Gamecocks Open 2020 Season Saturday Night
Carolina Hosts Tennessee
QUICKLY: The University of South Carolina opens its 2020 football season against the No. 16/21 Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, Sept. 26. Game time is set for 7:30 pm and the contest will be televised on SEC Network.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: Taylor Zarzour will serve as the play-by-play voice for SEC Network with Matt Stinchcomb providing the analysis. University of South Carolina grad Alyssa Lang returns to her alma mater, working as the sideline reporter. The familiar voices of Gamecock Greats Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network with Jamar Nesbit on the sidelines.
HERE WE GO: 2020 marks the 127th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 114th-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 612-587-44, a .510 winning percentage.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The 2020 season marks South Carolina’s 29th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 97-126-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 42-38 (.525) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: The 2020 season marks the 10th anniversary of the 2010 squad that captured the SEC Eastern Division title and went on to appear in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta against eventual national champion Auburn. It’s the Gamecocks only division title since joining the Southeastern Conference.
CAROLINA VS. TENNESSEE: This is the 39th gridiron meeting between the Gamecocks and Volunteers in a series that dates back to 1903. Tennessee leads the all-time series, 26-10-2, including a 17-3 advantage in Knoxville and a 9-7-2 mark in Columbia. The teams have met every year since Carolina joined the SEC for the 1992 season, with the Volunteers winning 19 of the 28 meetings as conference rivals. The Gamecocks defeated Tennessee just three times in a 105-year period from 1903-2007, but have won seven times in the last 12 contests from 2008-19, including three of the last four.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: This contest was originally scheduled to be played on October 10, which would have been week 6 of the season for the Gamecocks. With the game now on September 26, it becomes the earliest game played between the two schools, matching the game that ended in a scoreless tie in 1942 and one day earlier than when the teams met in 2003, a 23-20 UT win in overtime. Those are the only two other games previously played between the two schools in the month of September.
IT FIGURES TO BE CLOSE: Prior to last season, the previous seven contests (2012-18) were decided by six points or less, and by a total of 23 points, with Carolina winning four games by 3, 3, 6 and 3 points and Tennessee winning three times by 2-, 3- and 3-point margins. Six of those seven games were decided by three points or less.
LET’S KEEP IT TO 60 MINUTES: South Carolina has played seven overtime games in its history, logging a 3-4 mark in those contests that needed more than 60 minutes to decide. Tennessee has been the opponent in three of the seven overtime games and accounted for three of the Gamecocks’ four overtime losses, all decided by a field goal.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Tennessee scored on a pair of special teams plays and overcame a 21-17 halftime deficit to post a 41-21 win over South Carolina in Knoxville on Oct. 26, 2019. The Vols rolled up 485 yards of offense to just 397 for South Carolina, despite Ryan Hilinski completing 28-of-51 passes for 319 yards, including a 75-yard strike to Shi Smith on the game’s first play from scrimmage. The loss snapped a three-game Carolina win streak in the series, which matched the 2010-12 stretch for the Gamecocks’ longest winning streak over UT.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Jake Bentley threw for 152 yards and a touchdown, Rico Dowdle rushed for 140 yards and a score, and the Carolina defense stopped Tennessee on downs twice in the final quarter as the Gamecocks rallied from a 12-point deficit for a 27-24 win in Columbia on Oct. 27, 2018. Parker White‘s 25-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining proved to be the difference.
DEJA VU?: The last time Tennessee came into Williams-Brice Stadium as a ranked opponent was in 2016 when the Vols were No. 18 in both polls. An unranked Carolina team won the turnover battle 3-0 and came away with a 24-21 victory in Will Muschamp’s first season in Columbia.
GOOD OLE ROCKY TOP: Will Muschamp owns a 7-1 record against Tennessee as a head coach. He was 4-0 as the head coach at Florida, posting wins by scores of 33-23, 37-20, 31-17 and 10-6. He is 3-1 with the Gamecocks, leading Carolina wins of 24-21, 15-9 and 27-24 over Tennessee before last year’s setback. The seven wins, which is equaled by his win total over Vanderbilt, represents Coach Muschamp’s high against any opponent.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: South Carolina’s redshirt senior offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson hails from Huntingdon, Tenn., located about 300 miles west of Knoxville. Redshirt freshmen Keveon Mullins (Memphis) and Joseph Anderson (Murfreesboro) also come from the Volunteer state. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker served as a Tennessee assistant coach from 2018-19. Director of Player Personnel, Drew Hughes, had a similar role at UT from 2018-19. Kristin Coggin, Director of Football Nutrition, is a Pulaski, Tenn., native who was part of the Lady Vols rowing team as an undergrad.
