Gamecocks to Host Texas A&M Saturday
3:30 Kick Set for Williams-Brice Stadium
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2 SEC) host the #22/22 Texas A&M Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) in the middle game of a three-game homestand for the Gamecocks. Game time is set for 3:30 pm ET on Saturday, Oct. 13, and the contest will be televised on SEC Network.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME BY NOW: SEC Network has the telecast for this week’s contest. Taylor Zarzour will handle the play-by-play with Matt Stinchcomb serving as the analyst. Kris Budden will work the sidelines. This will mark the fourth time in six games this season that this crew has covered the Gamecocks. Carolina is a perfect 3-0 in games this crew has called.
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 604-575-44.
SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 27th year in the Southeastern Conference. 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 92-119-1 (.436) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 37-31 (.544) 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.
GAMECOCKS AND AGGIES: This is the fifth meeting on the gridiron between South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are still looking for their first win over their “permanent” SEC Western Division rivals from College Station. The two schools met for the first time in 2014 in Columbia, with A&M rolling up a 52-28 win in the season opener for both teams. The teams met for the first time in College Station in 2015 with the Aggies winning again, this time by a 35-28 count. A&M left Williams-Brice Stadium with a 24-13 victory in 2016, the last time they met in Columbia. Last season, the Aggies overcame a 10-point third-quarter deficit to win by a 24-17 count in College Station.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Carolina opened up a 17-7 third quarter lead and led 17-10 heading into the final period before Keith Ford ran for two scores as the Aggies (4-1, 2-0 SEC) rallied for a 24-17 win in College Station on Sept. 30, 2017. Jake Bentley therw for 256 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked seven times in the contest. A&M outgained the Gamecocks (3-2, 1-2 SEC) by a 151-7 margin in the fourth quarter. Kellen Mond completed 19-of-27 passes for 159 yards and rushed 16 times for 95 yards for the Aggies.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: No. 9/10 Texas A&M improved its record to 5-0 with a hard-fought 24-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia on Oct. 1, 2016. The Gamecocks needed just 13 seconds to get on the board, as A.J. Turner went 75 yards to paydirt on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Turner finished the game with a career-high 113 yards on 10 carries. A&M marched right back down the field for a game-tying touchdown on its first possession. The teams went into halftime with the game still deadlocked at 7. A&M scored on its first drive of the second half to take a lead it would not relinquish. Carolina’s Elliott Fry sandwiched a pair of 43-yard field goals around another Aggie TD, keeping the Gamecocks within striking distance until Daniel LaCamera booted a 35-yard field goal with 1:41 to play to seal the victory.
FACING THE LONE STAR STATE TEAMS: Carolina is 3-8 all-time against teams from the Lone Star State, going 1-0 against Texas, 1-2 against both Baylor and Houston, and 0-4 against Texas A&M. The Gamecocks’ 2015 trip to College Station marked their first venture into the state of Texas since dropping an 18-17 decision to Baylor in Waco on October 2, 1976.
A TEXAS THREESOME: The Carolina roster features three players who list Texas as their home state. Linebacker Eldridge Thompson played his prep ball in Memphis, but his mother and sister now make their home in Houston. Graduate transfer safety J.T. Ibe played his high school ball in Mansfield, Texas and earned his undergraduate degree from Rice University in Houston. Graduate transfer defensive back Nick Harvey lists Lancaster, Texas as his hometown. He played for Travis High School in Richmond, Texas, before spending 2014-17 as a member of the Texas A&M football squad. He earned his undergraduate degree from A&M in university studies with a concentration in agriculture and life sciences.
MORE ON HARVEY: This is a game that Carolina defensive back Nick Harvey had to have circled on his calendar. The Lancaster, Texas product played 38 games for the Aggies from 2014-16, including 13 starts. He recorded 109 tackles during his tenure at Texas A&M under head coach Kevin Sumlin. He was redshirted during the 2017 season.
CHAMP VS. THE AGGIES: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is 1-2 vs. A&M. He was a 20-17 winner in College Station in 2012 while leading the Florida Gators, and is winless in two tries leading the Gamecocks.
