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  1. Here’s Thomas Brown’s plan for South Carolina’s running backs March 19, 2019 THE STATE It took six spring practices, but Thomas Brown finally got to see almost all his new running backs on the field Tuesday. Brown is South Carolina’s first-year running backs coach, but his first five practices he didn’t have a lot of running backs. Senior Rico Dowdle missed the first five practices with a groin injury, andsenior A.J. Turner was working as a cornerback. Dowdle “got back to some team stuff today so I think he’ll be fine,” Brown said. “From a competition standpoint, they all need work. I want to see those guys come out and compete every day and be consistent.” Dowdle has the most starting experience of any USC back with 19 starts. Last year, he had 674 yards and four touchdowns on 123 carries. In three years, he has 1,669 yards and 12 touchdowns on 322 carries. “I thought Rico did a really good job of winning sometimes in one-on-one,” Brown said. “I thought he did a really good job of running behind his pads at times, struggled at times in the backfield from a receiving standpoint, but he’s a really good player.” Brown didn’t seem too concerned about Dowdle’s history of injuries. “He’s a running back. Running back is a hard spot to play and stay healthy if you play it the right way,” Brown said. “You get folded up so much it kind of just happens.” Turner returned to his regular tailback position at Tuesday’s practice. He has 1,322 career yards on 260 carries. Until Tuesday, senior Mon Denson, redshirt freshman Deshaun Fenwick and early enrollee Kevin Harris had been the only scholarship tailbacks available at practice. The only back missing now is redshirt freshman Lavonte Valentine, who is not participating in spring practice because he’s a member of the USC track team. Valentine, a sprinter for the Gamecocks, has had private meetings with Brown this spring. “I want to see him change his body more, develop into more of an all-around tailback,” Brown said. Brown wants all his tailbacks to focus on their pad level in spring practice. “I think they all played too high at times, which obviously affects the way you can make guys miss one-on-one and breaking tackles in the open field or running through contact at the line of scrimmage,” he said. Brown would like to find two backs to share carries at the top of South Carolina’s rotation and then “maybe a third guy to spell those guys,” but no one so far has separated himself in practice, he said. The Gamecocks were 12th in the SEC last year with 152.7 rushing yards per game. “This is not park ball where everybody gets a chance to play just because you’re on the team,” Brown said. “It’s about being able to separate yourself and you have to earn your right to play every single day. Whether you are an old guy or a young guy, it doesn’t matter.”
  2. QB derby, timeline to narrow things down March 15, 2019 Even with Jake Bentley back for his senior year and firmly entrenched as South Carolina’s starting quarterback, most eyes are still on South Carolina’s signal callers. Four-star recruits Ryan Hilinski and Dakereon Joyner are battling with third-year sophomore Jay Urich for the No. 2 spot behind Bentley. Whoever wins likely has the inside track when the senior departs after 2019, which will signify the first big QB transition under Will Muschamp. Muschamp spoke on Sportstalk and talked a little about the players through five practices. “Jay Urich is a guy that athletically has shown some things,” Muschamp said. “Athletically can run and do some things. I think he’s progressed as a passer.” The coach had spoke about Joyner earlier in the spring, recounting a moment when the electric runner admitted the game has started to slow for him. “Both those guys are making some progress,” Muschamp said. “Ryan has done some really good things for us in five practices. We’re not ready to make any decisions on where those guys are right now.” Hilinski, a top-100 recruit and early enrollee, is more of a pocket passer than the other two and the highest-rated as a recruit. Urich has dabbled a little on special teams, and while Muschamp has held fast that Joyner is a quarterback, at least one expert said his future might be elsewhere. Both Joyner and Urich played in garbage time in one game last season. The coaches don’t want to start making any decisions just yet, but Muschamp does know when he might. “I like to get to the ninth, 10th practice to maybe try to narrow some things down because it’s hard to rep four guys, at the end of the day,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to even rep three. But it’s certainly hard to rep four. I’m pleased with all three of the young guys and how they’ve performed to this point.”
  3. He became a true freshman starter for USC March 14, 2019 THE STATE Dylan Wonnum got to do a lot of what the most optimistic college freshman might hope as he went through last season. No, he didn’t open his true freshman season as a starter on the offensive line, but he finished it that way for South Carolina football. That’s at the position where it’s hardest for young players to break in and overall he more than held his own. “Anytime you can play offensive line in the SEC as a true freshman, that’s pretty impressive,” said sixth-year guard Donell Stanley. One might imagine it wasn’t the most difficult thing. He didn’t have to wait, as many players do. He’d been a very good high school player and quickly translated to being a solid college player. But that wasn’t the case. “It was hard,” Wonnum said. “It was a very hard experience. Football is a very developmental sport. But all in all, it was good. I liked the season overall.” It wasn’t the plays that were difficult, but the technique, the finer points of the position. Offensive line is a spot where technique, details, small things often make a player’s career. In high school, being bigger, stronger and more athletic usually lets a player get away with a lot, so those habits and skills are often painstakingly built by college line coaches. With that in mind, the staff didn’t go right in with him despite showing promise in camp. “Once you’ve started seven games in this league, you should be ready to go,” Gamecocks offensive line coach Eric Wolford said. “That was really part of the process of waiting to not start him right off the bat was there’s just so many things you’ve got to learn, especially at this level. “Dylan is going to continue to progress.” Wonnum got into his first game in garbage time, and then didn’t see the field again until he was thrust in to spell the starter against Texas A&M. After a bye week, the staff informed him the job was his. “I was shocked,” Wonnum said. “It didn’t seem real at first. I was just like, OK, I’m still going to be on the sidelines. But then, when the time actually came, I was like oh, OK, like it’s time to go.” That first start, under the lights at Williams-Brice against Tennessee, wasn’t easy either. “I was very nervous,” Wonnum said. “I was just thinking about my technique. “My technique took me through it.” He had a solid game and was decent the rest of the way. He helped the Gamecocks offense to a strong finish to the season, and headed into the offseason as the only proven commodity the team has at offensive tackle. When he got the job, Stanley remembers a player who didn’t seem to be gunning for any spot, but just focused on the immediate things being asked. “He was just doing his thing.” Stanley said. “He was getting comfortable with the system, learning the plays, just getting out of the high school mindset, being more like a college football player.” Wolford said he liked what the former four-star recruit did in the weight room this offseason and the progress he’s made. For the moment, it appears he won’t be making the flip to left tackle, the marquee spot on the line.. Guard Sadarius Hutcherson is moving back outside, filling the left tackle spot Dennis Daley left, and the staff seems confident in that choice. But Wonnum could well end up there before it’s all said and done. “Right now, I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily content,” Wonnum said. “But I’m at the right tackle spot right now. We work every spot in practice, so it’s not like I just don’t know it.” He’s now going through his first offseason on campus, his first spring practice. Most freshman linemen like him are coming off a year of standing on sidelines and getting most of their work in the weight room. He has film to go over, experience to break down and learn from. South Carolina likely needs more from its line next season, especially on the ground, but Wonnum is a sure piece of that puzzle. “The best is yet to come with that guy,” Wolford said.
