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Gamecocks Open Football Season Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina

Game Time Set for High Noon

YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The 2018 regular season gets underway on Saturday, September 1, when the South Carolina Gamecocks host the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers out of the Sun Belt Conference. Kick time is set for 12:01 pm ET at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia.

TV COVERAGE: The SEC Network will be on hand to televise the season opener. Taylor Zarzour and Matt Stinchcomb will be in the booth with Kris Budden working the sidelines.

A HISTORY LESSON: 2018 marks the 125th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina. It is the 112th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 601-573-44.

SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 27th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 90-117-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 35-29 (.547) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season. With a 5-3 mark and sole possession of second place in the SEC East in 2017, the Gamecocks won five or more conference games for just the eighth time in 26 years since joining the SEC.

CAROLINA VS. COASTAL: This is just the second gridiron meeting between the University of South Carolina and Coastal Carolina University, and the first meeting when both schools are competing at the Division I Football Bowl Series (FBS) level. The two Palmetto State squads met for the first time in 2013 when the Chanticleers were still part of the Football Championship Series (FCS) division (Division I-AA). The No. 12/11 Gamecocks rolled up an impressive 70-10 victory over CCU on November 23, 2013 in Williams-Brice Stadium.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Chanticleers, out of the Big South Conference, brought a gaudy 10-1 record into Williams-Brice Stadium in 2013, but were no match for the 8-2 Gamecocks, as No. 12/11 South Carolina routed Coastal Carolina by a 70-10 margin in front of 81,411 fans. For only the fifth time in program history and for just the third time in the modern era South Carolina compiled 70 or more points, while the 60-point margin of victory tied for ninth in the school’s annals, and was the most since 1995. The 70 points, 639 yards of total offense, 32 first downs and 352 rushing yards were all high-water marks under head coach Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks posted 28 points in the first quarter and held a 42-7 advantage at the half. A full recap can be found on page 11 of these official game notes.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?: South Carolina went on to defeat No. 6 Clemson, 31-17, then got past No. 19 Wisconsin, 34-24, in the Capital One Bowl to finish the 2013 season with an 11-2 record and a No. 4 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, the highest final ranking in school history. Coastal Carolina defeated Bethune Cookman, 48-24, and won at Montana, 42-35, before falling at eventual national champion North Dakota State by a 48-14 margin in the FCS quarterfinals.

MUSCHAMP VS. THE CHANTS: This will be  University of South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp’s first encounter with the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina.

WHAT IS A CHANTICLEER?: A  Chanticleer  (SHON-ti-cleer)  gives  Coastal  Carolina  University one of the most unique nicknames in all of sports. Chanticleer comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and came to the University when it was a member of the University of South Carolina system. A Chanticleer is a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning and wit. His competitiveness never wanes as he battles to the end, using his brains to come out on top every time.

MORE ON COASTAL: Coastal Carolina is in its second season playing in the Sun Belt Conference. They posted a 3-9 record last season, including a 2-6 mark in league play. After a season-opening win over UMass, the Chants dropped nine-straight contests before rallying with wins in each of their final two games, at Idaho and versus Georgia Southern. They faced one SEC school in 2017, falling at Arkansas by a 39-38 score.

SUN BELT SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are 15-1 all-time against teams that currently make up the Sun Belt Conference. Carolina is 8-1 versus Appalachian State, 3-0 against Troy, 2-0 versus Louisiana-Lafayette and 1-0 against both Coastal Carolina and South Alabama. The most recent test against a Sun Belt foe came near the end of the 2014 season when the Gamecocks handled South Alabama by a 37-12 margin.

HERE COMES THE SUN: The Gamecocks have a trio of future games currently lined up against Sun Belt opponents. Carolina has a three-game series lined up with Appalachian State, with the Mountaineers scheduled to visit Columbia next year on November 9, 2019. The Gamecocks will make a return trip to Boone, N.C., on September 20, 2025, while an additional game is scheduled for Williams-Brice Stadium during the 2027 season. The Gamecocks have also scheduled non-conference home games with Troy and Georgia State. Carolina will host the Troy Trojans on September 25, 2021, while the Panthers of Georgia State will visit Columbia on September 3, 2022.

2017 IN REVIEW: South Carolina football concluded its 124th season of intercollegiate football in 2017 with a record of 9-4, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Gamecocks won nine or more games for just the seventh time in school history. Five of those seven seasons have come in the last eight years. South Carolina defeated Florida and Tennessee, two of the big three SEC East rivals, in the same season for just the fourth time. Two of the Gamecocks’ four losses were to teams that participated in the College Football Playoff (Georgia and Clemson). The season culminated with a New Year’s Day Outback Bowl win over perennial Big Ten power Michigan by a 26-19 score, as the Gamecocks rallied from a 19-3 third-quarter deficit.