OLD FRIEND ALERT: Tennessee assistant coach Jay Graham was on Steve Spurrier’s staff at South Carolina from 2009-11. Former Gamecocks Byron Jerideau and Shaq Wilson share the title of Assistant Director of Football Sports Performance at UT.
2019 IN REVIEW: South Carolina concluded its 126th season of intercollegiate football in 2019 with a record of 4-8, including a 3-5 mark in the SEC. The highlight of the season was a 20-17 double-overtime win at Georgia, a team that finished fourth in the final Associated Press poll. Four of the Gamecocks’ eight losses were to teams that finished the season in the top-20 in the A.P.’s final poll, including No. 2 Clemson, No. 6 Florida, No. 8 Alabama and No. 19 Appalachian State.
NO EXCUSES, BUT THAT WAS TOUGH: The Gamecocks faced the nation’s toughest regular-season schedule during the 2019 season. Gamecock opponents averaged 8.9 wins, the high-water mark for any school in 2019, and all nine of their opponents that appeared in bowl games, won a bowl game. South Carolina’s Division I opponents combined for a 101-44 record, a .697 winning percentage. Using the NCAA formula, the Gamecocks (99-46, .683) faced the toughest schedule in the country, just ahead of Auburn (107-50, .682).
IT DOESN’T GET ANY EASIER: Five of the Gamecocks’ 10 opponents in 2020 are currently ranked in the top-10 in the Associated Press poll, (No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Auburn and No. 10 Texas A&M), and two others appear in the top-25 (No. 16 Tennessee and No. 23 Kentucky).
FOR OPENERS: Through 126 years of intercollegiate football, the Gamecocks have compiled an 84-38-4 record in season openers, a winning percentage of .683. In the 94 seasons in which the Gamecocks have opened at home, the record is a very impressive 71-19-4. That translates into a .777 winning mark. In 28 seasons in which the Gamecocks have opened on the road, they are 10-18 for a .357 winning percentage. South Carolina opened the 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019 seasons at a neutral site, posting a 3-1 record.
HE’S THE CHAMP: Will Muschamp is in his fifth season guiding the Carolina Football program. He has posted a 26-25 record in his first four seasons as the Gamecocks’ head coach. His .510 winning percentage is exactly the same as that of the University’s through its first 126 years of intercollegiate football. The 26 wins ranks in a tie for ninth on the school’s all-time list with Sol Metzger, while his 51 games coached ranks 10th in school history. He needs three wins to move past Warren Giese (28 wins) into eighth place on the all-time wins list. Overall, Coach Muschamp has been a head coach for eight seasons, logging a 54-46 record, a .540 winning percentage.
COACHING CAROUSEL: Head football coach Will Muschamp made several changes to his coaching staff in the off season. On offense, former Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo was brought in to serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Joe Cox takes over as the wide receivers coach and Des Kitchings will mentor the running backs. On the defensive side of the ball, veteran SEC coach Tracy Rocker will coach the defensive line with former Gamecock Rod Wilson taking over the linebackers. Kyle Krantz assumes the duties as the special teams coordinator along with serving as an assistant defensive backs coach.
THEY DO THE HEAVY LIFTING: The strength and conditioning staff has been overhauled, with Paul Jackson now in charge. Joining Jackson on the strength staff are Scott Salwasser, Julian Whitehead, Anthony Henderson and Jordan Sims.
BREAKING IT DOWN: The 113-man roster consists of two graduate transfers, 15 seniors, 22 juniors, 20 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 38 true freshmen.
THEY’RE BACK: The Gamecocks welcomed 43 returning letterwinners to begin the 2020 season. The lettermen consist of 21 offensive players, 21 on defense and one special teams player.