THE LAST TIME OUT: In a wet, wacky and wild game, the Gamecocks outlasted the Missouri Tigers by a 37-35 count last Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium to retain the Mayor’s Cup for the third-consecutive year. Mizzou rolled up 490 yards of offense, including 286 on the ground, but scored just three touchdowns in eight redzone opportunities to keep the Gamecocks in the contest. Drew Lock was limited to just 17-of-36 passing for 204 yards with two interceptions. Michael Scarnecchia completed 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start for the Gamecocks. Tucker McCann connected on 5-of-6 field goal attempts for the Tigers, including a 57-yarder with 1:18 to play, but Carolina sophomore Parker White countered with three field goals of his own, including a 33-yarder with two seconds remaining in the contest for the game-winner. Part of the game was played in a downpour, and the five hour and 13 minute contest was also delayed by lightning.
400 HOME WINS: Carolina posted its 400th win at home with last week’s win over Mizzou.
BREAK THE TREND: With Texas A&M entering the contest as the No. 22 team in the country in both major polls, Carolina will be looking to knock off a ranked opponent for the first time since a 24-21 win over No. 18 Tennessee on Oct. 29, 2016. Since that time, the Gamecocks have dropped seven-straight games to ranked opponents, including a pair of contests (No. 3 Georgia and No. 17 Kentucky) this season. Only two of those seven losses (No. 4 Clemson in 2017 and No. 3 Georgia in 2018) came in Williams-Brice Stadium.
SECOND HALF ADJUSTMENTS: The Gamecocks have allowed just 12 second-half points in their last seven quarters played after intermission. After holding Kentucky to just 75 yards in the second half while limiting Benny Snell to just 21 yards on 15 carries, the Gamecocks shut down Missouri’s Drew Lock last Saturday. The senior quarterback completed just 3-of-14 passes for 20 yards with two interceptions after intermission last Saturday. He finished his career with a 1-3 mark against South Carolina with four touchdowns and six interceptions.
THIRD DOWN IS OUR DOWN: The Gamecocks limited Missouri to just 4-of-16 on third-down conversions, including 0-for-7 in the second half. For the season, Carolina has held its opponents to 25.0 percent (15-of-60) on third down conversions, the nation’s fourth-best mark. Last season, the Gamecocks struggled getting off the field on third down, allowing conversion on 39.8 percent of their opportunities. Here are the top 2018 national rankings:
3RD-DOWN CONVERSION PCT.-DEFENSE
RK SCHOOL G CONV. ATT. PCT.
1. Miami (Fla.) 6 17 86 19.8
2. Texas A&M 6 16 70 22.9
3. Syracuse 6 19 83 22.9
4. South Carolina 5 15 60 25.0
5. Fresno State 5 18 71 25.4
IN AND OUT OF THE POLLS: The Gamecocks began the 2018 season just outside the top-25, ranking 26th in both the Associated Press and Coaches’ polls. South Carolina moved into the No. 24 slot in both polls after a season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. It was the first time it had been ranked in the AP top-25 since September of 2014. After a loss to No. 3 Georgia, the Gamecocks fell back out of the top-25 in the national polls. With a 3-2 mark, the Gamecocks are receiving votes in both polls this week.
OUR QB IS A BENTLEY: Junior quarterback Jake Bentley started each of the first four games before a knee injury sidelined him for the Missouri contest, snapping a streak of 24-consecutive starts. The 6-4, 224-pounder from Opelika, Ala., owns a 15-9 record as a starting signal-caller. Bentley was impressive in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina, completing 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards with a career-best four touchdowns. He completed 30-of-47 for 269 yards with a touchdown and two picks against Georgia and was 19-of-28 for 261 yards with a TD and an INT at Vanderbilt. He struggled at Kentucky, completing just 13-of-28 for 148 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions before leaving the game with a knee injury. For the season, he is 84-of-132 (63.6 percent) for 928 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He ranks sixth in the SEC in passing yards per game at 232.0 and fifth in total offense at 254.8. On the Carolina career charts, he ranks second in completion percentage, tied for sixth in pass completions, eighth in pass attempts, tied for eighth in passing touchdowns, ninth in passing yards and 10th in total offense.
FOUR SCORES AND FOUR YEARS AGO: Jake Bentley threw four touchdown passes in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. He connected on scoring tosses of 8, 24, 22 and 8 yards out to four different receivers. The last Gamecock quarterback to throw four or more TD passes in a game was Dylan Thompson, who threw 5 touchdown passes at Auburn in 2014.
