Mayor's Cup on the Line Saturday
Carolina Travels to Mizzou for 4 pm ET Kick
QUICKLY: The Mayor’s Cup is on the line as the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-2, 0-1 SEC) travel to Columbia, Mo. to take on the Missouri Tigers (2-1, 0-0 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division matchup. The 4 pm ET (3 pm CT) kick will be televised on the SEC Network Alternate channel with Mike Morgan (play-by-play) and Ray Bentley (analyst) in the booth and Tera Talmadge on the sidelines. This will mark the first of six-consecutive games against SEC Eastern Division opponents for the Gamecocks.
THE HISTORY: 2019 marks the 126th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 113th-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 609-581-44, a .511 winning percentage.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: The 2019 season marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 South Carolina squad that won the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a perfect 6-0 mark under Paul Dietzel. That team was rewarded with a trip to the Peach Bowl. 2019 also marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 South Carolina team that went 7-5 including the school’s first bowl victory – a 24-21 win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The 2019 season marks South Carolina’s 28th 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 94-122-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 39-34 (.534) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. MIZZOU: The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with the Tigers by a slim 5-4 margin. South Carolina holds a 2-1 advantage at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, and a 3-1 lead at Williams-Brice Stadium, but Mizzou has a pair of neutral site bowl game wins versus Carolina.
AS LEAGUE OPPONENTS: Since Mizzou joined the SEC, the Gamecocks hold a 5-2 series advantage. South Carolina won the first two SEC Eastern Division battles between the two schools that claim Columbia as its home, posting a 31-10 win in the Palmetto State in 2012, then pulling out an improbable 27-24 double-overtime victory in Missouri in 2013. In 2014, the Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit in the final seven minutes to squeeze out a 21-20 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium, then won by a 24-10 count at Memorial Stadium in 2015. The Gamecocks have won the last three games by scores of 31-21, 31-13 and 37-35.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia threw for three touchdowns in his first collegiate start and Parker White hit the game-winning 33-yard field goal with two seconds left in South Carolina’s 37-35 victory over Missouri on Oct. 6, 2018 in Columbia, S.C. The Tigers had gone ahead 35-34 on Tucker McCann’s career-long 57-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining. But the Gamecocks, behind Scarnecchia, drove to the Missouri 16 where White nailed his third go-ahead field goal of the game. The Gamecocks rallied from 23-14 at halftime to win their third straight over Missouri in a game that last more than five hours due to rain and lightning delays. Scarnecchia completed 20 of 35 passes for 249 yards. Missouri’s Drew Lock, the SEC leader at 320 yards passing a game coming in, was held to 204.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Once Deebo Samuel got involved, the Mizzou Tigers had no answer in a Carolina 31-13 win at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Sept. 9, 2017. The Gamecocks spotted the Tigers a 10-0 first quarter lead, but Samuel responded with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and, after a Jamyest Williams interception, scored for a second time just 15 seconds later, and the Gamecocks never looked back. Hayden Hurst also scored twice for the Gamecocks. Mizzou gained more yards, 423-359, but turned the ball over three times in the contest.
CHAMP VS. THE TIGERS: Head coach Will Muschamp is 4-2 in his career against Missouri. Coach Muschamp was 1-2 against the Tigers while at Florida, and is a perfect 3-0 as the Carolina head coach.
ANYONE HAVE EXTRA TICKETS?: The lone Carolina football student-athlete from the Show-Me State is fifth-year junior tight end Kyle Markway. Markway, a 6-4, 242-pounder from St. John Vianney in St. Louis, saw limited action as a true freshman in 2015, did not play in 2016 while battling a foot injury, then suffered a rib injury in the Mizzou game in 2017, an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Last season, he caught one pass for 27 yards, but it came in the final minute, helping set up Parker White’s game-winning field goal.
30 OR MORE: The Gamecocks have scored 30 or more points in five of the previous nine meetings between the two schools, including exactly 31 points on four occasions, all wins. The 37 points scored last season was the most by Carolina in the series.