  4. Will Muschamp Coaches Clinic Set for March 22-23 3/13/2019 | Football | From USC Sports Information Reservations are being accepted for the fourth annual Will Muschamp Football Coaches Clinic, hosted by head football coach Will Muschamp and the University of South Carolina football coaching staff. The clinic is set for March 22-23, 2019 at the new Long Family Football Operations facility in Columbia. Those attending the clinic will be able to interact with the Gamecock coaching staff, learn from championship winning coaches and talk a little football! The early registration cost of $20 includes all meals, coaches socials, and a facility tour, along with learning and instruction from the Carolina coaching staff. Registration can be done online at https://camps.jumpforward.com/GamecockFBCamps/CampDetail/Index/11409 or call 803-777-4271 for more information.
  5. What South Carolina’s coordinator sees as the most talented unit on the defense March 13, 2019 THE STATE South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp will not admit he has enough depth up front on defense. He could have everyone returning from a group with a solid mix of experience and recruiting talent and be adding a four- and five-star recruit each, and still he will tell you this is not enough. He did as much last December, just before South Carolina’s bowl game. Now the group has changed a bit. Former blue chip lineman Shameik Blackshear moved on, as did four-star freshman Josh Belk. And yet, Muschamp’s righthand man, Travaris Robinson, is more than pleased with the group he’s got. “That’s our most talented unit,” Robinson said. “We’re finally at the point we have depth, and that’s the one thing we’ve been lacking the last three years. Recruited the right guys. We’ve got the right guys in the building and we’re excited about it.” The first USC team under the current staff was scraping for bodies up front. The second was solid, but reliant on its top line. Last year’s team opened with a pair of freshmen in the defensive tackle rotation and lost key pieces through much of the season. The team has four opening day starters back in D.J. Wonnum, Kobe Smith, Javon Kinlaw and Aaron Sterling. Beyond them, the cupboard includes former blue chip recruits in Brad Johnson, JJ Enagbare, Rick Sandidge and added a couple more in five-star Zacch Pickens and four-star Joseph Anderson. That’s quite a group on paper, and more than a few have had moments in the spotlight. The questions now are, how many can be brought to their potential and how can that anchor South Carolina’s defense? New line coach John Scott Jr. called that group the foundation, saying everything starts with them. Last season, USC was 101st nationally in how often it got to the quarterback and ranked 119th by allowing 53.1 percent of opponent rushes to go for 5 or more yards. But starting from that point means a lot of room for improvement. Will Muschamp wanted to make a change in terms of coaching that position and had already started by reaching out to Scott to replace Lance Thompson (who helped build that line) as early as the first weekend of December. Now that trove of talent is in new hands, and his coordinator likes what he’s seeing. “I’m excited about coach Scott,” Robinson said. “He’s done a great job of just bringing some of his thinking to our room and sometimes you need some fresh ideas. He was able to give us some of those.”
  6. What are Gamecocks bringing in with next class? A trio of ‘shutdown, man-to-man guys’ March 13, 2019 In recent seasons, South Carolina football hasn’t exactly been able to play the style of defense Travaris Robinson would prefer. The secondary has been perpetually strapped in terms of bodies. USC has at most had six reliable players to work with, and in 2018 had to go deep in the depth chart (and sometimes into the offense depth chart) to field enough upright players. And all that has meant a little less of a crucial attribute. “To play corner in our system a guy would have to be able to cover man-to-man,” Robinson said. “That’s what we want to do, that’s what we want to be. At times in previous years we weren’t able to do that as much as we wanted.” So what might help that? Adding the likes of John Dixon, Cam Smith and Shilo Sanders. “I think those guys are really good shutdown, man-to-man guys,” Robinson said. “We had all those guys in camp. We moved them around; we’ve seen those guys. So I’m excited about them. And I know people that they know, so that’s big to me.” None of them are on campus yet, after an off-field issue delayed Smith’s enrollment. But Robinson does believe they’ll all come in and compete to play. Smith has good length at 6-foot and was a late riser in the recruiting process. He was one of the better defensive backs at the All-American Bowl. Dixon missed parts of his career with injuries, but his performance at camp was off the charts according to head coach Will Muschamp, who added missing time might have kept him off other teams’ radars. Sanders has only two years of football under his belt, but he has the bloodlines as the son of a Hall of Famer. The other defensive back recruit likely won’t end up as an outside corner, instead being destined for safety or nickel. But Robinson had a snappy answer when asked why he liked Jammie Robinson. “I like all good players,” Travaris Robinson said. Jammie Robinson came in listed at 6-foot, 193 pounds and is coming off a dominant senior season for a 15-0 team. His new coach said he can run and hit, but there was a moment early in the process when he showed something beyond the physical skills. “It’s funny, when he came to camp, we do the county fair at camp.” Travaris Robinson said. “You can see some of the five-star, four-star guys kind of shy away from that stuff. Jammie jumped right in there. He was first person in the line at every drill, and there’s just some things we watch. We look for characteristics that we like: guys that are going to have the work ethic, guys that aren’t going to be prima donnas, guys that will come in and compete.” Jammie Robinson had that in spades, but he too will have to wait to enroll. At the moment, the Gamecocks are shorthanded in the secondary, with only eight scholarship defensive backs, some of whom are limited by injury. The staff would like to keep Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn outside as primary corners, and have the freshmen compete for work behind them. But if those players prove to be as “shutdown” as their coach hopes, it could mean more flexibility across that group.
  7. Cornerbacks Horn, Mukuamu say they can be 'best in nation, SEC' Mar 06, 2019 S&F Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu talk often about the future of what the two South Carolina cornerbacks can accomplish in their football careers. Especially what they can do together. “I think we can be two of the best corners in the nation,” Horn said Wednesday when meeting with reporters at the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Facility. “That’s our expectations. That should be every corner in the nation’s expectation is to be the best. “That’s what we’re shooting for.” Mukuamu agreed. “I think we can definitely be the best tandem in the country,” Mukuamu said. “Because we hold each other accountable. One day, if I’m having a bad practice, he tells me I need to get better. If he’s having a bad practice, I tell him he needs to get better. We just hold each other accountable. “So I think we can potentially be the best tandem in the country.” Gamecock combine grades The 6-1, 200-pound Horn played in 11 games last season (10 starts) and had 45 tackles and eight pass breakups. He also had two sacks. The 6-4, 205-pound Mukuamu played in 13 games last season (two starts) and had 17 tackles, one pass breakup and one force fumble. “That’s most of our conversations, is talking about the future and how great we can be,” Horn said. “We push each other on and off the field. If I hear he’s going to work out, I’m going. If I’m going to work out, he’s coming with me.” “I don’t really think too much about personal accolades,” Horn said. “I’m just really thinking as a team right now, establishing ourselves as one of the best teams in the SEC. “That’s my goal.”
