Gamecocks Set to Host Kentucky Under the Lights
7:39 pm Kick Set for Saturday, Sept. 28
QUICKLY: The South Carolina Gamecocks (1-3, 0-2 SEC) return home to face another SEC Eastern Division rival when the Kentucky Wildcats (2-2, 0-2 SEC) visit Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 28. Game time is set for 7:39 pm ET, as the Gamecocks play under the lights for the first time this season. SEC Network has the game with Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers in the booth and Cole Cubelic working the sidelines. This is the second 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 609-582-44, 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 94-123-1 (.433) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 39-35 (.527) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. KENTUCKY: This is the 31st meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats in a series that dates back to 1937. Carolina leads the all-time series 17-12-1, including an 8-5-1 advantage in Columbia. The teams played just three times (1937, 1978 and 1981) before Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. Since then, they have met every year. Since joining the SEC, the Gamecocks own a 16-11 record against UK, including wins in 13 of the 19 meetings in this century, but the Wildcats have won each of the last five contests, their longest winning streak in the series.
SNELL-LESS ‘CATS: Thankfully for the Gamecocks, the Wildcats will be without the services of running back Benny Snell, who has finally used up his eligibility. Over the last three seasons, Snell was a thorn in the Gamecocks’ side, rushing 76 times for 274 yards and four touchdowns against Carolina defenses. He carried the pigskin a combined 60 times in the last two meetings.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Benny Snell ran for 99 yards and one of Kentucky’s three-consecutive first-half touchdowns before the No. 17 Wildcats held on for a 24-10 win over South Carolina on Sept. 29, 2018, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky scored on four-straight drives to take a 24-3 lead into intermission. The two teams were close in total yards (327-321 in favor of Kentucky) and first downs (20-19 in favor of Carolina) but four Gamecock turnovers proved to be the difference.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Benny Snell rushed for 102 yards and two TDs and the Wildcat defense held Carolina to just one score over the final 59:13 as Kentucky upended the Gamecocks 23-13 in Columbia on Sept. 16, 2017. Jake Bentley connected with Deebo Samuel on a 68-yard scoring strike on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but Carolina could muster just 290 yards of offense the rest of the way. Bentley completed 24-of-36 passes for 304 yards and two scores and Samuel logged 122 yards on five catches before suffering a season-ending injury.
THE LAST CAROLINA WIN: The 13th-ranked Gamecocks opened up a 27-7 lead, but the Wildcats made it interesting with 21 fourth-quarter points before falling by a 35-28 count in Columbia on Oct. 5, 2013. Mike Davis rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense, including 262 through the air on 17-of-20 passing. Damiere Byrd had one of the top days of his career, catching five passes for 94 yards, including a 62-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE CATS: Head coach Will Muschamp owns a 4-3 record against Kentucky. He was a perfect 4-0 against the Wildcats as the head coach at Florida, but has dropped all three games as the Carolina head coach.
BLUE GRASS TIES: Gamecock assistant coach Kyle Krantz served as a GA on the Wildcat staff in 2011 and 2012.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Missouri Tigers used a pair of defensive scores en route to a 34-14 win over South Carolina last Saturday in Columbia, Mo., taking the Mayor’s Cup for the first time since 2015. The turning point in the game came in the third quarter with Mizzou holding a 24-14 lead. The Gamecocks were three yards away from making it a three-point game, but Ronnell Perkins intercepted a pass and raced 100 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 31-14 advantage with the 14-point swing. The Gamecocks were limited to just 271 yards of offense in the contest.
QUICK STRIKE: The Gamecocks’ two scoring “drives” were quick ones at Missouri. Their first touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Rico Dowdle after D.J. Wonnum‘s interception return placed the ball on the one. Carolina’s second TD came on the first play of the third quarter when Bryan Edwards took a short pass from Ryan Hilinski and scooted 75 yards to paydirt. The two scoring drives came on a combined two plays and used up just 17 seconds on the clock.