EASON-RIDDLE AT YOUR SERVICE: Junior linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle is one of 22 student-athletes selected for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®. Narrowed from a list of 137 nominees, the 22 players stood out for their leadership in local communities and overall commitment to giving back. Eason-Riddle has been a regular at both the Dorn VA Medical Center and at the oncology center of the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. He founded and developed the “Sandstorm Buddies Program” which matches University of South Carolina student-athletes with patients and their families through a buddy system, where the student-athletes can serve in a mentor capacity with cancer patients.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: Tua Tagovailoa completed 28-of-36 passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 2/2 Alabama Crimson Tide posted a 47-23 win over South Carolina last Saturday in Columbia. True freshman Ryan Hilinski, making just his second career start, did his best to keep pace with the Heisman Trophy candidate, completing 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The Gamecocks ran 86 plays and rolled up 459 yards against a Bama defense that had nine players make the media’s preseason All-SEC teams, compared to just one offensive player from South Carolina (third-team selection Bryan Edwards).
ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: True freshman Ryan Hilinski, making just his second career start and his first against an FBS opponent, completed 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns last week against Alabama, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. The 57 attempts were the second-most in a single-game in school history, topped only by the 58 that Steve Taneyhill threw against East Carolina in 1994, while the 36 completions ranks third in school history, topped only by Taneyhill on two occasions – 39 vs. ECU in ’94 and 38 vs. Mississippi State in 1995. Hilinski became just the second freshman in program history to throw for more than 300 yards against an SEC opponent, joining Todd Ellis, who threw for 342 yards against Georgia in 1986.
NOT YOUR UNCLE: Senior running back Rico Dowdle rushed 12 times for 102 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per carry, against Alabama. It was his seventh-career 100-yard rushing game and he moved into 18th place on the Carolina career rushing list with 1,920 yards.
EDWARDS WAS ELITE: Senior wide receiver Bryan Edwards set a career high with nine receptions in the Alabama game, good for 79 yards. He previously had eight receptions in a game on two occasions. Edwards ranks third on the school’s all-time list in career receptions with 178 and is fourth in career receiving yards with 2,427 yards.
THROW IT TO THE TIGHT END: Ryan Hilinski completed nine passes to tight ends against Alabama, connecting five times with Kyle Markway (46 yards, 1 TD) and four times with Nick Muse (21 yards), individual game highs in receptions for both tight ends.
STOP THE RUN: The Gamecocks held Alabama to just 76 yards rushing on 25 carries, just 3.0 yards per carry. The last time the Crimson Tide was held under 100 yards rushing came against Arkansas (66 yards) on Oct. 11, 2014 in Fayetteville.
AMONG THE LEADERS: Several Gamecocks are listed in the SEC’s top-10 this week:
Rushing – Rico Dowdle – t7th – 83.7
Passing Avg/Game – Ryan Hilinski – 3rd – 303.0
Total Offense – Ryan Hilinski – 3rd – 302.5
Scoring – Parker White – 8th – 9.0
Punt Returns – Bryan Edwards – 1st – 22.0
Kick Returns – Shi Smith – 6th – 23.1
All Purpose – Shi Smith – 9th – 109.0
Punting – Joseph Charlton – 7th – 43.9
Field Goals – Parker White – t2nd – 6
Field Goal Pct. – Parker White – 3rd – 85.7
Tackles – Ernest Jones – t11th – 7.3
Sacks – Javon Kinlaw – t1st – 3.0
Tackles for loss – Javon Kinlaw – t6th – 3.0
Forced Fumbles – Jaycee Horn – t2nd – 0.67
THE B-MAC ATTACK: After struggling in the season opener against North Carolina, the Gamecock offense has moved the ball effectively. They were virtually unstoppable against an undermanned Charleston Southern squad, rolling up a school record 775 yards, including a school record 493 on the ground. The Gamecocks scored on 11 of 13 possessions, including 10 touchdowns against the Bucs. Last week against Alabama, Carolina collected 459 yards while running 86 plays. The Gamecocks are fifth in the SEC in scoring offense (38.3), third in rushing offense (252.0) and fourth in total offense (501.3).