  8. Freshman lineman for Gamecocks brings ‘something that’s hard to find’ March 11, 2019 When South Carolina’s football team was working on some team offensive prep in its first 2019 spring practice, one jersey number caught a little attention if one knew where to look. That would be the big No. 52 of Jaylen Nichols sauntering out to the right tackle spot with the second team. This matters because Nichols is only a true freshman, at the most challenging position for young players to play, finding his way out with the second team for his first college practice. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp made the point there’s a long way to go between early practices and whatever he might do in his career, but it also says something he can find that spot so quickly. “He’s a guy that just, movement skills-wise for a big man, he’s 300-plus … He’s got some good punching power and he’s got really good feet,” Muschamp said. “He can play on the perimeter. He can play on the edge for us at tackle. That’s something that’s hard to find, especially somebody that big.” Nichols was someone Muschamp quickly brought up as a freshman who had impressed in the first three practices. The 6-foot-4, 313-pounder was a two-way player in high school. There were some rumblings he might see a future on defense, but ultimately he found his spot with Eric Wolford’s offensive line. And the coach saw one key factor that’s helped Nichols early. “The one thing about him is, I’ll always evaluate the parents.” Wolford said. “One thing you figured our real quick is their discipline. They believe in hard work. They believe in doing things the right way. When they talk about being here a 1 o’clock, they’re going to be here at 12:30. That just the way he was raised. “He started off on the right foot here. He’s at meetings on time. He’s in his playbook. He’s studying plays. He listens, he writes down, he takes notes.” The coach didn’t want to shortchange the skillset, which included a 30-inch vertical jump on a bad hamstring at 300-plus pounds. He noted explosiveness metrics like that are good future indicators. He was a three-star recruit and the No. 84 offensive tackle in the 247 composite rankings for the 2019 class. Nichols comes in at a spot where USC is simultaneously losing some key pieces but also has a pair of potential anchors on both sides. Sadarius Hutcherson is a junior who just moved from guard to left tackle. Dylan Wonnum broke into the lineup at right tackle last season and shows no signs of doing anything but starting the next two or three years. That marks a quick change for a roster that lost its top three opening-day tackles from last season. Behind Hutcherson and Wonnum, there isn’t much in the way of proven tackles. There could be an opportunity, maybe for a first-year player like Nichols if he comes along well. But as Muschamp pointed out, there’s still a long way to go, and Nichols, four practices in, is picking up the finer points of a challenging position. “He’s starting to learn that it’s a lot different than high school,” Wolford said. “Speed of the game. But he’s got some natural tools, physical traits. He’s got some ability. It’s kind of going fast for him at times, but he competes. He’s got to learn some finer details of blocking. “It looks like he’s going to have a chance to be a good player for us.”
  9. The next step for one of South Carolina’s talented young defensive linemen March 12, 2019 He came in at a position that often requires some development and played anyway. It started out a little slow, but as the season went on and injuries mounted, he was getting regular rotation work down the stretch. That’s a solid way to start a career, but getting thrown in like that, it highlighted the area he has to work on fine-tuning. “The part we’re all working on as a group is to improve fundamentally with our technique, getting our hand placement right, coming out of our hips, having our eyes right,” new defensive tackles coach John Scott said. “Those are the type of things that all young guys sometimes when you get thrown in the fray, you just go in there and you play ball, those are the things that sometimes they slip.” The new coach went through Sandidge’s cutups, taking note of his strength and how hard he plays. When he smooths out those factors, things could start to open up even more. Sandidge was the top-rated player in his USC recruiting class, the No. 141 player in the land by the 247 Sports composite rankings. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle from North Carolina turned down Georgia late in the process, becoming part of South Carolina’s push to add blue-chip talent to the front. As a true freshman, he saw 30-plus snaps in some of the games late in the season. He finished with 19 tackles, with half a sack. The Gamecocks took a step back up front last season, with tackles Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones and end Dante Sawyer moving on, plus D.J. Wonnum being sidelined most of the season. Only a few linemen came through the season completely unscathed, and South Carolina’s run defense slipped badly. Now the group has a small army of talent back, with Wonnum, Javon Kinlaw, Keir Thomas, Kobe Smith and others. Sandidge won’t have an easy path to a lot of playing time, but if he plays to his talent, he could thrive. That starts with a spring where Kinlaw is out, and it starts with sanding down those freshman habits. “It’s just getting him better, fundamentally as well as the whole group.” Scott said. “If you do all that and you play hard and play physical, the game will slow down for you, it will be easy for you.”
  10. Will South Carolina run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense? March 12, 2019 When South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said one of the reasons for hiring defensive line coach John Scott Jr. was Scott’s familiarity with the 3-4 defense, some Gamecocks fans wondered if that meant their team was switching up its style. Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson hopes not. “I think we have the talent to play four-man,” Robinson said during the first week of Gamecocks’ spring practice. “I don’t think we need much more three-man. I like what we’re doing from a four-down standpoint.” That doesn’t mean South Carolina won’t use some three-man fronts. Virtually every defense in the country uses principles of both throughout games and throughout seasons. The evolution of offenses demands it, Scott said. (A 4-3 uses four traditional defensive linemen and three linebackers, while a 3-4 flips the personnel.) “With what you are getting out of offenses now, you have to have the ability to do both,” Scott Jr. said. “Everybody does a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think that’s where the game is going.” The Gamecocks “looked at some different things schematically that we want to look at and some things we know can help us moving forward with some opponents” during the break between the end of the season and start of spring, Muschamp said. South Carolina’s defensive coaches visited with NFL staffs in Atlanta and Tampa Bay, Robinson said. The Buccaneers’ defense is coordinated by Todd Bowles, the head coach of the New York Jets when Scott was an assistant coach there and a proponent of the 3-4 defense. “Three-4, 4-3, some call it ‘over’ and ‘under.’ We call it different [things] — they still line up the same,” Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians told reporters in January. “We’re going to attack. As long as our players attack — in today’s NFL, you’re in nickel defense 70 percent of the time, so you’re playing a four-man line. We’ll have odd-man lines, we’ll have four-man lines. That’s just schematics to me.” South Carolina’s coaches will take more visits after spring practice, Robinson said. “I would say we’ll probably be more four-man than three-man,” he said. “As an offense, it’s hard to prepare for both of those things, so that’s the reason why we do it. We aren’t going to change philosophies or what we think. That’s not going to happen, but there may be a couple of tweaks.”
