Key matchup for Tennessee vs. South Carolina

When the Vols and Gamecocks meet in Neyland Stadium on Saturday, there will be one key matchup to watch: Pharoh Cooper vs. the Vols’ secondary.

Photo by Keith Allison, courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.

The Heritage Pro-Am April 20, 2011 Hilton Head, SC

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This week when the Vols play host to SEC East rival South Carolina there is one key matchup to keep an eye on: Pharoh Cooper vs. the Tennessee secondary.

Despite South Carolina having a down season and having to deal with head coach Steve Spurrier packing his bags and handing over the keys, Cooper has still managed to be the big play guy for the Gamecocks.

He has had a dip in production as far as stats go this season, yet has remained the only player creating big plays for South Carolina.

The Vols will have to have eyes on Cooper for 60 minutes Saturday, as giving up the big play has been a weakness at times for Tennessee’s defense. Expect Cooper to have a great deal of attention during the game.

With South Carolina lining Cooper up in the backfield as a wildcat quarterback and as a running back, Tennessee’s linebackers should pay attention to him every snap. The entire secondary should be looking Cooper’s way, as he likely will draw double coverage most of the night.

Cooper hasn’t seen as many snaps lined up somewhere besides receiver as he did last year, but is averaging 6.5 yards per run this season. Linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Darrin Kirkland Jr. will need to be on top of their game.

Cooper is most dangerous at receiver due to his big play ability. He is averaging 13.8 yards per catch this season on 44 receptions.

Once again, his numbers are down compared to last year, but in this area it is due to the inconsistency at quarterback. Cooper may not make it to the thousand-yard mark this season, but he is still the main threat for the Gamecocks through the air.

Cameron Sutton should spend a lot of the night guarding Cooper, but don’t be surprised to see Sutton get some help over the top from one of the safeties.

The Vols will be without Emmanuel Moseley in the secondary for the first half on Saturday, due to a suspension from a targeting call in the Kentucky game last week. That could affect some plans of the Tennessee defensive coaching staff.

The Vols and Gamecocks kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. If Tennessee’s secondary can shut down Cooper, it could get ugly for South Carolina.

Featured image by Keith Allison

Edited by Cody McClure