TRENDING UP: Under newly-minted offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, took a big step forward in 2018. The offense had five games of 500 yards or more for the first time in school history, including back-to-back games of 600 yards against Chattanooga and Clemson. Against Charleston Southern earlier this season, they posted school record numbers for total yards and rushing yards in a game.
BENTLEY IS IN THE GARAGE: Senior Jake Bentley triggered the offense from the middle of the 2016 season through the first game of the 2019 campaign. A 6-4, 220-pounder from Opelika, Ala., Bentley suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot on the last play against North Carolina and will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery last week. Bentley logged a 19-14 record as a starting signal-caller. He ranks near the top of many Carolina career statistical categories:
Pass Attempts – 1,002 (4th)
Pass Completions – 626 (3rd)
Completion Percentage – 62.5 (2nd)
Passing Yards – 7,527 (4th)
Passing Touchdowns – 55 (3rd)
Career Wins – 19 (6th)
Touchdowns Responsible For – 63 (t3rd)
NEXT MAN UP: True freshman Ryan Hilinski has moved into the starting lineup. Like Bentley, Hilinski, a highly-touted 6-3, 230-pound signal-caller from California, comes from a quarterbacking family. His brother Kelly played QB at Columbia and Weber State, while his brother, the late Tyler Hilinski, was a quarterback at Washington State. Hilinski joined the team in January and went through spring drills. He made his debut against Charleston Southern by hitting his first 12 passes and finished the day 24-of-30 for 282 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. He also had one rushing touchdown. He followed that up with a 36-for-57, 324-yard, two-touchdown performance against Alabama, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. Through two games, he has connected on 60-of-87 passes (69.0 pct.) for 606 yards with four TDs and two picks.
DO IT ALL DAKEREON: Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner moves into the backup role behind Hilinski. Joyner, who is also playing wide receiver this season, has completed his only pass attempt this season, while rushing four times for 53 yards and a touchdown, and catching four passes for 29 yards.
SENIOR STABLE OF BACKS: New running backs coach Thomas Brown has a trio of senior running backs at his disposal in Rico Dowdle, Mon Denson and graduate transfer Tavien Feaster.
* Rico Dowdle (6-0, 215) has started each of the first three games, rushing 33 times for 251 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and two scores. He logged 102 yards against Alabama for his seventh-career 100-yard game, and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season. He ranks 18th on the school’s all-time rushing list with 1,920 yards. He has scored 14 rushing TDs in 32 games including 21 starts.
* Tavien Feaster (6-0, 221) was the Gamecocks’ top rusher in the season opener against North Carolina, carrying 13 times for 72 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown scamper, and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry this season with 169 yards on 29 carries. Feaster, who played at Clemson in each of the past three seasons, has rushed 251 times for 1,499 yards with 16 touchdowns over 44 career games including 11 starts. He ranks second in Clemson history in career yards per carry (5.99) behind only Travis Etienne.
* Mon Denson (5-10, 215) has only carried in one game this season, rushing nine times for a career-high 118 yards against Charleston Southern, including a 57-yard touchdown burst, his third-career 100-yard rushing game. He has five rushing TDs in 24 games including a pair of starts.
WHO’S THE NEW GUY? True freshman Kevin Harris made his Gamecock debut a memorable one against Charleston Southern. He rushed six times for 147 yards with three touchdowns. The three rushing TDs tied the school record and he became the first true freshman to score three rushing touchdowns since Marcus Lattimore in 2010. Harris scored from 1-, 45- and 75-yards out. He became the third true freshman to rush for 100 yards in his debut in the last 20 years, joining Derek Watson (118 vs. NC State in 1999) and Deshaun Fenwick (112 vs. Chattanooga in 2018).