  11. What Ernest Jones thought when Will Muschamp asked about sitting out bowl game March 11, 2019 THE STATE In December, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp gave Ernest Jones the choice of playing in the Belk Bowl or sitting out. It wasn’t really a choice. “I don’t think it was very difficult for me because I came to play football,” Jones said. “I didn’t really come to sit out or do any of that.” Jones could have preserved a year of eligibility by sitting out the bowl game. A new NCAA rule allows players to participate in four games during a season without losing a year of eligibility. The Belk Bowl, a 28-0 loss to Virginia, was game No. 5 for Jones. He finished the season with 16 tackles, a quarterback hurry, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. A Class AAAAA first-team all-state player at Ware County High School in Waycross, Ga., Jones wasn’t about to sit out a game just when he was getting the hang of the Gamecocks’ defense. “It was very difficult at first,” he said. “Through the first couple weeks of fall camp it kind of got to me, but during the season I started picking up on it and I was learning what to do and toward the end of the season, I started picking up more reps in practice. From there on, it’s been a great experience. Once I figured everything out I knew, ‘You can play here.’ Once those opportunities came I just jumped at them.” This spring, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Jones is working as the first-team middle linebacker while senior T.J. Brunson, who has started 26 straight games at the position, sits out due to injury. When the fall arrives, Jones hopes to be pushing Brunson for snaps and even that starting job. “Whoever is out there doing the right job and getting the job done and giving us the best chance of winning deserves the more snaps,” Jones said. “He’s a senior so he has that extra leverage, but I’m going to come in and work and learn from him, and from then on I’m going to let it be up to the coaches.”
  12. He didn’t see field for Gamecocks last year but has ‘all the ability in the world March 11, 2019 THE STATE With the new NCAA redshirt rule, South Carolina’s football team got the majority of its last class on the field for at least a few games even if they took a redshirt. But a few players remain a mystery, like Darius Rush, who did his work well behind the scenes. In that role, he’s shown a little something. “He’s good,” starting slot Shi Smith said. “I mean, when he gets over the injury, he’s a pretty good guy. He’s a great person, so just whenever he gets over that injury, he’ll be good.” A wrist injury limited the 6-foot-2, 185-pound pass catcher during the season, and he’ll be in a receiver group with some experience at the top, but the need to develop depth. Deebo Samuel is gone. Smith and Bryan Edwards are back as starters, and if OrTre Smith is healthy, he’ll likely hold the third spot after starting 10 games as a freshman and missing last fall after knee surgery. Beyond them, Josh Vann had 18 catches last year. Chavis Dawkins and Randrecous Davis combined for nine. USC will add a couple more blue-chip players in the summer, but Rush will have a chance to make his case. “Darius Rush is a funny kid, personality-wise,” Edwards said. “Talent, he’s got all the talent and all the ability in the world. He’s going to keep growing, keep getting stronger and he picks up on things very easily. He’s a fast learner, and he’s very smooth in everything he does.” The part about picking up on things is notable because Rush was asked to do a lot at a small high school. He played receiver, option quarterback, wildcat quarterback and safety. He played in two dramatically different offenses going from a power-option scheme to a spread. He had 47 catches for 863 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior and rushed for 125 yards as a senior, leading C.E. Murray High to one of the better seasons in school history. After watching the former early enrollee for a year in practice, Shi Smith projects Rush to be a solid deep threat and possession receiver. “You’ve just got to smooth out the edges and I think he’ll be a great player,” Edwards said. He’ll be in a battle to be sure. Beyond the top four, Chad Terrell is coming back from a knee injury. Dawkins and Davis are running out of chances to make an impact. Three more players are set to come in during the summer. But Rush, who spent his season even more behind the scenes than most, will get his chance. “Every year in camp, it’s a competition from top to bottom,” Edwards said.
  13. Gamecocks freshman tailback Kevin Harris has a nickname March 08, 2019 Gamecocks players calling freshman tailback ‘Jerome Bettis, the big bus’ South Carolina freshman tailback Kevin Harris didn’t even have to don pads before making a first impression on his teammates. They just saw him walk into the weight room and got a sense of what his game was about. “Strong,” sophomore corner Jaycee Horn said. “Since he came in, before he got on the field. We call him Jerome Bettis, the big bus. His legs are big. You look at him, his arms are big. In camp, he’s been running the ball real hard.” Bettis, the No. 7-leading rusher in NFL history, is a pretty lofty comparison, but if nothing else, his powerful style was distinct. Horn said he realized as far back as seeing the videos the social media team put together of Harris. As a starter, he’s been able to mostly not go head-to-head with Harris, but per a video circulating on social media, some teammates haven’t been so lucky. Harris came in listed at 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, a tank of a back. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said there had been some questions about his speed, but when he came to camp, he alleviated that for the staff. Then he piled up 1,556 yards and 22 touchdowns as a high school senior, the sixth-best total in Georgia (he had 1,680 as a junior). The spring has opened up a few snaps for him as projected starter Rico Dowdle is limited by an undisclosed injury and A.J. Turner is working on defense. Mon Denson is the only veteran in that group right now, leaving Harris to battle with Lavonte Valentine and Deshaun Fenwick for work. “Kevin Harris ... is a guy that we’re real excited about,” Muschamp said on an appearance on the Chuck Oliver show. “Runs hard, runs tough, young player but certainly we think has got a big upside.” Gamecocks running backs coach Thomas Brown said his goal is to have a top pair of backs who handle most of the workload, and he has a trio of veterans back with Turner, Dowdle and Denson. But while all three have shown flashes, none have grabbed the job by the reins across the past two seasons. So there might be an opening for Harris before 2020, when all three veterans depart. On the field, he’s making some waves with big impacts on defenders. Off the field, it’s a different story. “A real laid back guy, chill, cool,” Horn said. “Gets along well with everybody.”
