JANUARY 2019 • VOLUME 41 • ISSUE 1
FLASH Young players show big potential, bring hope for future
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28 Flying high
The Gamecock Club and Spurs & Feathers THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. Below is our publication schedule for 2019:
GAMECOCK CLUB EVENTS The Florence County Gamecock Club will host its annual South Carolina Football Signing Day luncheon with Tony Morrell of 247Sports/Big Spur on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 12 p.m. at Roger’s BBQ House at 2004 Second Loop Road in Florence. The cost is $20 per person, which includes lunch. Tony will provide analysis on the 2019 signing class. The public is invited to attend. For more information, please contact Club President Scat Scaturro 843- 621- 8008. Got a Gamecock Club event you’d like us to list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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8 Passing the torch
July 24 Aug. 28 Sept. 25 Oct. 23 Nov. 20 Dec. 18
TABLE OF CONTENTS
gamecock club 5
Season in Review: Team awards
Season in Review: Plays of the Year
Season in Review: Photos of the Year
Owens: There is hope for the future
Time for Gamecock Club renewals
Gamecocks + NASCAR = Thrill Ride
Belk Bowl Photos
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Campbell making big strides
Tennis teams head Down Under
Athletic freshman flying high
Gunter: Glad 2018 is over
Credille honored for long service
Girardeau: What a difference a month makes
Cooper finding her way
Signing Class: ‘We got better’ Belk Bowl Recap: What happened?
Bright future for freshman class
34 Batter up
Kingston ponders pitching strategy
ON the cover Jaycee Horn, Dylan Wonnum and Rick Sandidge Photos by SC Athletics Cover designed by Lisa Heinz
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Despite discouraging bowl loss, youth brings hope for future By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor
outh Carolina ended the 2018 season with a humiliating 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl. The shocking outcome was so discouraging that head coach Will Muschamp apologized for his team’s lackluster performance (see page 16). Fans were understandably frustrated by the loss and the way the team finished the season. A year ago, Muschamp led South Carolina to a 9-4 record capped by an impressive win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. A year later, the Gamecocks struggled and lost three of its final five games to finish 7-6. The last three losses were troubling — a 21-point, fourth-quarter collapse at Florida, a 56-35 loss at rival Clemson and the program’s first shut-out loss in 12 years in the bowl game. For many, the disappointing season diminished faith in Muschamp and served as evidence that the program is not headed in the right direction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There were legitimate reasons for the struggles this season, starting with a rash of injuries that forced the team to play a host of freshmen and inexperienced players on defense. Mushchamp and his team refuse to make excuses, but it’s difficult to beat teams like Florida, Clemson and even Virginia with as many freshmen as upperclassmen on the field. But those freshmen and the experience they gained give the Gamecocks hope for the future. There are budding stars in this freshman class (see page 8). Offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum took over at right tackle at midseason and made the SEC All-Freshman team. It was no coincidence that the offense took off when he was inserted into the lineup. Wonnum’s rapid development, along with the return of starters Donell Stanley and Sadarius Hutcherson and the rise of other talented young players, should give the Gamecocks another solid offensive line next season. With the return of quarterback Jake Bentley and a host of experienced skill players, the offense should
be closer to the unit that put up 600 yards and 35 points against Clemson than the group that was shut out by Virginia. The defense, meanwhile, is loaded with potential stars. Defensive back Jaycee Horn was impressive all season and also made the SEC All-Freshman team. Freshmen R.J. Roderick and Israel Mukuamu also showed flashes of potential. That trio should give the Gamecocks a much better secondary the next three years. The defensive line struggled because of injuries and a lack of experienced depth. But freshmen J.J. Enagbare, Rick Sandidge and Josh Belk all got valuable playing time and should be ready to lead the front seven the next three years. With returning starters D.J. Wonnum, Javon Kinlaw and Keir Thomas — plus more talented freshmen on the way — the defensive line should be a strength going forward. There also will be experienced depth at linebacker, something that was sorely missing this year. Though freshmen Ernest Jones and Rosendo Louis struggled in limited playing
time, Muschamp calls them “SEC linebackers.” They should be more prepared to make an impact next season. Bolstered by another top-25 recruiting class — led by five-star defensive end Zacch Pickens and others who should help right away — South Carolina should benefit from an increase in talent the next few years. That should give Muschamp the players he needs to take the next step and put South Carolina in a much better position to compete in the SEC East and challenge rival Clemson. While the 2018 season was a definite setback, the growing pains should pay immediate dividends, giving Gamecock Nation hope for the future.