CATCH IT IF YOU CAN:
* Bryan Edwards already ranks statistically among the best wide receivers in school history. He has caught a pass in all 41 games in which he has appeared. After being limited to just one catch for seven yards against North Carolina, Edwards bounced back with a five-catch, 112-yard, two-TD performance against CSU, his sixth career 100-yard receiving game, then logged a career-high nine receptions for 79 yards against Alabama. He is third on the Gamecocks’ career receptions list with 178, and is fourth in career receiving yards with 2,427. He owns 18 career TDs, tying Pharoh Cooper for sixth on the all-time list.
* Junior Shi Smith (5-10, 190) is picking up the slack following the graduation of second-round NFL draft pick Deebo Samuel. Smith was the top receiver against North Carolina, catching five passes for 55 yards, and logged six receptions for 90 yards and a score against Alabama. He is second on the team with 13 catches for 158 yards through three games.
* Sophomore Josh Vann is the third starting wide receiver. He has nine catches this season for 62 yards. Veteran Chavis Dawkins made the start against UNC. Redshirt sophomore OrTre Smith did not dress for the opener, but has since returned to the field after missing most of last season following knee surgery. Randrecous Davis has missed the first three games with an ankle injury. Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich, who both began their collegiate career at quarterback, have seen time at wide receiver. Urich made the move in the spring and is now wearing number 81. Joyner just started playing the position midway through fall camp and is also taking reps at QB. True freshman Xavier Legette has begun seeing more action and is looking for his first reception.
REVAMPED TIGHT ENDS: Bobby Bentley took over as the tight ends coach and has had his work cut out for him, with just seven career Division I receptions in his room entering the 2019 campaign. He lost K.C. Crosby and Jacob August to graduation, then lost Kiel Pollard to a career-ending medical situation during fall camp, while Evan Hinson elected to pursue a basketball career.
* Fifth-year junior Kyle Markway (6-4, 250) is the only experienced D-I tight end in the room. He has gotten off to a solid start this season with 11 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns, after having just six catches coming into the season. He had a career-high four receptions against CSU, then topped that with five catches for 46 yards against Alabama.
* Junior Nick Muse (6-3, 232), a transfer from William & Mary, got a waiver for immediate eligibility from the NCAA a day prior to the CSU contest. He made an immediate contribution with two catches for 22 yards and had four catches for 21 yards against Alabama. He hauled in 30 passes for 453 yards a season ago for the Tribe.
* Junior Chandler Farrell, a former walk-on center, moved to tight end during fall camp to add depth. He is now wearing No. 31, rather than the 60 he has worn previously. He is still looking for his first reception.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Senior tight end Kiel Pollard was forced to give up his playing career during fall camp. Pollard suffered a small fracture in his neck, which was to have sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. However, during an MRI, the doctors discovered a cyst on his spinal cord, which appears to have been there since he was a child. The severity of the situation and the possible long-term consequences from that medical condition forced him to retire. Pollard, who will graduate in December, is helping as a student-assistant coach. He served as a captain in the season opener against North Carolina.
THE O-LINE SETTLES IN: The Gamecocks have some experience and some depth along the offensive line in what offensive line coach Eric Wolford considers his most athletic unit since rejoining the Carolina staff. However, Wolford shuffled the deck after the opener, inserting two new starters into the lineup.
* Sixth-year senior Donell Stanley (6-3, 325) anchors the unit. Stanley worked at left guard in the season opener, but has since moved back to center. He worked primarily at center during the 2018 season.
* The tackle positions are manned on the left side by redshirt junior Sadarius Hutcherson (6-4, 320) and on the right side by Dylan Wonnum (6-5, 310). Hutcherson played guard in 2018, but is strong and athletic enough to handle the tackle position. He earned a spot on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list. Wonnum was a Freshman All-American last season.
* The Gamecocks started a new pair of guards against CSU, with redshirt sophomore Jordan Rhodes (6-4, 330) taking over at left guard and redshirt freshman Jovaughn Gwyn (6-2, 305) getting the nod at right guard. They both started last week against Alabama as well.
* Redshirt freshman Hank Manos (6-4, 290) started at center in the season opener. He was also the starter at center for the Belk Bowl last December. Redshirt sophomore Eric Douglas (6-4, 315), started at right guard in the opener and is a swing guy who could play several positions.