EIGHT WAS NOT ENOUGH: The Gamecocks won nine games during the 2017 season. It marked just the seventh time in school history that Carolina has won nine or more games in a season, six of which have come in this century and five in this decade.
* 11 wins – 3 times (2011, 2012, 2013)
* 10 wins – 1 time (1984)
* 9 wins – 3 times (2001, 2010, 2017)

PROGRAM ON THE RISE: The Gamecocks increased their overall win total from three in 2015 to six in 2016 to nine in 2017. South Carolina is one of only three NCAA FBS programs and the only one in the Power Five to have a multiple-win improvement in each of the last two regular seasons.

GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks played in the 2018 Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, defeating Michigan by a 26-19 score. Carolina overcame a 19-3 third-quarter deficit, the largest in head coach Will Muschamp’s career, to post the victory. It marked the 13th time in the last 14 years that the Gamecocks were bowl-eligible. The Gamecocks are 6-5 in the 11 bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in five of their last six bowl appearances. Carolina is 9-13 all time in 22 bowl games.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is in his third season in Columbia. Coach Muschamp has posted a 15-11 ledger in his first two seasons guiding the Gamecocks. Only Joe Morrison (15-8 in 1983-84) and Steve Spurrier (15-10 in 2005-06) won as many games in their first two seasons at Carolina.

COACHING CAROUSEL: Head football coach Will Muschamp relieved co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper of his duties on December 6, 2017. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon coordinated the Gamecocks’ offense and called the plays for the 2018 Outback Bowl game versus Michigan. He was given the full-time coordinator’s role in January. Veteran offensive coach Dan Werner was selected to coach the quarterbacks for the 2018 season. Kyle Krantz moved into an on-field role as the additional 10th coach. He will assist with the special teams and coach the nickelbacks and Sam linebackers.

FINDING TALENT: Eric Wolford was named a top 25 recruiter by Rivals, while Bryan McClendon ranked 25th in 247Sports recruiter rankings following the February 2018 signing date.

CLASS BREAKDOWN: The 112-man roster (as of Aug. 28) consists of 20 seniors, 25 juniors, 24 sophomores, 15 redshirt freshmen and 28 true freshmen.

THEY’RE BACK: The Gamecocks welcomed 53 returning letterwinners to begin the 2018 fall camp. The 53 lettermen consist of 26 offensive, 21 defensive and six special teams players.

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: The Gamecocks return 98 percent of their rushing yards, 100 percent of their passing yards and 80 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. Hayden Hurst is the only player who had offensive yards in 2017 and did not return this season. The top returning rushers are juniors A.J. Turner (531 yards) and Rico Dowdle (471). Junior Jake Bentley (2,794 yards) is the top returning passer, while junior Bryan Edwards (64 catches for 793 yards), and freshmen OrTre Smith (30 for 326) and Shi Smith (29 for 409) are the top three returning receivers. Five of the squad’s top nine tacklers return, including T.J. Brunson (88 tackles) and D.J. Wonnum (57). Wonnum also led the team with 13.0 tackles for loss and with 6.0 sacks.

FOR STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 16 returning starters from the 2017 squad, eight on offense, six on defense and two specialists. The returning offensive starters are RT Zack Bailey, QB Jake Bentley, LT Dennis Daley, WR Bryan Edwards, WR OrTre Smith, WR Shi Smith, LG Donell Stanley and RB A.J. Turner. The returning defensive starters include LB T.J. Brunson, CB Rashad Fenton, DT Javon Kinlaw, DE Keir Thomas, N Jamyest Williams and DE D.J. Wonnum. Starting punter Joseph Charlton and placekicker Parker White also return.

PUT ME IN COACH: The Gamecocks had 11 players start every game in 2017, five on offense – Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards, Hayden Hurst, Alan Knott and Donell Stanley; and six on defense – T.J. Brunson, JaMarcus King, Chris Lammons, Skai Moore, Taylor Stallworth and D.J. Wonnum. Bentley, Edwards, Stanley, Brunson and Wonnum return in 2018.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks said goodbye to 15 lettermen from last year’s roster including eight starters, three on offense and, five on defense. The departing starters include offensive linemen Cory Helms and Alan Knott and tight end Hayden Hurst. Defensively, the Gamecocks lost tackle Taylor Stallworth, linebacker Skai Moore, and defensive backs JaMarcus King, Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith.

YOU WILL BE MISSED: The Gamecocks will play without the services of fifth-year senior running back Caleb Kinlaw and true freshman defensive tackle Tyreek Johnson, both of whom suffered torn ACLs during fall camp. Redshirt freshman defensive back Tavyn Jackson was forced to retire from football due to a medical issue, but will remain on scholarship.

HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY: Two former walk-ons, redshirt senior long snapper Ben Asbury and redshirt sophomore center Chandler Farrell, were rewarded for their hard work and dedication by being placed on scholarship for the 2018 season.