EDWARDS STAYS HOT: Bryan Edwards continues to put up impressive numbers. The senior wide receiver had another big day against Missouri, hauling in six passes for 113 yards, including a career-long 75-yard touchdown reception. After being limited to just one catch for seven yards in the season opener, Edwards has hauled in 20 passes for 304 yards over the last three games, including a pair of 100-yard receiving games. With three-straight strong performances, he has moved among the SEC leaders with 5.2 receptions per game (t8th) and 77.8 receiving yards per game (8th).
CHARLTON WAS SENSATIONAL: Joseph Charlton may have had the Gamecocks’ best performance against Mizzou. The senior punter boomed eight punts for 427 yards, a 53.4-yard average, with a long of 63 and three pushing the Tigers inside the 20. It was the best day of punting for a Gamecock in the four years under head coach Will Muschamp, and moved Charlton into third among the nation’s punters with a 48.9-yard average this season.
ANOTHER GAME, ANOTHER SACK: Javon Kinlaw continues to play at a high level. The senior defensive tackle had another sack, his fourth sack in as many games this season among his four tackles at Missouri. He also recovered a fumble and was credited with a pass break up and a quarterback hurry. Kinlaw leads the SEC with 4.0 sacks this season.
AMONG THE LEADERS: Several Gamecocks are listed in the SEC’s top-10 this week:
Passing Avg/Game – Ryan Hilinski – 4th – 257.3
Receptions/Game – Bryan Edwards -t8th – 5.2
Receive Yds/Game – Bryan Edwards – 8th – 77.8
Total Offense – Ryan Hilinski – 6th – 253.7
Punt Returns – Bryan Edwards – 1st – 22.0
Scoring (Kick) – Parker White – t9th – 7.2
Kick Returns – Shi Smith – 6th – 23.1
Punting – Joseph Charlton – 2nd – 48.9
Field Goals – Parker White – t6th – 1.5
Field Goal Pct. – Parker White – 5th – 75.0
PAT Kicking Pct. – Parker White – t1st – 100.0
Tackles – Ernest Jones – t4th – 7.8
Tackles – T.J. Brunson – 9th – 7.2
Sacks – Javon Kinlaw – 1st – 1.0
Tackles for loss – Javon Kinlaw – t6th – 1.0
Tackles for loss – Aaron Sterling – t6h – 1.0
Passes Defended – Jaycee Horn – t6th – 1.0
Forced Fumbles – Jaycee Horn – t1st – 0.5
Fumbles Recovered – Javon Kinlaw – t1st – 0.5
THE B-MAC ATTACK: The Gamecock offense has been up-and-down this season, playing very well against Charleston Southern and Alabama, but struggling in losses to North Carolina and Missouri. 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. Against Alabama, Carolina collected 459 yards while running 86 plays. The Gamecocks are eighth in the SEC in scoring offense (32.2), fifth in rushing offense (193.0) and sixth in total offense (443.8).
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 during the second week of September. Bentley logged a 19-14 record as a starting signal-caller.
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. He went on the road last week for the first time and struggled against Missouri, completing just 13-of-30 passes for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Through three games, he has connected on 73-of-117 passes (62.4 pct.) for 772 yards with five TDs and three picks.
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 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.
DO IT ALL DAKEREON: Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner moves into the backup role behind Hilinski. Joyner, who is also playing wide receiver this season, saw his most action at quarterback last week at Missouri, completing 6-of-11 passes for 89 yards. Joyner has now rushed 10 times this season for 49 yards and a touchdown, and has caught 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 every game this season, rushing 41 times for 268 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and three scores. He logged 102 yards against Alabama for his seventh-career 100-yard game. He ranks 18th on the school’s all-time rushing list with 1,937 yards. He has scored 15 rushing TDs in 33 games including 22 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 5.2 yards per carry this season with 183 yards on 35 carries. Feaster, who played at Clemson in each of the past three seasons, has rushed 257 times for 1,513 yards with 16 touchdowns over 45 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 25 games including a pair of starts.