  14. The five things South Carolina believes it must do better to win more game March 10, 2019 South Carolina’s coaching staff has identified five factors it believes are critical to the Gamecocks’ success on the field. The 2018 season proved their point, head coach Will Muschamp said. In the seven games South Carolina won three or more of its critical factors, it won. In the six games it lost, it did not. “That’s indicative of kind of how we were, very inconsistent at times,” Muschamp said. Again this year, starting with the spring practice, the Gamecocks will pour their energy into coming out on top of each of these five factors — turnover margin, explosive plays, field position, red zone and the fourth quarter. Here’s a look at how the 2018 season went in each of those areas: TURNOVER MARGIN The Gamecocks’ No. 1 emphasis throughout spring practice and much of fall camp will be reversing their turnover fortunes. South Carolina was 101st in the country last year in turnover margin, giving the ball away 21 times and only getting it back 16 times. The Gamecocks had finished in the nation’s top 25 in turnover margin the previous two seasons. “It’s not something we don’t always emphasize, but it obviously really hurt us last year,” Muschamp said. ▪ South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Won turnover battle 1-0 ▪ No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Lost turnover battle 2-1 ▪ South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – Lost turnover battle 3-2 ▪ No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Lost turnover battle 4-1 ▪ South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Won turnover battle 2-0 ▪ No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Lost turnover battle 2-0 ▪ South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Lost turnover battle 1-0 ▪ South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Won turnover battle 1-0 ▪ No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Tied 1-1 ▪ South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – Won turnover battle 2-0 ▪ No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Tied 1-1 ▪ South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – Lost turnover battle 4-3 ▪ Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Lost turnover battle 2-1 EXPLOSIVE PLAYS The installation of Bryan McClendon as offensive coordinator seemed to pay off in 2018. The Gamecocks offense had 107 “explosive plays” as measured by the South Carolina staff — meaning a run of 10 or more yards or a pass of 20 or more yards. The bad news is they gave up 104 such plays, including an average of 12 per game against the five ranked teams they played. No team in the SEC gave up more plays of 10 or more yards than South Carolina last year. “We gave up way too many explosive plays,” Muschamp said. ▪ South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Won 12-1 ▪ No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Lost 11-2 ▪ South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – Won 11-4 ▪ No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Lost 11-7 ▪ South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Lost 10-6 ▪ No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Tied 8-8 ▪ South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Won 8-4 ▪ South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Lost 12-9 ▪ No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Lost 10-5 ▪ South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – Won 15-4 ▪ No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Lost 20-10 ▪ South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – Won 7-4 ▪ Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Won 7-5 FIELD POSITION Muschamp felt good about how the Gamecocks did in this category but does wonder how replacing Deebo Samuel’s 24.8-yard kickoff return average will affect field position in 2019. Looking back at last season, the most glaring problem was against Kentucky as the Wildcats started on average at their 42-yard line in their fifth straight win over South Carolina. ▪ South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – South Carolina at its 28, Coastal at its 27 ▪ No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – South Carolina at its 28, Georgia at its 25 ▪ South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – South Carolina at its 34, Vanderbilt at its 26 ▪ No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Kentucky at its 42, South Carolina at its 20 ▪ South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – South Carolina at its 33, Missouri at its 33 ▪ No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M at its 25, South Carolina at its 23 ▪ South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Tennessee at its 30, South Carolina at its 29 ▪ South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – South Carolina at its 34, Ole Miss at its 28 ▪ No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Florida at its 28, South Carolina at its 24 ▪ South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina at its 33, Chattanooga at its 22 ▪ No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Clemson at its 25, South Carolina at its 24 ▪ South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina at its 40, Akron at its 21 ▪ Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia at its 35, South Carolina at its 34 RED ZONE The Gamecocks were next-to-last in the SEC in red zone scoring a year ago at 76.8 percent. Their touchdown percentage in the red zone wasn’t much better, ranking 11th in the conference at 57.1 percent. The defense also ranked 11th in the conference in touchdown percentage allowed in the red zone at 59.7 percent. South Carolina has to reverse both of those trends this year, Muschamp believes. “It’s a dagger for the offense to go down there and have to settle for a field goal or no points,” he said. ▪ South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – South Carolina 4-for-4, Coastal 1-for-3 ▪ No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – Georgia 3-for-4, South Carolina 1-for-3 ▪ South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 – South Carolina 3-for-7, Vanderbilt 2-for-4 ▪ No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – Kentucky 2-for-4, South Carolina 0-2 ▪ South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – South Carolina 3-for-4, Missouri 3-for-8 ▪ No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M 2-for-5, South Carolina 1-for-2 ▪ South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – Tennessee 3-for-4, South Carolina 3-for-6 ▪ South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – Ole Miss 5-for-9, South Carolina 4-for-6 ▪ No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – South Carolina 4-for-5, Florida 4-for-6 ▪ South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina 5-for-7, Chattanooga 1-for-2 ▪ No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – Clemson 7-for-8, South Carolina 2-for-4 ▪ South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina 2-for-5, Akron 0-for-0 ▪ Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia 4-for-5, South Carolina 0-for-1 FOURTH QUARTER The Gamecocks named their offseason program the “Fourth Quarter Program,” which suggests the amount of importance they place on the final 15 minutes of each game. “In our league most every game is going to come down to one or two possessions in the fourth quarter, so we talk about winning the fourth quarter,” Muschamp said. “It’s critical we are able to do that.” They were able to outscore their opponent in the fourth quarter five times last year. Overall, the Gamecocks outscored their opponents 72-69 in the fourth quarter. ▪ South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15 – Coastal 9, South Carolina 7 ▪ No. 3 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17 – South Carolina 7, Georgia 0 ▪ South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 14 –South Carolina 7, Vanderbilt 0 ▪ No. 17 Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10 – South Carolina 0, Kentucky 0 ▪ South Carolina 37, Missouri 35 – Missouri 12, South Carolina 6 ▪ No. 22 Texas A&M 27, South Carolina 24 – Texas A&M 10, South Carolina 7 ▪ South Carolina 27, Tennessee 24 – South Carolina 3, Tennessee 0 ▪ South Carolina 48, Ole Miss 44 – South Carolina 14, Ole Miss 7 ▪ No. 19 Florida 35, South Carolina 31 – Florida 14, South Carolina 0 ▪ South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9 – South Carolina 14, Chattanooga 6 ▪ No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35 – South Carolina 14, Clemson 14 ▪ South Carolina 28, Akron 3 – South Carolina 0, Akron 0 ▪ Virginia 28, South Carolina 0 – Virginia 7, South Carolina 0
  15. They’re good friends. And these Gamecocks ‘can be the best tandem in the country March 09, 2019 Sitting at a table in a ballroom in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine, where he was trying to make his NFL dream come, Rashad Fenton talked about the two South Carolina players who will play his position for the Gamecocks this year, two players who will be sitting where he is in three years. Maybe in two. “Those two guys are phenomenal,” said Fenton, who started 30 games at cornerback for the Gamecocks from 2016-2018. “Both of them have great size that I wish had.” Fenton measured 5-foot-11, 193 pounds at the combine. It was the exact same size as former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, who at that moment was standing at a podium about 10 feet to Fenton’s left. In April, Baker could be the first cornerback selected in the NFL Draft. “Those two guys,” the ones that Fenton was talking about, are cut from a different cloth. South Carolina entered spring practice with 6-foot-1 Jaycee Horn and 6-foot-4 Israel Mukuamu listed as the starting cornerbacks. The two sophomores figure to have those jobs for as long as they want to play college football. “I put all my trust in them,” South Carolina safety R.J. Roderick said. “They work at it. We work together in the weight room. I know how hard they work, and it’s beyond the field. It’s behind closed doors. It’s consistency. I don’t worry about anything when they’re on the edge.” Horn and Mukuamu will be talked about as a tandem for that entire time, partially because they play the same position but mostly because they are so often in tandem. “I kind of thought they were related at first, everything that they did together,” Fenton said. “They are really best buds.” Horn grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia. Mukuamu grew up in Monck’s Corner and played his final year of high school football in Bossier City, Louisiana. They did not meet until last spring, when Horn visited a practice in which Mukuamu, an early enrollee, was participating. Since Horn joined the team that fall, the two have been virtually inseparable. “You will never see him without me and vice versa,” Horn said. “Unless we are in class. We don’t have the same classes. That’s about the only time we are not together.” Horn and Mukuamu live together and spend much of their down time playing the Madden football video game, with Mukuamu usually coming out on top while playing with the Philadelphia Eagles. “I give him a hard time with Alshon Jeffery,” Mukuamu said. “They are with each other 24/7,” wide receiver Josh Vann said. That’s fine with South Carolina defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. “The one thing about Israel that people don’t know and can’t know is his work ethic. He’s a great human,” Robinson said. “Him and Jaycee, they are best friends, and they push each other. Jaycee is an ultimately talented guy. He really is. Israel is right there working with him in everything he does. They push each other so I’m excited about that, and I am excited to have guys with that kind of length out on the edges.” Horn – the son of longtime NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, the man who once pulled a stashed cellphone from the padding of a goalpost to celebrate a touchdown – is not going to tiptoe around the subject of what could be ahead for him and Mukuamu. “We talk about that a lot,” he said. “That’s mostly our conversation, how great we can be, push each other on and off the field. If I hear he’s working out, I go work out. If he hears I’m working out, he comes to work out. It’s like that. “I think we can be two of the best corners in the nation. That’s our expectations. That’s what we’re shooting for.” No defensive back at the NFL Combine this year measured 6-4 or taller, and Mukuamu said he and Horn’s relative height is one of the things they bonded over. “We are both tall corners. We have a lot of talents,” he said. “We both work hard, and we just both want to be great. We both want to make it to the NFL. I think that’s what really clicked. I think we can definitely be the best tandem in the country.”