OPENING ACTS: South Carolina is 83-37-4 (.685) in 124 season openers. The Gamecocks have won 17 of their last 18 season openers dating back to 2000, with the only loss in that stretch coming to Texas A&M in 2014. Carolina owns a 70-19-4 record in the 93 seasons in which they opened the season at home, a .774 winning percentage. This is the first time South Carolina has opened its season at home since 2014.

NOT IN OUR HOUSE: The Gamecocks have won 13-straight season-opening games against non-conference opponents, dating back to a 10-0 setback at NC State to open the 1999 campaign. The last non-conference opponent to win a season opener at Williams-Brice Stadium was Miami (Fla.) in 1986.

OPENING DAY BESTS: Here are the top opening day individual performances in South Carolina football history:
100-yard Rushing Games In Season Openers
    1.    187    Duce Staley, UCF (1996)
    2.    160    Harold Green, Duke (1989)
    3.    153    George Rogers, Pacific (1980)
    4.    120    Brandon Bennett, Georgia (19994)
    5.    118    Derek Watson, NC State (1999)
    6.    115    Mike Davis, North Carolina (2013)
    7.    114    Derek Watson, N. Mexico St.(2000)
    8.    113    Mike Dingle, Duke (1990)
        113    Carl West, Pacific (1980)
    10.    112    Marcus Lattimore, E. Carolina (2011)
    11.    110    Marcus Lattimore, Vanderbilt (2012)
    12.    104    Carl Brazell, Wofford (1955)
    13.    103    Earl Clary, Duke (1931)
    14.    102    Jeff Grantz, Georgia Tech (1973)
    15.    101    Mike Davis, NC State (2008)
    16.    100    Harold Green, North Carolina (1988)

200-yard Passing Games In Season Openers
    1.    405    Steve Taneyhill, Georgia (1994)
    2.    366    Dylan Thompson, Texas A&M (2014)
    3.    330    Blake Mitchell, UCF (2005)
    4.    329    Todd Ellis, Appalachian State (1987)
    5.    318    Bill Troup, Virginia (1972)
    6.    290    Todd Ellis, North Carolina (1988)
    7.    238    Allen Mitchell, The Citadel (1984)
    8.    236    Anthony Wright, UCF (1996)
    9.    220    Phil Petty, Boise State (2001)
    10.    215    Jake Bentley, NC State (2017)

100-yard Receiving Games In Season Openers
    1.    146    Ira Hillary, The Citadel (1984)
    2.    140    Jackie Brown, Virginia (1972)
    3.    134    Stanley Pritchett, Georgia (1995)
    4.    120    Zola Davis, UCF (1997)
    5.    113    Nick Jones, Texas A&M (2014)
    6.    110    Mike Haggard, Virginia (1972)
    7.    106    Alshon Jeffery, Southern Miss (2010)
    8.    101    Bryan Edwards, Vanderbilt (2016)

CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: The Gamecocks do not pick permanent team captains until the end of the season. However, they return two of the four captains from 2017, Jake Bentley and D.J. Wonnum. Bentley and Wonnum became just the second and third sophomores to gain the distinction of team captain, joining Hayden Hurst (2016).

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME:  True freshman Jaycee Horn is listed on the preseason depth chart as the probable starter at the nickel position. There have been six true freshmen start for the Gamecocks in the season opener since the 2009 season – Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014), Al Harris Jr. (2014) and Bryan Edwards (2016).

THE STRAW THAT STIRS THE DRINK: Junior Jake Bentley returns to trigger the Gamecocks’ offense. Bentley, a 6-4, 224-pounder from Opelika, Ala., owns a 13-7 record as a starting signal-caller. Senior Michael Scarnecchia is the only other quarterback on the roster that has thrown a pass in a game.

JUNIOR RUSHING QUARTET: The Gamecocks feature a stable of four junior running backs who are all capable of producing. A.J. Turner ranks 41st on the school’s all-time rushing charts with 1,028 yards, just two spots and 13 yards ahead of teammate Rico Dowdle. Ty’Son Williams, who spent one year at North Carolina, and Mon Denson complete the junior foursome.

SAMUEL IS KING: One of the most electrifying players in college football is 6-0, 210-pound senior Deebo Samuel. Samuel has earned numerous preseason All-America and All-SEC accolades as a wide receiver, kick returner and all-purpose performer. In 2016, Samuel had 1,320 all-purpose yards and became one of just six Power 5 players in the past five years to record a passing, rushing, receiving and kickoff-return touchdown in the same season. He scored six TDs in three games a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury.

NO SECOND FIDDLE: While Deebo Samuel has received much of the preseason accolades, and rightly so, junior Bryan Edwards is statistically the Gamecocks’ top returning receiver. With two seasons left on his eligibility clock, Edwards could rank among the greatest wide receivers in school history before he is through. He has started and has caught a pass in all 25 games in which he has appeared for the Garnet & Black.