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 42 games in which he has appeared, and is now just one behind school record-holder Kenny McKinley’s mark of 43. 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, logged a career-high nine receptions for 79 yards against Alabama, and posted a six-catch, 113-yard, one touchdown outing at Mizzou, his seventh career 100-yard receiving game. He passed Alshon Jeffery into second place on the school’s career receptions list with 184, behind only Kenny McKinley’s school record 207 career receptions. Edwards also moved past Sterling Sharpe into third place on the school’s all-time receiving yards list with 2,540. He trails only Alshon Jeffery (3,042) and Kenny McKinley (2,781) on that list. Edwards owns 19 career TDs, tying Robert Brooks, Jermale Kelly and Kenny McKinley for third on the school’s all-time list, behind only Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery’s mark of 23.
* 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 16 catches for 190 yards through four games.
* Sophomore Josh Vann and veteran Chavis Dawkins have each started twice this season as the third receiver. Vann has 10 catches this season for 70 yards. Dawkins logged his first two receptions of the season at Mizzou for 30 yards. 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 four games with a high ankle sprain. 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 and is having a career year. Markway caught three passes for 52 yards last week playing in his home state of Missouri, and now has 14 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns on the season after having just six catches coming into 2019. 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 in that contest and had four catches for 21 yards against Alabama. He added another two catches for 25 yards last week at Mizzou. 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.
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. The duo logged five receptions at Mizzou last week and have combined for 22 receptions this season.
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 opener vs. UNC.
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. The same quintet has now started three-consecutive games.
* 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 have now started three-straight games.
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), Tennessee (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 13 tackles including an SEC-leading 4.0 sacks (one in each game), two quarterback hurries, a pair of fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.
* D.J. Wonnum (6-5, 260) is back 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. He had his first career interception at Missouri and rambled 21 yards, setting up the Gamecocks’ first touchdown of the game.
* Kobe Smith (6-2, 300) is a “glue guy” in the middle of the line and has recorded nine tackles.
* 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 the same week.
GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks recorded 26 sacks in each of the last two seasons. Through four games, the Gamecocks have logged eight sacks, with Javon Kinlaw leading the way with 4.0, while Aaron Sterling has 2.0.
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 235 career tackles, including 106 last season alone. A 2018 team captain, he opened the 2019 season with nine stops against UNC, had a season-high 12 stops at Missouri and is currently second on the team with 29 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 31 tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, both coming against Alabama.
* Sherrod Greene (6-1, 230) started every game last season and has been primarily used in a reserve role this season, but has been coming on of late, earning his first start at Mizzou. 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.
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.
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 is the veteran 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.
* 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 worked his way into the srtarting lineup, seeing action at both nickel and safety. He is third on the team with 23 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 already have four interceptions this season, including three picks against Charleston Southern, the most by Carolina in a game since the Vanderbilt win in 2015.
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-8 in field goals this season with his only misses coming from 50 and 53 yards. He also hit a career-long 48-yarder vs. Alabama. He is 33-of-49 (67.3 percent) in career field goal attempts, including 24-of-26 (92.3 percent) from inside 40 yards. He is 82-for-83 on extra point attempts, including 11-for-11 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. He averaged 45.5 yards on two punts against Alabama, then had the best games of his career at Missouri, booming eight punts for a 53.4-yard average. The Gamecocks are currently ranked ninth in the country in net punting Last season, Charlton averaged a school record 44.8 yards per punt, fifth in the SEC and 13th nationally, while earning second-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches.
CHARLTON THE G.O.A.T.: Joseph Charlton is currently the school record holder for career punting average at 44.7-yards per punt.
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.
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.
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.
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 will enjoy the first of two open weeks this season next week before returning to SEC action on Oct. 12, when they travel to Athens to take on the #3/3 Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 51-18-2 margin in a series that dates back to 1894. The Bulldogs have won each of the last four meetings with Carolina’s last win coming in 2014. The Gamecocks’ last win in Athens came in 2011.