  16. WATCH: Will Muschamp challenges his team to 'talk with your pads' in spring hype video March 07, 2019 Spring football is back in Columbia as the Gamecocks are working hard on the practice field to bounce back from last season’s disappointing 7-6 season. While last season may not have lived up to the hype for many South Carolina fans, Will Muschamp’s teams often seem to perform better without expectations. Entering the 2019 season, that will certainly be the situation for the Gamecocks, which could just signal disaster for those scheduled to line up against South Carolina in the fall. Judging by the latest hype video produced by the school, the team has returned to the field with a chip on its shoulder and eager to do some hitting. As Muschamp asks in the video, “talk with your pads” out on the field. Safe to say they did just that here:
  17. A.J. Turner sets sight on making history March 06, 2019 .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%} A.J. Turner’s college football career is almost over, but he feels like he’s playing in high school again. At Centreville High School in Clifton, Va., Turner rushed for 1,287 yards and had eight interceptions while leading the Wildcats to a state championship. He would like to have a chance to do something like that again for the Gamecocks in 2019. After playing almost three full seasons of running back for the Gamecocks, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior was forced into action as a cornerback in the Belk Bowl due to injuries in the secondary. “There were times he was out there, and we’d say a call and he had no idea what the call was,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “It was tough.” The Gamecocks are working Turner at defensive back for the first five practices of this spring so that he won’t be so lost if he has to pitch in in the secondary again. The plan is to move him back to running back for practice No. 6, which will come on March 19 after the players have returned from spring break. “If he’s had some experience in playing (cornerback) and we keep his hand in it, he’s able to help us,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We want to put him in a position that is fair for him.” Muschamp praised Turner during a team meeting for his willingness to sacrifice for the team. “He’s the ultimate team guy, and that’s one thing that Coach Muschamp put out in front of the team. ‘Here’s a senior that’s going to compete to be our starting running back and for the first five practices he’s going to come out and play corner,’” Robinson said. “That says a lot about a guy. He didn’t say one thing. You didn’t hear him complain, nothing. He just smiled and he did it, and he’s competing at it.” However, Turner views the move as more opportunity than hardship. In fact, he’s hoping to play both positions this season. “I know that is hard, but I like the sound of that,” he said. “It reminds me of high school, just always being on the field. I definitely am trying to be able to do that, do both whenever they need me. I am just trying to get on the field and make plays. It doesn’t really matter where it’s at.” Turner also starts on every special teams unit for the Gamecocks, meaning he could play in every facet of a single game in the fall. “I think it’s kind of cool because how many guys in college football can say that have done that?” he said. “It’s just a handful. Being in that category I feel it says a lot. I think it says my coaches think a lot about me to let me do this. I’m grateful for Coach Muschamp for allowing this. Not a lot of people get to do this. Anybody I can think who has played both sides of the ball or all three phases, they are in the NFL.” South Carolina is expected to start three true sophomores in the secondary in cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu and safety R.J. Roderick, and the young players have enjoyed helping their more veteran teammate learn the ropes. “A.J. athletically is through the roof,” Roderick said. “As it continues to get easier for him, he’ll be making plays.” Turner had three tackles in the Belk Bowl. In three years on offense, he has 260 carries for 1,322 yards, 47 catches for 335 yards, 28 kickoff returns for 592 yards and 11 total touchdowns. “He’s competitive. He might not be the biggest running back, might not be the biggest corner, but he’s going to compete in everything we do,” Robinson said. “He is always going to be first.” Turner is unsure if he’ll get to choose which position he wants to focus on in the fall or if he’ll simply be told where to go. “It’s not a distinction that I worry much about,” he said. “I don’t want to make it seem like, I’m just a running back or just a DB. I’m just a guy playing both.
  18. Second-year defender thinks newest Gamecocks linebacker will ‘be a heck of a player’ March 06, 2019 There’s an old football turn of phrase that a player or team looks good getting off the bus. Sometimes it’s a commentary on a gap between stature and talent. Other times, it means a home team is about to get thrown around. South Carolina linebacker Derek Boykins certainly passes the bus test. The early enrollee freshman looks every bit his listed 6-foot-1, 226 pounds in practice thus far this spring. And at least early on, it appears his nature matches his build. “Derek is a physical guy,” fellow linebacker Ernest Jones said. “He’s a big, physical guy. Once he learns what to do and gets up to speed, he’s going to be a heck of a player.” As a high school senior, he stuffed the stat sheet with 117 tackles, six for loss, four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and five QB hurries. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp several times alluded to Boykins’ ability to work in space. But as he’s getting his first taste of college practice, the coaches aren’t putting him in that spot just yet. “We’ll move him around a little bit,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “So we’ll start him off at the Mike and let him play Mike. That’ll keep him out of some of the coverage stuff.” That plan lets him focus on run fits and playing in the box before diving into the complexity of the weakside spot. But what does he bring to the table? “He’s smart, he can run and he’s powerful,” Robinson said. “So those three things are what we’re looking for in every linebacker we recruit here at South Carolina.” South Carolina’s linebacker position is in a little flux in the spring and goes toward 2019 with a mix of stability and questions. The team isn’t on track to lose anyone from last year’s rotation, but the group also needs to produce more if the defense aims to improve. Third-year middle linebacker T.J. Brunson is out all spring after procedures to fix a sports hernia and meniscus damage, while Eldridge Thompson and Rosendo Louis are either limited or in non-contact jerseys. That’s bad news for the latter two, who could probably use more work, but it opens things up for those behind them. Jones is currently the top Mike linebacker, with Boykins behind him. Sherrod Greene is the top at the weakside spot. Boykins’ high school coach Kenneth McClamrock said he expected his former player would follow closely whoever was the leader at his position, learning the finer points of the college game. Obviously that’s Brunson, who is sidelined, but Jones has seen Boykins working his way through things and putting in the effort. “With both of us being young, we’re both still trying to learn some things,” Jones said. “I’m kind of a little ahead right now. But he’s picking up on it. Playing the middle linebacker position, Mike linebacker position, it’s not the easiest thing. So extra hours of film and stuff like that, which he is doing, it’ll all pan out.”