CAN’T TOUCH THIS: Carolina’s number of sacks allowed dipped from 41 in 2016 the year prior to Eric Wolford’s arrival, to 29 in 2017 and to 23 in 2018 the fewest since the 2013 season. The Gamecocks have allowed six sacks through three games this season.
HEALTH IS THE KEY: The Gamecocks are looking to bounce back on defense this season after injuries took a major toll on the unit a season ago. What has long been Coach Muschamp’s calling card, the defense should reap the benefits of having several players forced into duty last season, a campaign in which 19 different players made starts on the defensive side of the ball, including three true freshmen defensive backs in Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu and R.J. Roderick. This season, a pair of true freshmen in cornerback John Dixon and nickel Jammie Robinson earned starts in the season opener.
DON’T TREAD ON ME: After struggling to stop the run in the season opener against North Carolina, the Gamecocks responded by allowing just 72 rushing yards on 24 carries against Charleston Southern. 44 of the 72 yards came on one play, so the Bucs gained just 38 yards on the other 23 totes. They followed that up with another strong effort against the run vs. Alabama, allowing just 76 yards on 25 carries, a 3.0-yard average. The last time South Carolina held back-to-back opponents under 100 yards rushing was in 2012 when Florida (89), Tennesssee (91) and Arkansas (83) were held under 100 yards in consecutive weeks.
SENIORS LEAD THE WAY UP FRONT: This is easily the best defensive front in both depth and talent assembled at South Carolina since the days of Jadeveon Clowney and company raised havoc throughout the SEC. Coach Muschamp has publicly put the pressure on a quintet of seniors to lead the way up front.
* Most of the accolades have gone to Javon Kinlaw (6-6, 310), who some NFL experts have labeled a possible first-round draft pick. He has filled up the stat line this season with nine tackles including an SEC-leading 3.0 sacks (one in each game), a quarterback hurry, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
* D.J. Wonnum (6-5, 260) returns after missing eight games a year ago with an ankle injury. Wonnum was named a team captain in 2017 after logging 13.0 tackles for loss including 6.0 sacks. He logged three of the Gamecocks’ six tackles for loss in the season opener and registered 11 tackles overall.
* Kobe Smith (6-2, 300) is a “glue guy” in the middle of the line. He had four stops in the opener against UNC.
* Keir Thomas (6-2, 275) is a swing guy who could play either inside or set the edge. He has been sidelined with an infection in his ankle and has yet to suit up this season.
* Daniel Fennell (6-2, 255) is coming off an ACL, but hasn’t missed a beat and is a very consistent performer.
BROTHERLY LOVE: When Dylan and D.J. Wonnum both started against Tennessee in 2018, they become the first set of brothers to start in a game for Carolina since 2014 when Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. were starters along the defensive line. Dylan was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts against the Vols, while D.J. earned SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors for the same game. It was the first time a set of brothers earned SEC honors in the same week.
BACKING UP THE LINE: What was a very thin unit that saw T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene each play over 900 snaps a year ago, the Gamecock linebacking corps is much deeper this season.
* T.J. Brunson (6-1, 230) is the veteran leader of the group. The first player that Coach Muschamp recruiting at Carolina, Brunson has logged 223 career tackles, including 106 last season alone. A 2018 team captain, he opened the 2019 season with nine stops against UNC and is currently third on the team with 17 stops.
* Sophomore Ernest Jones (6-2, 235) has continued to improve and earned the starting spot at the MIKE position, allowing Brunson to move to WILL, which he played earlier in his career. An excellent communicator, Jones starred in his first start against UNC, registering a team-high 12 tackles, along with a pair of pass breakups. He leads the team with 22 tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, both coming against Alabama.
* Sherrod Greene (6-1, 230) started every game last season and is now in a reserve role. Eldridge Thompson (6-1, 225) is a sixth-year senior, while junior Damani Staley (6-0, 235) and sophomore Rosendo Louis Jr. (6-2, 250) figure to see playing time. True freshman Jahmar Brown (6-1, 205) has worked his way into the two-deep.