RETURNING STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 13 returning starters from the 2019 squad, six on offense, six on defense and one specialist. The returning offensive starters are RG Jovaughn Gwyn, QB Ryan Hilinski, LT Sadarius Hutcherson, LG Jordan Rhodes, WR Shi Smith and RT Dylan Wonnum. The returning defensive starters are LB Sherrod Greene, CB Jaycee Horn, LB Ernest Jones, CB Israel Mukuamu, S R.J. Roderick and DE Aaron Sterling. The specialist is PK Parker White.
EVERY TIME OUT: The Gamecocks had eight players start every game in 2019 includes LT Sadarius Hutcherson, TE Kyle Markway, OC Donell Stanley, CB Jaycee Horn, LB Ernest Jones, DT Javon Kinlaw, CB Israel Mukuamu and DE D.J. Wonnum. Hutcherson (a team-leading 26 consecutive starts), Mukuamu (14), Horn (13) and Jones (12) return in 2020.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: Carolina returns 20 percent of its rushing yards, 95 percent of its passing yards and 43 percent of its receiving yards from 2019. Kevin Harris (179 yards) and Deshaun Fenwick (111 yards) are the top returning rushers, while Shi Smith (489 yards) and Josh Vann (171 yards) are the top returning receivers. The Gamecocks also return their top passer in Ryan Hilinski (2,357 yards). Six of the squad’s top eight tacklers are back for the 2020 season, including team-leader Ernest Jones (97 tackles) and Jammie Robinson (62 tackles). Aaron Sterling returns after leading the team in tackles for loss (10.0) and sacks (6.0), while Israel Mukuamu paced the team with four interceptions.
OPTING OUT: The Gamecocks have had three players opt out for the 2020 season, including wide receivers Randrecous Davis and OrTre Smith, along with offensive lineman Mark Fox.
HE CHANGED HIS MIND: Offensive lineman Jordan Rhodes initially opted out for the 2020 season, but changed his mind and opted back in.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks said good-bye to 26 lettermen, 13 on offense, eight on defense and five special teamers. Included were 11 starters off last year’s team, five on both sides of the ball and one specialist. The departed starters include WR Chavis Dawkins, RB Rico Dowdle, WR Bryan Edwards, TE Kyle Markway and OC Donell Stanley on the offensive side of the ball, and LB T.J. Brunson, S J.T. Ibe, DT Javon Kinlaw, DT Kobe Smith, B/S D.J. Wonnum on defense, along with punter Joseph Charlton.
I FEEL A DRAFT: The Gamecocks had four players from the 2019 team selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw was selected in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers with the 14th pick overall. Wide receiver Bryan Edwards went to the Las Vegas Raiders in the third round at number 81 overall. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round, the 117th pick overall. Linebacker T.J. Brunson, was a seventh-round pick of the New York Giants, the number 238 overall
MORE DRAFT NEWS: Javon Kinlaw was selected by San Francisco with the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. Kinlaw became the Gamecocks’ 14th first-round NFL draft pick and the ninth since 2000. With Kinlaw’s selection, the Gamecocks have produced a selection in 18 of the last 19 NFL Drafts. Kinlaw also became the 16th first-round selection coached by Will Muschamp.
FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: Six players from the 2019 squad signed free agent contracts after the NFL Draft, including running back Rico Dowdle (Dallas); running back Tavien Feaster (Jacksonville); tight end Kyle Markway (New York Giants); defensive tackle Kobe Smith (Tennessee); offensive lineman Donell Stanley (Miami) and punter Joseph Charlton (Charlotte).
COACH SPEAK: The SEC Coaches tabbed OL Sadarius Hutcherson, DL Aaron Sterling and DB Israel Mukuamu to their preseason second-team All-SEC unit, while LB Ernest Jones and DB Jaycee Horn were selected to the preseason third-team unit by the league’s 14 coaches.
ATHLON SAYS: Athlon magazine listed six Gamecocks among its 2020 preseason All-SEC teams. OL Sadarius Hutcherson and DL Aaron Sterling were second team selections, LB Ernest Jones, CB Jaycee Horn and S Jammie Robinson were named to the third-team unit, while PK Parker White was a fourth-team selection.