  19. What Jake Bentley said about Ryan Hilinski and Gamecocks backup QBs March 04, 2019 Jake Bentley knows what he wants in a backup quarterback – the same thing he had last year. “If you look back on it and think about (Michael Scarnecchia) and what he did,” Bentley said Monday. “He was one of the most consistent and hardest working guys on the team, and it obviously paid off for him in the Missouri game. He was a guy that came to practice every day with the right mindset to compete with me every single day.” With Scarnecchia lost to graduation, South Carolina is auditioning redshirt freshmen Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich and true freshman Ryan Hilinski for the backup job this spring. Through three spring practices, all three have looked good, senior offensive lineman Donell Stanley said. “They all have been taking reps. I feel confident blocking for anybody,” Stanley said. “It’s a good competition at that position. That’s what we need at every positions. All of them are showing that they can play and they’re competing. That’s what we need.” Joyner and Hilinski are considered the frontrunners for the job, and Hilinski has done a good job of absorbing the Gamecocks’ system despite being just a week into his college career, Bentley said. “He’s looked good. He’s looked real good,” Bentley said. “He’s able to pick up the plays really well coming in here and showed some good things. Like all of us, he’s learning a lot, but he looked good.” Bentley, who has started 31 of the last 32 games for South Carolina, is trying to tutor all three backup quarterbacks, he said. “Especially now just trying to pour into them as much as I can and give as many tips and information as I can to try and help them as much as I can like Perry (Orth) and guys before me did,” he said.
  20. Josh Vann sets goals as he battles at USC’s deepest position March 04, 2019 It’s not often a college football player can succinctly sum up a year as tightly as South Carolina sophomore Josh Vann did, reflecting on his freshman season. “It was pretty good,” Vann said. “I think it could’ve been better.” By any measure, it was pretty good for a freshman. He joined a team with three entrenched starting receivers. After an early injury to one reserve, he was the No. 4 guy behind three players with NFL potential. He ended up fourth on the team in catches, played in every game and generally got his feet wet. While he played and caught passes, there wasn’t much in the way of big plays. A smaller, quicker player, he averaged only 6.6 yards per reception. His longest play was 16 yards, and when he got a chance to take a bigger role in the bowl game, he was held without a catch. This spring, he’s back on the field, with bigger goals in mind. “I just come in this year and work better in the spring so I can become a better receiver and better overall player,” Vann said. He had 118 yards and a score last season, and now has an opportunity. Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith are back as reliable receivers, but Deebo Samuel and his 62 catches last season are not. USC’s wide receiver group is deep and will get deeper come summer, but Vann will have a chance to establish himself. He was working with the starters in an open period of practice during the first week of spring, and at least one teammate saw Vann develop in a key area. “I think it’s just maturity,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “It’s maturity in his routes. Understanding where and how to get open is a big thing, and it’s not just running a curl. It’s finding a way to get open on that curl.” At the moment, Vann’s competition is diverse. Former starter OrTre Smith is returning from a knee injury and offers a different sort of option (Smith stands at 6-foot-4, Vann 5-foot-10). Veterans Randrecous Davis and Chavis Dawkins are still around, while Chad Terrell is coming off an ACL and Darius Rush is coming off a redshirt year. USC will also add a trio of talented options in four-star Keveon Mullins, high-ceiling athlete Xavier Legette and Tyquan Johnson, who had to spend last season in prep school. Vann came to USC as a top-150 recruit nationally. He said his biggest areas to work on are strength — a shoulder injury limited his lifting after enrolling last summer — speed and routes. He also admitted the bowl game still sticks with him a little. “Most definitely because, of course, everybody knows I had those two drops in the bowl game,” Vann said. “That’s not me. But I’ve just got to put that in the past.” Those drops came in big spots and came on a day when the Gamecocks were shut out. He’d been put on a bigger stage, and success didn’t come. In some ways, that fit the mold of “pretty good, could have been better.” He did the work to earn a big role, but wasn’t able to deliver … yet. Now he’ll battle at the team’s deepest position to hold onto that role and become the play-maker he’s expected to be. “Coming in, they told me I was going to play a lot,” Vann said. “But I’m just thankful for having the playing time I did. I think, coming in as a freshman, I got plenty.”
  21. Jake Bentley discusses his personal goals, South Carolina's team goals for 2019 March 04, 2019 SDS South Carolina may have failed to live up to the preseason hype last fall but that hasn’t tempered the expectations in the Gamecock locker room heading into 2019. In fact, the goals remain the same for South Carolina this season — win the SEC East and beat Clemson. That’s according to Jake Bentley, who met with the media on Monday to discuss the final spring camp of his playing career in Columbia. “I think it’s the same team goals every year and that’s never going to change. I don’t think we get into too much, other than that — and that’s win the East and win the state. Every year, that’s our goal so I’m just going to stick with that and stay consistent with those two goals,” Bentley said to reporters in a video shared on YouTube by GamecockCentral.com. Those goals haven’t changed despite having what appears to be one of the toughest schedules on paper heading into the 2019 season. The Gamecocks open the season against North Carolina in Charlotte before hosting the likes of Alabama, Kentucky (which the Gamecocks haven’t beaten in five seasons), Florida and Clemson, and includes trips to Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M. “Every single year in the SEC, you are going to play a tough schedule,” Bentley commented when asked about his team’s slate. “Obviously, anyone can look at it and see we got Alabama this year too and they are a fantastic team. Everyone understands that and working hard to prepare for that.” In addition to what the team is hoping to accomplish, what are Bentley’s personal goals? Performing better in the red zone is at the top of his list. “I think the big one is the turnovers and understanding that whether it’s three or seven, it needs to be three or seven and not zero,” he continued. “That’s the big thing that we have talked about, Coach Muschamp and I understand that and I definitely have to take care of the ball better, especially down there. That’s just the way it is and that’s one thing we are working on this spring and really just going from there.” Bentley led the SEC with 14 interceptions last season, which was a huge reason for South Carolina’s struggles on offense last season. He also completed just 61.9 percent of his passes, which marked a career low for him. Now that he’s playing in the same offensive system for the second consecutive season, Bentley needs to show more consistency and progress if South Carolina has any chance at reaching its goals with the difficult schedule that faces them in the fall.
