This week the Tennessee Volunteers (3-2) take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-2). The Vols lost a close one last season at South Carolina, but Butch Jones hopes to gain some momentum in Neyland to get Tennessee back on track. Here are the key players for South Carolina and the main advantages they have on the Volunteers.
Starting quarterback Jake Bentley has thrown for 1,456 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season, and showed a lot of confidence in his game last week against Arkansas. Last week’s game reinforced his starting position and leadership role on this South Carolina offense. Bentley was 16-for-31 with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Arkansas last week. The sophomore isn’t much of a runner with the ball, but the consistency in his throwing game is very strong and should be carefully examined by the Vols secondary and its coaches.
The running game back room is shared by sophomore Rico Dowdle and redshirt sophomore Ty’son Williams. These two have contributed to South Carolina’s total offense by accumulating a combined three touchdowns and 468 yards on the season. That being said, their performance was not as strong as they would have liked it to be against the Arkansas defense last week. Dowdle only had 11 carries for 61 yards while Williams had 8 carries for 35 yards. However, Williams did score a receiving touchdown on a three yard pass in the end zone. These two have been known to make some quality catches, but their overall pass blocking skills behind the line have helped Bentley connect with his receivers and keep the offense moving.
Receivers and Tight ends
The receivers and tight ends have made a huge impact for the South Carolina offense this season, and hope to keep the momentum going against the Vols defense. The receiving core has amounted for 10 touchdowns this season and over 1,200 receiving yards. Some notable players are Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and tight end Hayden Hurst. Edwards and Hurst had two of the touchdowns last week in their 48-22 win over the Razorbacks, so they will be looking to have another productive game to lead this offense. The injury that Deebo Samuel sustained was a bit of a shock after the loss to Kentucky, but head coach Will Muschamp is confident that the receivers will be just as effective.
The offensive line has protected Bentley to the best of their ability all season, but they have been tested, giving up 16 sacks this season. The most notable mistakes were during their first game against North Carolina State and in the win over Arkansas, where they gave up a combined six sacks. This line is a very strong, experienced group of guys who have been improving week-to-week, but they need to be extra cautious of the Tennessee defense. Muschamp is happy to have these veterans protecting his quarterback, and believes they will continue to give this offense the push it needs to keep being successful.
South Carolina’s defense is one the strongest in the SEC, and it shows with how many notable stats they have racked up this season. Linebackers T.J. Brunson, Skai Moore, and Bryson Allen-Williams have lead the defense with an impressive array of stats. Brunson leads the teams with 49 tackles, 28 unassisted and two fumble recoveries while Moore has 42 tackles, 27 unassisted, one sack and two interceptions. Allen-Williams has added 10 tackles, two sacks, and one interception. Along with these elite linebackers, the defensive line has made a huge impact this season as well. Senior Dante Sawyer and Sophomore D.J. Wonnum have a combined 47 tackles. Defensive coordinator Tarvaris Robinson was excited with how the defense performed last week, despite the 22 points that were given up to Arkansas.
On top of a strong front seven, South Carolina’s secondary has been successful in high pressure situations. Defensive backs Chris Lammons and Rashad Fenton were productive during the offseason, and have already started to show their ability through the first six games. Lammons is an aggressive threat who has 37 total tackles this season, while Fenton has broken up passes on three separate occasions to go along with a fumble recovery. The only problem that has struck this defensive unit is their ability to stop offensive drives in the red zone. They hope to make the proper adjustments this week before they take on the Vols receiving corps.
Besides having a good defensive unit, the Gamecocks are also strong on special teams. Deebo Samuel had been an excellent asset on kickoff return with two touchdowns on the season, but of course his injury ended that. South Carolina is moving past this unfortunate loss and found the most suitable replacement in the receiver corps.
South Carolina’s punter Joseph Charlton has done well so far this season, averaging 49.5 yards per punt. Charlton has been able to place six punts inside the 20 yard line this season, which has allowed for South Carolina’s defense to capitalize on field position. This was proven last week when the Gamecock defense scored on three separate turnovers.
Featured image courtesy of UT Sports
Edited by Seth Raborn