O-LINE EXPERIENCE: Despite losing a pair of starters in Cory Helms and Alan Knott off the offensive line from a year ago, the Gamecocks front unit boasts a wealth of experience with 71 combined starts. Senior left guard Zack Bailey owns the most starts on the team with 26 and has been given some preseason All-SEC recognition. Fifth-year junior Donell Stanley moves to center this season where he is a Rimington Award candidate. He has made 13 career starts. Senior left tackle Dennis Daley, a former junior college transfer, started the final 11 games in 2017. Highly-regarded redshirt sophomore right guard Sadarius Hutcherson and senior right tackle Blake Camper, have each made four starts. Senior Malik Young, who is listed with the second-team unit, has made 13 career starts.

D.J. AND T.J. INITIATE THE D: Junior Buck D.J. Wonnum and junior linebacker T.J. Brunson give the Gamecocks a tandem to be reckoned with. Wonnum, a team captain as a sophomore a year ago, is a two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week and was voted the Gamecocks’ Most Productive Defensive Player after logging 13.0 tackles for loss, including 6.0 sacks. Brunson, who was the first player that Coach Muschamp recruited upon his hire, was second on the squad with 88 tackles a year ago. He earned a spot on the AP’s All-Bowl team following his 13-tackle, two-sack performance in the Outback Bowl win over Michigan.

KICKING IT WITH PARKER: Redshirt sophomore Parker White held off challenges from sophomore Alexander Woznick and graduate transfer Shane Hynes to reclaim the starting placekicking duties. White connected on 14-of-25 field goal attempts last season, but was 10-for-11 from inside 40 yards. He booted a 31-yard attempt with just four seconds remaining to lift the Gamecocks to a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech in 2017. White will also handle the kickoff duties. He logged 44 touchbacks among his 65 kickoffs a season ago (68 percent).

I’M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Junior Joseph Charlton returns to handle the punting chores for the Gamecocks and is an All-SEC candidate. Last season, Charlton averaged 43.5 yards on 55 punts with a long of 73 yards. He had just four touchbacks, logged 15 punts inside the 20 and boomed 17 punts of 50 yards or more. The Gamecocks ranked 19th in the nation in net punting with a 40.5-yard average.

BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID: Senior kick returner Deebo Samuel had two chances to return kickoffs last season and took them both to the house from 97 yards away, turning the trick against NC State and Missouri. He is the only player in school history to log three kick returns for touchdowns in his career, while averaging 34.3 yards on 19 returns.

TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: Six Gamecocks earned their undergraduate degree in May, including Bryson Allen-Williams, Ben Asbury, Jacob August, Javon Charleston, K.C. Crosby and Michael Scarnecchia. Malik Young earned his degree in August. Additionally, Nick Harvey (Texas A&M) and J.T. Ibe (Rice) joined the team as graduate transfers. Another 13 Gamecocks are slated to finish up their bachelor’s degree in December, including Zack Bailey, Dennis Daley, Javion Duncan, Daniel Fennell, Danny Gordon, Caleb Kinlaw, Javon Kinlaw, Steven Montac, Christian Pellage, Deebo Samuel, Donell Stanley, Eldridge Thompson and Ty’Son Williams.

GRADUATION SUCCESS RATE: The Gamecocks ranked in a tie for fourth in the nation and second among FBS schools in the latest graduation success rate data. Carolina checks in with a 98 percent GSR, behind only Dartmouth (100), Harvard (100) and Northwestern (99).

WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks are 2-4 all-time in games decided in overtime. They won their first overtime game at Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes on Oct. 26, 2013 in Columbia, Mo., and won in “The Swamp” over Florida by a 23-20 count in 2014. Three of their four overtime losses have come against Tennessee by a field goal: a 23-20 setback on Sept. 27, 2003 in Knoxville, and a 27-24 loss in Knoxville on Oct. 27, 2007 and a 45-42 loss in Columbia on Nov. 1, 2014. Carolina also dropped a 46-39 decision to USF in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl.

GAMECOCK TIDBITS:
* Quarterback Jake Bentley is the son of running backs coach Bobby Bentley. Jake’s brother, Chas Dodd, is a graduate assistant on Jeff Dillman’s strength & conditioning staff.
* Freshman Dylan Wonnum is the younger brother of junior Buck D.J. Wonnum. Dylan is listed as the second team right tackle.
* Freshman Jaycee Horn is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. Jaycee is listed on the two-deep at both corner and nickel.
* Sophomore tight end Evan Hinson has spent the past two winters playing with Frank Martin’s South Carolina men’s basketball team.
* Senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams is the vice chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
* Coach Muschamp owns a 25-1 record when his team scores 30 or more points in his six-year head coaching career.

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