MILESTONE REACHED: Junior Jake Bentley became just the ninth quarterback in school history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in his career with his effort at Kentucky. Only four Gamecocks have eclipsed the 6,000-yard mark – Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill, Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw.
A SCAR IS BORN: Fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia made the first start of his career last week against Missouri in place of an injured Bentley, and made it a memorable one. The 6-3, 216-pounder from Fleming Island, Fla., completed 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers in the 37-35 win. He connected on touchdown passes of 5, 17 and 8 yards, and led the Gamecocks on a 9-play, 53-yard drive in just over a minute, setting up the game-winning field goal with just two seconds remaining in the contest.
BE LIKE MIKE: Prior to his heroics against Missouri, Michael Scarnecchia had seen limited duty in his career. He entered the season having appeared in just three games, completing his only pass attempt, a 9-yarder, back in 2015. He was 7-of-12 for 89 yards and a touchdown this season heading into the Missouri game. He tossed his first career TD strike in the win over Coastal Carolina, hooking up with Randrecous Davis from 27-yards out. Scarnecchia, who earned a finance degree in May, was recognized as the 2017 Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete. He is on record naming Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Shakespeare as the three people he would most like to have dinner with.
JUNIOR RUSHING QUARTET: The Gamecocks feature a stable of four junior running backs. Carolina is averaging 4.5 yards per rush after averaging just 3.9 yards a year ago.
• Rico Dowdle has started all five games. In the season opener vs. Coastal Carolina, he responded with 105 yards on 15 carries, a 7.0-yard average, with one score, and also caught a 22-yard TD pass, then went for a season-high 112 yards in the win at Vanderbilt, his fifth-career 100-yard rushing game. He has 332 yards, already surpassing his 2017 season total. With 1,347 career yards, he ranks 28th in school history.
• A.J. Turner ranks 37th on Carolina’s all-time rushing list with 1,159 yards. Turner is averaging 6.2 yards per carry this season and is also one of the squad’s top special teams performers.
• Ty’Son Williams, who spent one year at North Carolina before transferring to South Carolina, had one of his better games as a Gamecock in the opener against Coastal, rushing 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. He is second on the squad in rushing with 207 yards and averages 5.3 yards per carry, with a pair of touchdowns. He had 15 carries for 51 yards against Missouri after missing the Kentucky while nursing an ankle injury.
• Mon Denson has been slowed all season with a hamstring injury. He had his best game of the season at Kentucky, rushing seven times for 32 yards, but did not play against Mizzou. He is also a solid special teams contributor.
SAMUEL IS KING: One of the most electrifying players in college football is 6-0, 210-pound senior Deebo Samuel. Samuel 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 leg injury. In the 2018 season opener against Coastal, Samuel caught a game-high seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, rushed once for 11 yards and returned two kickoffs for 45 yards. He threw his second-career TD pass against Georgia. He had seven receptions for 56 yards at Vandy and returned a kickoff 34 yards. He hauled in a 58-yard TD pass at Kentucky. He caught four passes for 88 yards and a score and added a 32-yard kick return against Mizzou. With 26 receptions, he has easily surpassed his 2017 total of 15 catches. His 5.2 receptions per game ranks fourth in the SEC, while his 58.8 yards per contest ranks eighth. He has scored 18 career touchdowns (8 receiving, 7 rushing and 3 kickoff returns).
SAMUEL REMAINS PERFECT: Do-it-all performer Deebo Samuel tossed a 13-yard scoring strike to Bryan Edwards against Georgia. Samuel’s only other career pass was a 33-yard touchdown to Edwards against Clemson in 2016. His career pass efficiency rating is a gaudy 623.4.
NO SECOND FIDDLE: While Deebo Samuel received much of the preseason accolades, and rightly so, junior Bryan Edwards is statistically the Gamecocks’ top receiver. Just a junior, Edwards could rank among the top wide receivers in school history before he is through. He posted game-highs with seven catches, 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Georgia. It was his third career 100-yard receiving game. He had seven receptions for 73 yards and two scores against Missouri. He leads the team with five touchdowns and has caught a pass in all 30 games in which he has appeared for the Garnet & Black, sixth on the all-time list. He ranks seventh in the SEC with 4.8 receptions per game and seventh with 61.8 receiving yards per game.
HE’S NOT SHY: Shi Smith is the third wideout for the Gamecocks. The sophomore has hauled in 18 passes for 263 yards this season, a team-best 14.6-yard average. he went for 119 yards and a score on five receptions vs. Vanderbilt this season.