Jeff Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jowens_SpursUp.
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EDITOR’S NOTE • SPURS & FEATHERS
It’s Renewal Time Gamecock Club has big plans for new, returning members By Brian Hand | Contributing writer • Photo by Jenny Dilworth
amecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland knows it is incredibly important, but he also knows that you can never have enough as well. “We need as much support as we can get,” McFarland told Spurs & Feathers. “We can never have too many Gamecock Club members. If anybody is interested in joining the Gamecock Club, we will certainly welcome them with open arms because we are never going to turn anybody away, that’s for sure.” It is officially renewal time for all Gamecock Club members with the 2019 Gamecock Club renewal deadline slated for Thursday, Jan. 31. “We certainly hope everyone renews by the 31st,” McFarland said. “We will be calling personally along with sending emails because
it is very important this year, as it is always, that we have as many people remain members and join the Gamecock Club as possible.” The annual Gamecock Club Renewal Day celebration will be held on Jan. 31 at the Rice Athletics Center at 1304 Heyward St. in Columbia. Just as in the past, the Gamecock Club will have 107.5 The Game in attendance with Jay Philips and Tommy Moody hosting the “Halftime Show” from 1-4 p.m. at the Rice Athletics Center. “I hope people will be able to tune in during the 1 p.m.-4 p.m. time period and hear some of our coaches and administrators talk about the importance of the Gamecock Club and the importance of what our Gamecock Club members do for our programs,” McFarland
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GAMECOCK CLUB • RENEWAL TIME
said. “Obviously people are also welcome to come in and renew in person, but everyone can also call us and visit us online as well.” One of the things that separates South Carolina athletics from others is the generosity of its coaches and staff. In fact, McFarland notes that “one of the things we have that not everyone does is that our coaches are also members of the Gamecock Club.” Leading up to Renewal Day and throughout the month of January, Gamecock fans also will see coaches and staff on social media reminding them of the importance of the Gamecock Club. “We have really good participation from our coaches and staff reminding people on social media that it is time for renewals,” McFarland said. “Their message to our fans is just thanking Gamecock Club members and letting them know how much we truly appreciate their efforts and what it means to Gamecocks everywhere.” Once again, McFarland knows that this renewal day is maybe more important than many before in that the costs for being successful in the SEC and nationally is not going down anytime soon. “The cost of attendance is not going to go down, plus facility upgrades and new facilities in some cases is extremely important to providing our student-athletes the tools needed to succeed in all facets, including the classroom and in
competition,” McFarland said. In addition to helping the Gamecocks be successful in all avenues, another great reason to be a member of the Gamecock Club is the opportunity to be a part of facilities tours. McFarland knows this year that many would especially love to have that opportunity due to the addition of the Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center. “We’re going to be announcing our facility tour dates in the very near future, so Gamecock Club members should definitely stay tuned to our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information,” McFarland said. “We will have those dates out soon. Those dates will include tours of the Long Family Football Operations Center. We know people are excited to tour the new first-class facility.” McFarland also teased that Gamecock Club members are in for a special treat this spring with more information to be made available in the future in regards to the 2019 Spurs Up Tour. “The only thing I can tell you — and we are excited about this — is that we will have nine different locations this year, which is the most we have had in a long time. We are really looking forward to getting on the road with Coach Muschamp.” To renew, join or learn more about the Gamecock Club, visit thegamecockclub.com. January 2019