  22. South Carolina football: 5 realistic goals for 2019 offseason South Carolina is looking to fix a host of issues this offseason that left the Gamecocks in fourth place in the SEC East last season. Will Muschamp has retooled his coaching staff, given offensive line coach Eric Wolford a raise and brought in Thomas Brown to coach running backs. The Gamecocks have a veteran quarterback and a pair of Top 70 recruits to be difference-makers in due time. Some of the issues have needed to be resolved for years, but as the coaching tenure of Muschamp enters his fourth year in Columbia, his stamp on the program is especially evident. Here are five realistic goals for this offseason: 1. Strengthen the running game The addition of Brown comes at a time when the Gamecocks moved A.J. Turner to defense, and have not had a 1,000-yard rusher for five seasons. Mike Davis was the last one in 2013 with 1,183 yards. Brown should not only be an upgrade from Bobby Bentley at that position, he’s a bona fide recruiter in two hotbeds for the Gamecocks: metro Atlanta and south Florida. Both as a player at Tucker High in Atlanta and as a Georgia player and assistant coach, and later as a Miami assistant, Brown is very familiar with those two key areas. Rico Dowdle, however, was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher, and just the 18th rusher in the SEC. Brown and the coaching staff as a whole need to elevate the running game throughout the spring. 2. Settling on roles for Dakereon Joyner and Ryan Hilinski Joyner only appeared in one game (Chattanooga) in 2018, though he was thought to contribute in multiple games, and saw practice time leading up to the Belk Bowl. By indications from Muschamp, Joyner has improved most in the passing game, which was expected even with him being an early enrollee a year ago. With a redshirt year behind him, it appears even more possible that he be inserted at least for special packages. With Michael Scarnecchia gone, Joyner and redshirt sophomore Jay Urich are the most experienced QBs outside of Jake Bentley. For Hilinski, he brings an interesting presence as the second-ranked pro-style QB in his class. As we’ve seen in recent years with other highly-rated prospects at quarterbacks, a transfer is very possible if they don’t play early. Bentley, who has won 19 games, is set to become the all-time program leader in several categories. While Muschamp declined to pump much oxygen into a quarterback controversy last season when Bentley was injured, lest we forget that Bentley replaced an upperclassman in Perry Orth and another highly-touted freshman Brandon McIlwain. 3. Establishing depth in secondary Walk-on Jason Senn had a cameo appearance late in the season because of a rash of injuries. Further shakeup in the depth chart came when Nick Harvey announced his intention to transfer, and J.T. Ibe received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA . There were four defensive backs signed in the most recent recruiting class. Factor in the losses of Keisean Nixon, Rashad Fenton and Steven Montac, no matter their talent, production or late-season drama, and there are plenty of questions about depth. The front seven has been fairly stable in recent years with consistent performers at linebacker and along the pass rush. But it’s the secondary that needs to quell the busted coverages and other headaches for the coaching staff. 4. Getting production from receiver post-Deebo Samuel Losing a veteran presence and the team’s leading receiver will be a tall order to replace, but if you combine the production of Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith, it’s 100 catches for 1,519 yards and the same number of touchdowns as Samuel produced — 11. Add in Josh Vann, who played in every game in 2018, and fellow returnees Chavis Dawkins and Randrecous Davis, who all caught TD passes. Even without Samuel, the Gamecocks will feature one of the best receiving corps around. Take the spring to develop chemistry with Bentley and all of the quarterback options in whatever situation or strategy they choose to focus on. 5. Developing a pass rush Javon Kinlaw led the team with 4.5 sacks in 2018, but that was just 22nd in the SEC. That’s part of the reason the Gamecocks were ninth in the SEC in sacks with 26. This has been a consistent problem for the program since before Muschamp took the helm. The Gamecocks haven’t been in the top eight of the SEC in sacks since 2013. They haven’t topped 26 sacks in a season since 2012 when they had 43 by a unit led by Jadeveon Clowney, who had 13. That’s obviously one of the goals of the addition of 5-star Zacch Pickens. The goal should be to elevate that number into the 30s, which would likely put South Carolina in the top 5 of the SEC as a team.
  23. OL Will Putnam of Will Muschamp’s first class no longer on USC football roster plus number changes & early enrollees numbers February 20, 2019 Will Putnam was a member of Will Muschamp’s first recruiting class with South Carolina football. Now the North Carolina product is no longer on the Gamecocks roster. His name didn’t appear on the latest updated roster online as the team closes in on the start of spring practice next week. Putnam didn’t see the field in three years in Columbia. The latest roster update also included a few details. ▪ A.J. Turner is officially listed as a defensive back. He played running back through most of his career before helping on defense late in the season. Early enrollee numbers 3 Ryan Hilinski 16 Rodricus Fitten 23 Derek Boykins 26 Zacch Pickens 39 Kevin Harris 52 Jaylin Nichols 82 Keshawn Toney 93 Joseph Anderson Number changes - Jaylin Dickerson from 26 to 4 - Bailey Hart from 23 to 16 - Kevin Pickens from 32 to 12 - Bailey Rogers from 82 to 45
  24. South Carolina Early Look At 2019 Schedule "Spring Addition" February 22, 2019 You’ve heard this before, but South Carolina has the pieces to be dangerous. QB Jake Bentley has plenty of talent to work with, but the O line needs a little tweaking. The defensive side is great up front but has a whole lot of work to do in the secondary. (MORE)
  25. South Carolina Early Look At 2019 Schedule "Spring Addition" February 22, 2019 You’ve heard this before, but South Carolina has the pieces to be dangerous. QB Jake Bentley has plenty of talent to work with, but the O line needs a little tweaking. The defensive side is great up front but has a whole lot of work to do in the secondary. USC might be better, but … Alabama, at Missouri, at Georgia, Florida, at Tennessee, at Texas A&M, Clemson. Can the Gamecocks be good enough to win at least four of those, and not trip up against a Kentucky, North Carolina, or Appalachian State? The projected win total will be among the bigger investment question marks of the offseason. – It’s a rough non-conference slate, considering the Gamecocks are opening things up against Mack Brown’s North Carolina team in Charlotte to kick things off. Charleston Southern is the break, but Appalachian State in early November is certainly no peach, and then there’s that massive matzo ball at the end of the regular season when Clemson comes to Columbia. – Not only do the Gamecocks have to face the defending national champs, but they get the brutal break of dealing with Alabama from the West to kick off SEC play. At least that’s at home, unlike the road game at Texas A&M to close out the conference season. – They aren’t a slew of good breaks against the East, either. Florida is a home game, but so are the Vanderbilt and Kentucky games, meaning USC has to go on the road to play Georgia, Missouri, and Tennessee. Out of the final ten games, the Vols are the only team that didn’t go bowling. Regular Season Play Early Spring Win Total Outlook: 7-5 Last Year Record: 7-5

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