PHIL STEELE REPORTS: Phil Steele Publications recognized seven Gamecocks on his preseason all-conference teams. OL Sadarius Hutcherson, DB Jaycee Horn and DB Israel Mukuamu all earned second-team All-SEC accolades, while LB Ernest Jones and TE Nick Muse were third team selections. WR Shi Smith and DL Kingsley Enagbare were named to the fourth-team unit.
FACING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks were 1-3 against ranked opponents in 2019, knocking off No. 3 Georgia in Athens in two overtimes, and dropping home contests to No. 2 Alabama, No. 9 Florida and No. 3 Clemson. Tennessee comes into the contest ranked No. 16 by the AP.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: Thirteen Gamecock football players already have their diplomas in hand. Those who have earned undergraduate degrees include: Slade Carroll, Spencer Eason-Riddle, Jabari Ellis, Chandler Farrell, Jaylan Foster, Collin Hill, Sadarius Hutcherson, Christian Kinsley, Sean McGonigal, Adam Prentice, Keir Thomas, M.J. Webb and Parker White.
FALL ACADEMICS: The Gamecocks placed 47 players on the 2019 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll including: Trey Adkins, Jake Bentley, Davonne Bowen, TJ Brunson, Eddie Buckhouse, Summie Carlay, Slade Carroll, Joseph Charlton, Devontae Davis, Chavis Dawkins, Mon Denson, Eric Douglas, Spencer Eason-Riddle, Chandler Farrell, Daniel Fennell, Corbett Glick, Sherrod Greene, Jovaughn Gwyn, Cole Hanna, Dawson Hoffman, Jaycee Horn, Sadarius Hutcherson, J.T. Ibe, Max Iyama, Tyreek Johnson, John Kanaan, Christian Kinsley, Rosendo Louis Jr., Hank Manos, Sean McGonigal, Israel Mukuamu, Jazuun Outlaw, Kiel Pollard, Patrick Reedy, Will Register, Jordan Rhodes, Darius Rush, Rick Sandidge, Kobe Smith, Will Tommie, Jay Urich, Jordan Villafane, Noah Vincent, MJ Webb, Parker White, Dylan Wonnum, and D.J. Wonnum.
FIRST-YEAR HONOR ROLL: Several Gamecock football players were named to the SEC’s First-Year Honor Roll including Joseph Anderson, Jahmar Brown, John Dixon, Rodricus Fitten, Mark Fox, Kevin Harris, Ryan Hilinski, Traevon Kenion, Xavier Legette, Jakai Moore, Vincent Murphy, Nick Muse, Jaylen Nichols, Matt Oliveira, Zacch Pickens, Will Rogers, Shilo Sanders and KeShawn Toney.
LOVE US FOR OUR MINDS: Gamecock football student-athletes posted a combined 3.614 GPA in Spring 2020, the highest mark on record. The previous high was 3.084 in the spring of 2019. They fell just short of obtaining another combined GPA of 3.0 or better in the fall of 2019, coming in at 2.985, despite being in-season.
NFL TIES: Jaycee Horn is the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. Damani Staley is the son of former Gamecock and NFL running back Duce Staley. Shilo Sanders is the son of former NFL and MLB standout Deion Sanders, a member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dylan Wonnum is the younger brother of former Gamecock, D.J. Wonnum, who is with the Minnesota Vikings. Fabian Goodman is the son of former Gamecock Andre Goodman, who logged 10 seasons in the NFL. Elisha Brooks is the son of former Gamecock and NFL star Robert Brooks. Nick Muse‘s older brother, Tanner, is a member of the Las Vegas Raiders.
* Shi Smith is tied for 12th on the school’s all-time receptions list with 117. He needs 25 catches to tie Sidney Rice for 10th on the all-time list.
* Shi Smith has 1,571 career receiving yards. He needs 505 yards to match Deebo Samuel for 10th on the school’s all-time list.
* Parker White is fourth on the school’s all-time list for career field goals made with 45 and fourth in career field goals attempted with 63.
* Parker White is fifth on the school’s all-time list in extra points made (96), extra points attempted (97) and extra point percentage (.990).
* Parker White is fifth on the school’s career scoring list with 231 points.
UP NEXT: Carolina travels to The Swamp next Saturday for a date with the No. 5/6 Florida Gators. Game time is set for noon from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. The teams have split the last 10 games evenly after Florida won 26 of the first 30.