Blocks Freshmen gain valuable experience, bring hope for future By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe, Jenny Dilworth & SC Athletics
here were a lot of things for South Carolina players and coaches — not to mention fans — to be frustrated about following the 2018 season. A rash of injuries to key players. A porous defense that struggled to stop most teams. An inconsistent offense that was outstanding at times but got shut out in the Belk Bowl. Those struggles led to a disappointing 7-6 season. But there was one area of the team that most were pleased with and encouraged by: A deep, talented and rapidly improving freshman class. Due to a host of injuries, par-
FOOTBALL • FRESHMAN CLASS
ticularly on defense, the Gamecocks played 16 of their 28 true freshmen, with 10 either starting or getting significant playing time. “It’s crazy how many guys that were shifted into roles that at the beginning of the year no one really thought they would play,” said senior linebacker Bryson AllenWilliams, who missed three games with an injury. While defensive back Jaycee Horn, who made the SEC AllFreshman team, started in the season-opening game, several other freshmen worked their way into the starting lineup by season’s end, including offensive lineman Dylan
Wonnum, receiver Josh Vann and defensive backs R.J. Roderick and Israel Mukuamu. Others played key backup roles. Head coach Will Muschamp rated the performance of the freshman class as “outstanding” after the season. “We really think we have hit on some really good players in this class,” he said. “I think they did an outstanding job of not only coming in with the right mindset to play but seriously diving into the playbook and diving into the film room and just accepting coaching,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “They were
never scared one bit and really came in with a mindset that they had been here before. It’s really been encouraging to see because they are the building blocks of this program going forward.” Though several freshmen were forced to play due to injuries, their experience should pay off next season and long-term. “It’s huge to get that experience and it’s big for the program to get those freshmen to play,” said Allen-Williams, one of just two true freshmen to play in his first year in 2014. “Playing and actually getting game reps is how you build experience and how you build depth. January 2019
forced into action but has played really well and has improved,” Muschamp said. “The game has slowed down for him. He is very intelligent and a guy who will progress the right way.” Big things were also expected from Mukuamu, who brings great size as a 6-4 corner. He played in all 13 games, collecting 17 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He also showed a nose for the ball with an interception and a forced fumble. “I always knew Izzy was going to be special,” senior safety Steven Montac said. “He’s 6-4 at corner and you don’t see that a lot. I knew he was going to be special.” Mukuamu, who started the last two games of the season, impressed Muschamp with his ability to play both corner and safety. “That shows you his intelligence,” Muschamp said. “I’m really excited about him.”
Those guys being able to play and take their bruises and take their licks and take their losses now, later on down the line it is going to help them because they are going to understand they don’t want to go through this feeling again.” Linebacker and defensive captain T.J. Brunson had to play with freshmen beside him at times, with freshmen in front of him on the defensive line and freshmen behind him in the secondary. He believes the experience they gained will pay off next season. “Those guys are hungry and they don’t really care who is in front of them and whether they are starting or not, they come out to practice every day trying to get better and take the coaching,” he said. “I am excited to see those guys develop.” Here’s a position-by-position look at the freshmen who played this year and their potential moving forward.
