upgrade. That’s something to be happy about as a senior class.” The Gamecocks are 5.5-point favorites Saturday. They have won five of their last six bowl games. “A win Saturday is just going to build for the future,” tight end K.C. Crosby said. “Coach (Will) Muschamp and this staff have this program headed in the right direction. Every year we have advanced (the program). Things have picked up and you have a lot of guys who are maturing more, too.” South Carolina can notch back-to-back seasons of at least eight wins for the seventh time in school history with a victory. “Anytime you get another win in the win column it’s obviously a big deal,” wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “There haven’t been a lot of eight-win teams here at South Carolina. I feel pretty confident in our game plan and what we have in store.” Next year, Montac expects the Gamecocks to advance their postseason progress even further, much further. “Next year, I expect them to be in Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game),” he said.
  21. WATCH: Friday Belk Bowl News Conference Will Muschamp, Assorted players Plus Notes & Bryan Edwards Receives His NFL Evaluation December 28, 2018 VIDEOS Bryan Edwards’ NFL Draft evaluation suggested he return to South Carolina for his senior season, but the junior wide receiver still hasn’t decided if that’s what he is going to do. (MORE)
  22. Gamecocks’ defense worried about Virginia QB. USC offense worried about a lot December 28, 2018 THE STATE There’s one thing South Carolina’s defense is especially worried about when it comes to facing Virginia. The Gamecocks’ defense, on the other hand, is worried about everything. South Carolina (7-5) will meet the Cavaliers (7-5) on Saturday at noon in the Belk Bowl in Bank of America Stadium. The Gamecock defense’s main concern about Virginia is junior quarterback Bryce Perkins, a junior college transfer who set the school’s single-season record for total offense this year with 3,314 yards. “Their quarterback is mobile, so you have to stay in coverage,” safety Steven Montac said. “Your defensive line can’t really rush up the field or he’ll head up the field so you have to be patient. He’s a really good player.” Perkins has thrown for 2,472 yards and rushed for 842 this season. South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams described him as “a bigger Quinton Flowers.” Flowers threw for 261 yards and rushed for 105 in 2016 when South Florida beat the Gamecocks 46-39 in the Birmingham Bowl. “We have to make sure we contain him,” Allen-Williams said. Athletic freshmen quarterbacks Jay Urich and Dakereon Joyner have been simulating Perkins for the South Carolina scout team this week during practice. “We have to understand the mindset you have to have with a mobile quarterback, understanding that we can’t rush upfield, understanding that you can’t do a lot of things you would do against a quarterback,” Allen-Williams said. “He’s a good mobile quarterback. It’s going to be a challenge, but for us it’s all about we do.” The Virginia defense also has a standout in junior cornerback Bryce Hall, who could be a first round NFL Draft pick in the spring if he forgoes his senior season. “He’s a very instinctual player,” Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley said. “You will see a receiver get open and then him just close the distance and make a play. That’s what the great DBs do, they find a way to get back in the play. Their defense does a lot of different coverages. It’s going to be a challenge in preparation. The scheme that they have is unique, and they do a great job of running it.” Several South Carolina offensive players said the Virginia defense is the most varied it will face this season. The Cavaliers were third in the ACC in total defense during the regular season, allowing 337.2 yards per game. “They are very complicated in what they do,” Gamecocks tight end Jacob August said. “They never really are redundant about what they do. That’s pretty rare in college. Even pre-snap we can’t really decide what they are going to do, which is a testament to their coaching staff.” The Cavaliers’ defensive line uses more twists and stunts than South Carolina usually sees, offensive lineman Dennis Daley said. “We just have to stick to our game plan and come out and play,” tight end K.C. Crosby said. “They give you a lot of coverages and try to confuse you a lot, more than a lot of people we have played this year. It just takes more attention to detail and focus, locking in and knowing your little keys that they give you.
  23. Gamecocks reveal uniform combination for Belk Bowl vs. Virginia December 28, 2018 South Carolina football is going black and white to close out the season, and paid a little homage to a former player. The Gamecocks will go with black pants, white jerseys, black helmets as they look to win game No. 8 on the season in the Belk Bowl. In the video to announce it, former Gamecock and current Panther Damiere Byrd, whose field the bowl will be played on. That’s the look they wore for the opener last season, when they beat N.C. State at Bank of America Stadium. They also wore it for the Ole Miss game this season. The teams have not met since 2003. South Carolina won the last meeting 31-7, upsetting a top-15 team.
  24. Gamecocks get in the final practice of the season Thursday in Charlotte (AUDIO) December 27, 2018 SPORTSTALK Steve Montac and USC defense are expecting to play well vs Virginia That’s a wrap for practice for the USC football team this season. Gamecocks’ coach Will Muschamp put his team thru its second vigorous workout of the week at Charlotte Latin High School Thursday morning. All that’s left is a walk-through at Bank of America Stadium Friday and Saturday’s game against Virginia. Again Thursday, Keir Thomas and Rosendo Louis were the only two active players in yellow. Several defensive players met with the media after practice. Friday will be media day at the Charlotte convention center with both head coaches and five players from each squad. DT Kobe Smith CB AJ Turner LB Sherrod Greene SAF Steven Montac
  25. The part of South Carolina’s football team that has Virginia’s biggest focus December 27, 2018 THE STATE CHARLOTTE, N.C. Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall didn’t stick to staid “coach speak” as he described the keys to South Carolina’s football team. No matter how he said it, he identified the crucial spot his defense needs to focus on. “South Carolina offensively, they’re as effective as their throwing game,” Mendenhall said. “So their point potential, to me, is tied to their pace and to their pass game.” He was breaking down what his own squad, a 7-5 ACC team, had to focus on, while trying to slow the Gamecock in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte at noon on Saturday. The key spot was one where South Carolina flourished down the stretch and probably has its most playmakers. “Their run game is the glue that kind of keeps all that together and allows them to control the game, if possible,” Mendenhall said. “But the points and the yardage and being able to win comes through the air.” It’s likely Gamecocks fans know that, but still worth pointing out that’s what UVA’s coach is thinking on. At the helm of an up-tempo attack that took a while to get rolling, quarterback Jake Bentley has thrown for 2,953 yards, 27 scores and 12 interceptions in 11 games. He’s sixth on the single-season yardage list for the school, 253 from second place, and is second on the single-season touchdown list. Bentley ranks 17th in the country in yards per pass attempt. His top target, Deebo Samuel, is gone, off to get ready for the NFL, but he’s still got Bryan Edwards (52 catches, 809 yards, seven scores) and Shi Smith (39 catches, 597 yards, four scores despite some injuries). That passing game, which found life under first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, will have to contend with a relatively stingy defense. Against FBS opponents, the Cavs have allowed the 13th-lowest passer rating in the country and only 6.5 yards per pass attempt (Bentley is at 8.5 this season). That group includes corner Bryce Hall, who had 20 pass break-ups and two interceptions this season, and safety Juan Thornhill, who has picked off five passes and leads the team with 92 tackles. On the other side of the ball, where South Carolina has been devastated by injuries on the line and in the backfield, Mendenhall focused on the front seven. His offense has been balanced, but often relies on the legs of quarterback Bryce Perkins in space and a steady run game. “Even though there’s been significant injuries that they’ve dealt with as a team, I think they’re physical and they’re fast and athletic,” Mendenhall said. “That part of their game defensively is what gives them their best chance to control an offense.”

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