REPLACING HAYDEN: The Gamecock offense has four upperclassmen capable to fill the tight end vacancy created when All-SEC performer Hayden Hurst went to the NFL as a first-round draft pick. Seniors K.C. Crosby and Jacob August, and juniors Kyle Markway and Kiel Pollard all have seen extensive action, with Pollard catching his first career touchdown in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. Crosby has been limited the last two weeks after undergoing surgery on a fractured finger and August sat out the Missouri game with a concussion. Markway, who hails from St. Louis, stepped up with a key 27-yard reception in the game-winning drive against his home-state Tigers.
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 96 combined starts. Senior left guard Zack Bailey owns the most starts on the team with 31 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 18 career starts. Senior left tackle Dennis Daley, a former junior college transfer, moved into the starting lineup early in the 2017 season and has now made 16-straight starts. Highly-regarded redshirt sophomore right guard Sadarius Hutcherson and senior right tackle Blake Camper, have each made nine starts. Senior Malik Young, who is listed with the second-team unit, has made 13 career starts.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: Offensive line coach Eric Wolford has started the same five linemen in each of the season’s first five games. That’s quite a change from last season, when Wolford worked nine different players into the starting front five due to numerous injuries. Two different players started at left tackle, left guard and right guard, and four different players started at right tackle. Only center Alan Knott started every game among the O-linemen.
GIVING PROTECTION: Carolina has allowed eight sacks through five games, with four of those coming at Kentucky.
THE LONG ARM OF KINLAW: Junior defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is a force in the middle of the line. Down to around 305 pounds after coming in a year ago at about 340, Kinlaw is on track to have a big year. He has been credited for 20 tackles, and is first on the team in sacks (2.5) and forced fumbles (2) and second in tackles for loss (5.0), and quarterback hurries (3). He was the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his outstanding performance in the win at Vanderbilt.
B-A-W IS B-A-C-K: After missing much of last season following a season-ending shoulder injury, senior Bryson Allen-Williams is back and better than ever. Listed as the starter at SAM linebacker, Allen-Williams can also put his hand in the dirt and give Carolina a solid rush off the edge. He has recorded 23 tackles, including a team-leading 8.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and a team-leading four quarterback hurries. He had one of his best efforts last week against Missouri as he logged six tackles, all solo stops, including a career-high 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack, along with two quarterback hurries. Off the field, he is the Vice Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
MISSING WONNUM: Junior Buck D.J. Wonnum was selected a team captain a year ago as a sophomore, and is the leader up front. A two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, Wonnum was voted the Gamecocks’ Most Productive Defensive Player in 2017 after logging 13.0 tackles for loss, including 6.0 sacks. He had three tackles, including a tackle for loss, in the season opener before leaving with an ankle injury. The injury has kept him off the field since that time.
GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have eight sacks through five games, with Javon Kinlaw (2.5) and Bryson Allen-Williams (2.0) doing most of the damage. Here are the numbers:
SACKS 2018 CAREER
D.J. Wonnum 0.0 7.5
Bryson Allen-Williams 2.0 6.5
Keir Thomas 0.5 4.5
Daniel Fennell 1.0 4.0
Javon Kinlaw 2.5 2.5
T.J. Brunson 0.5 2.5
Aaron Sterling 0.0 2.0
Jaycee Horn 1.0 1.0
Brad Johnson 0.0 1.0
Steven Montac 0.5 0.5
Rashad Fenton 0.0 0.5
BRUNSON JUST MAKES STOPS: Junior linebacker T.J. Brunson picked up right where he left off from a season ago. 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. He is leading the team with 30 tackles on the season, including 23 solo stops.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: True freshman defensive back Jaycee Horn earned a starting assignment in the season opener. He became just the seventh true freshman to start for the Gamecocks in the season opener since the 2009 season joining Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014), Al Harris Jr. (2014) and Bryan Edwards (2016).
DON’T MESS WITH THE BULL: Freshman Jaycee Horn may have had his best performance in the win over Mizzou. He was credited with four pass break ups in the contest. He also logged three tackles, including a key diving trip, forcing Damari Crockett to step out of bounds on the 11-yard line instead of taking it in for a touchdown. The Tigers ended up not scoring on that drive, which was a key turning point in the game.