RECONFIGURED SECONDARY: Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson has a talented, but relatively inexperienced group in his meeting room.
* J.T. Ibe (5-10, 195) is a sixth-year graduate transfer who, along with junior Jamyest Williams (5-8, 180) are the two veterans in the secondary. Ibe missed the opener with a pec injury, something he dealt with at Rice as well, but has since returned to the starting lineup. Williams logged nine stops in the opener.
* A pair of sophomores in Jaycee Horn (6-1, 200) and Israel Mukuamu (6-4, 205) have the ability to play more man coverage from their cornerback positions. Both are stars in the making, according to the coaching staff. Horn logged a sack and forced a pair of fumbles in the season opener and had two PBUs vs. Alabama. Mukuamu logged seven tackles against UNC, a pick against CSU and registered eight tackles against Alabama.
* Versatile senior A.J. Turner (5-10, 190) transitioned from running back to defensive back for his final campaign. He missed the opener with a shoulder injury and left the CSU game early with a dislocated thumb.
* Sophomore R.J. Roderick has been the starter at Nickel. He is second on the team with 19 tackles and logged his first career sack against Alabama.
* True freshmen Jammie Robinson (5-11, 200) and John Dixon (6-0, 190) both started vs. UNC. They became the eighth and ninth true freshman to start a season opener for the Gamecocks since the 2009 season, joining Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014), Al Harris Jr. (2014), Bryan Edwards (2016) and Jaycee Horn (2018). Dixon had a pick against CSU.
PICK THIS: After logging just six interceptions through the entire 2018 campaign, the Gamecocks came up with three picks against Charleston Southern, the most by Carolina in a game since the Vanderbilt win in 2015.
HUTZLER’S HEROES: Special teams coach Coleman Hutzler has the luxury of having all of his kickers back in 2019 for the 2019, including second-team All-SEC punter Joseph Charlton, who is the school’s career leader in punting average, placekicker Parker White, who connected on 81 percent of his field goal attempts last season, and kickoff specialist Will Tommie, who had 31 touchbacks on 41 kickoffs a season ago. Starting punt returner Bryan Edwards also returns for his senior season.
KICKING IT WITH PARKER: Redshirt junior Parker White is in his third season handling the extra point and field goal attempts. White is 6-for-7 in field goals this season with his only miss coming from 53 yards out. He also hit a career-long 48-yarder vs. Alabama. He is 33-of-48 (68.8 percent) in career field goal attempts, including 24-of-26 (92.3 percent) from inside 40 yards. He is 80-for-81 on extra point attempts, including 9-for-9 this season.
WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Parker White owns three fourth-quarter game-winning field goals in his career. He provided the deciding points in wins over Louisiana Tech (2017), Missouri (2018) and Tennessee (2018).
I’M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Senior Joseph Charlton handles the punting chores for the Gamecocks and is an All-SEC candidate. He was solid in the opener with a long of 59 yards and twice pinning the Tar Heels inside the 5. He did not punt against Charleston Southern, the first time Carolina has gone without punting in a game since 2011 against The Citadel. Last week, he averaged 45.5 yards on two punts. Last season, Charlton averaged 44.8 yards per punt, fifth in the SEC and 13th nationally, while earning second-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches. His average was the best single-season mark in school history, just ahead of the 44.3-yad mark set by Daren Parker in 1989 and matched by Sean Kelly in 2015.
PUNT RETURN SPECIALIST: Bryan Edwards serves as the Gamecocks’ primary punt returner. He had a big game in the season opener against North Carolina, returning three punts for 66 yards with a career-long of 38. Edwards handled those duties a year ago, returning 12 punts for 95 yards, an average of 7.9 yards per return, with a long of 32.
REPLACING DEEBO: It’s tough to replace the school’s record-holder in kickoff return average, but Shi Smith is doing his best to make people forget Deebo Samuel. Smith returned three kicks for 100 yards, including a 60-yarder that set up a third-quarter touchdown against North Carolina. He is averaging 23.1 yards on seven returns this season.