FENTON ISLAND: Senior cornerback Rashad Fenton has three of the team’s five interceptions this season, giving him five in his career, one more than Bryson Allen-Williams for the most among active players. He had interceptions in three consecutive games, picking off Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur and Kentucky’s Terry Wilson. He leads the SEC and is tied for fourth in the nation with his three picks, all coming in consecutive games. Here are the team’s season and career interception numbers:
INTERCEPTIONS 2018 Career
Rashad Fenton 3 5
Bryson Allen-Williams 0 4
Jamyest Williams 1 3
Steven Montac 0 3
Keisean Nixon 0 2
Sherrod Greene 1 1
Nick Harvey 0 1
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. He has been successful on 26-of-27 attempts this season, going 8-for-9 on field goal attempts (including a career-high tying 3-for-3 at Vanderbilt and vs. Missouri) and 18-for-18 on extra points. For his career, he is 22-of-34 on field goal attempts, including 16-of-18 from inside 40 yards, and a perfect 44-for-44 on extra points.
WINNER, WINNER: Parker White, the sophomore from Mount Pleasant, S.C., tallied 13 points in the Gamecocks’ 37-35 win over Missouri. He hit on all three of his field goal attempts, connecting from a season-long 42 yards on two occasions, and a 33-yard game-winner with just two seconds remaining. All three of his field goals came in the second half when the field conditions were soggy due to a rainstorm, and gave the Gamecocks the lead (24-23, 34-32 and 37-35). It was the second game-winner in the final seconds of his young career (also vs. Louisiana Tech in 2017).
I’M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Junior Joseph Charlton handles 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. He has booted a 16 punts this season for a 43.3-yard average, ninth in the SEC, with a long of 66. 11 of the 16 have been fair catches, with just one (his 66-yarder) resulting in a touchback.
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 scores in his career, and is the school’s all-time leader in kickoff returns with a 31.3-yard average. His six returns for a 22.2-yard average this season ranks tied for fourth in the SEC.
LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE: Deebo Samuel owns 25 career kick returns, giving him enough chances to qualify for the school’s career kickoff return record. With 782 yards and a 31.3-yard average, Samuel is well in front of challengers Rashad Fenton (24.8 from 2015-18) and Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85) as the school’s record-holder.
TOUGH SLATE: Eleven of Carolina’s 12 opponents have at least a .500 record so far in 2018. The 12 opponents have combined for a 48-20 record, a .706 winning percentage.
FRESH FISH: The Gamecocks have played 11 true freshmen this season. In addition to Jaycee Horn who was a starter, R.J. Roderick, Josh Vann, Israel Mukuamu, Rosendo Louis Jr., Kingsley Enagbare, Ernest Jones, Jovaughn Gwyn, Dylan Wonnum, Rick Sandidge and Josh Belk all have seen game action.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks are 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. True freshman Jovaughn Gwyn had season-ending surgery on his foot. Sophomore wide receiver OrTre Smith is out for the season after surgery to fix a kneecap issue.
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.
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). Here the game captains:
COASTAL: Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Deebo Samuel, Donell Stanley
GEORGIA: Bryson Allen-Williams Jacob August, K.C. Crosby, Steven Montac
VANDERBILT: T.J. Brunson, Bryan Edwards, Daniel Fennell
KENTUCKY: Bryson Allen-Williams, Zack Bailey, Dennis Daley, Javon Kinlaw
MISSOURI: Daniel Fennell, Kiel Pollard, Deebo Samuel, Donell Stanley
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 Carolina rallied from a 19-3 third-quarter deficit.
PROGRAM ON THE RISE: The Gamecocks increased their overall win total from three in 2015 to six in 2016 to nine in 2017. 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.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is in his third season in Columbia. Coach Muschamp 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: Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper was relieved 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.
CLASS BREAKDOWN: The 113-man roster consists of 20 seniors, 25 juniors, 24 sophomores, 15 redshirt freshmen and 29 true freshmen.
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 checked in with a 98 percent GSR, behind only Dartmouth (100), Harvard (100) and Northwestern (99).
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will enjoy a scheduled bye week next week. They will return to action on Saturday, Oct. 20, when they host the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium in another SEC Eastern Division battle. Tennessee leads the all-time series by a 25-9-2 margin, but the Gamecocks have won each of the last two meetings and five of the last eight.