SNAPPING BACK: Graduate transfer Matt Oliveira handles the short and deep snapping duties, replacing two-year starter Ben Asbury. Oliveira has experience, having been the long snapper each of the last two seasons for Maryland.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL: Will Muschamp is in his fourth season guiding the Gamecock football program. He owns a record of 23-19. He became the first coach to take South Carolina to bowl games in each of his first three seasons. Steve Spurrier’s first three Carolina teams (2005-07) were bowl-eligible, but the 2007 squad did not receive a bowl bid despite posting a 6-6 campaign.
SEC SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have put together back-to-back seasons of four or more SEC wins for the first time since 2012-13. It’s also just the sixth time in program history that’s occurred.
BREAKING IT DOWN: The 112-man roster consists of 21 seniors, 25 juniors, 23 sophomores, 17 redshirt freshmen and 26 true freshmen.
WATCH ME NOW: The Gamecocks have 11 players on the Senior Bowl preseason watch list, the third-highest total in the country. The list includes Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Joseph Charlton, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Tavien Feaster, Javon Kinlaw, Kyle Markway, Donell Stanley, Keir Thomas and D.J. Wonnum.
OLD-TIMERS GAME: The Gamecocks have four players – Caleb Kinlaw, J.T. Ibe, Donell Stanley and Eldridge Thompson – who have been granted a sixth-year of eligibility by the NCAA for the 2019 season. Their first collegiate season was in 2014. South Carolina and Akron are the only Division I schools with four sixth-year players on the roster.
GRAD TRANSFERS: The Gamecocks welcomed two grad transfers this fall. Running back Tavien Feaster comes to Carolina after graduating from Clemson, while deep snapper Matt Oliveira joined the squad after graduating from Maryland. J.T. Ibe is another graduate transfer from Rice, who is in his second season with the Gamecocks.
POSITION SHUFFLE: Since the printing of the 2019 media guide, A.J. Turner has spent all of his time in the secondary after being listed as a running back; Darius Rush was moved to the secondary after playing wide receiver and is now wearing number 28 rather than 81; Chandler Farrell converted from center to tight end, changing his number from 60 to 31. Jay Urich, listed as a quarterback, has been a regular in the wide receiver unit and now wears number 81. Dakeron Joyner, the second-string quarterback, has been used as a wide receiver.
YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE: Just prior to the start of the 2019 academic year, walk-on linebacker Spencer Eason-Riddle was rewarded with a scholarship.
FAMILY TIES: Sophomore defensive back Jaycee Horn is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, junior linebacker Damani Staley is the son of former Gamecock and NFL running back Duce Staley, while 2019 signee Shilo Sanders is the son of former NFL and MLB standout Deion Sanders.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: Thirteen Gamecocks already have their undergraduate degree in hand. Those who have graduated include: Joseph Charlton, Mon Denson, Spencer Eason-Riddle, Chandler Farrell, Tavien Feaster, Daniel Fennell, Bailey Hart, J.T. Ibe, Caleb Kinlaw, Kyle Markway, Matt Oliveira, Donell Stanley and Eldridge Thompson.
THE CAP AND GOWN AWAITS: Fifteen Gamecocks are on track to graduate in December. The list includes: Michael Almond, Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Daniel Fennell (Master’s), Sadarius Hutcherson, Javon Kinlaw, Sean McGonigal, Kiel Pollard, Kobe Smith, Keir Thomas, Will Tommie, A.J. Turner, and Alex Woznick.
LOVE US FOR OUR MINDS: Gamecock football student-athletes posted a combined 3.026 GPA in the fall semester of 2018, the best in school history, then topped that with a 3.084 team GPA in the spring of 2019.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return home next Saturday for another SEC matchup, this time with the Kentucky Wildcats. The Gamecocks hold a 17-12-1 advantage in the all-time series with Kentucky, including an 8-5-1 mark when playing in Columbia. The Wildcats have won each of the last five gridiron meetings between the two schools after the Gamecocks had won 13 of the previous 14 contests, including 10 in a row from 2000-2009.