DEFENSE Secondary The area where freshmen made the biggest impact was in the secondary, which was depleted by January 2019
injuries and needed help immediately. Horn earned a starting spot right away at corner while Roderick and Mukuamu stepped up as more and more players went down. By the end of the season, the three were among South Carolina’s best defenders on the back end. They even helped veteran running back A.J. Turner adjust to the defensive backfield late in the season. “I have seen them grow as far as taking coaching and applying it from the meeting room to the field. That’s a great thing, especially for young guys,” Turner said. Horn impressed his teammates from day one, with some predicting he would quickly develop into a star. He did, making the SEC AllFreshman team. The son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee played in 11 games (he missed two with an injury), with 10 starts. He finished sixth on the team with 45 tackles, including two sacks and four tackles for loss. He was second on the team with eight pass breakups. “I like how he plays,” receiver Shi Smith said. “He got me most of the time. He’s pretty good.” Bentley joked that he was mad at Horn most of the time in
practice because of his tight pass defense and swagger. “He’s got the mindset that no one can run past him, no one can beat him. That’s what I love about him,” he said. “Whether or not he makes the play is on him, but [he has] the mindset that he has to come out to practice and bring it every day. He’s going to talk junk, he’s going to get in your face, he’s going to make sure you know he is there.” Roderick, a triple-option quarterback in high school, played in all 13 games, starting the final five. He finished fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He also broke up a pass, forced two fumbles and proved to be one of the hardest hitters on the team. Roderick had never played safety when he arrived at South Carolina but wound up being one of the Gamecocks’ most-improved players. “I remember when R.J. first came in, they used to always be yelling at him because he didn’t really know what to do,” Turner said. “Now they kinda turn to him and look to him to help other people. To see that in the manner of a season, that’s great.” “R.J. is a guy who has been
J.J. Enagbare, Rick Sandidge and Josh Belk each played key backup roles on the defensive line and appear to have bright futures in the front seven. Muschamp said the three are “SEC defensive linemen who were probably put into more action than they needed to this year.” “On the front end of it, it was tough but we are gong to certainly benefit from it as we continue to move forward,” he said. Enagbare, who played both inside and outside, had 20 tackles, including three for loss and 1.5 sacks, in 12 games. He had his best game in the regular-season finale against Akron, leading the Gamecocks with six tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. “J.J. played a fantastic game,” Muschamp said. “Really got a lot of pressure on the quarterback.” Sandidge played in all 13 games and became a key backup at defensive tackle. He had 19 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. Sandidge will play a key role at defensive tackle moving forward, while Enagbare could continue to swing inside and out. Veteran center Donell Stanley squared off against the young linemen in practice every day and was impressed with what he saw. “Rick is a talented guy,” he said. “He’s a good interior guy, a good plug guy and he’s got some oomph to him. J.J., he’s got some speed and uses his hands pretty well.” Belk, who transferred from FRESHMAN CLASS • FOOTBALL
Clemson and joined the team in fall camp, had to work his way into playing shape but appeared in six games at 6-3, 359 pounds. He had seven tackles, a quarterback hurry and broke up a pass. A five-star recruit, he is expected to make a huge impact in the next few years. “Josh lost a few pounds and he is fast on his feet,” Stanley said. “A guy that fast and that strong is dangerous. He’s the guy who is going to step up for this program. He’s going to be one of the dominant defensive linemen in the SEC.” Along with several returning linemen and an impressive group of in-coming signees, the defensive line could be a team strength going forward. “The progress of our defensive line, to be so young, is pretty good,” Stanley said. “Their future is bright. You look at what they got coming in, South Carolina should have a pretty good defensive line next season.”
Linebackers LBs Ernest Jones and Rosendo Louis Jr. both played backup roles behind veterans Brunson and Sherrod Greene. Louis had 12 tackles in seven games while Jones had 16 tackles in five games and showed a nose for
FOOTBALL • FRESHMAN CLASS
the ball with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Muschamp says they are both “SEC linebackers.” “They are guys that are heavyhanded, smart, good communicators, guys that we are excited about moving forward,” he said. Brunson said both players made a lot of progress understanding their position and making plays. “Those guys came in and it may not have happened as fast as they wanted it to, but they just kept chipping away,” he said. “It’s definitely pretty cool to see those guys develop into good players.”
Offense OT Dylan Wonnum Wonnum, the younger brother of starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum, started the season as a backup on the offensive line. By midseason, he had surpassed seniors Blake Camper and Malik Young at right tackle. Wonnum, who also made the SEC All-Freshman team, started the final seven games and was a big contributor as South Carolina had huge offensive performances against Ole Miss, Chattanooga and Clemson. In many ways, Wonnum (6-5, 310) was South Carolina’s most impressive freshman on offense and figures to play a big role the next two or three seasons. Muschamp said he played “extremely well” his first year. “He’s extremely talented,” Muschamp said. “He’s very flexible in his lower body but he’s a guy that has power and plays with power. He’s extremely bright.” “He’s a guy who loves to play the game,” said Stanley, who will return to anchor the offensive line next season. “He’s got good footwork and good hands and plays tackle really well.” Stanley was impressed with Wonnum’s impact when he entered the lineup in Game 6 against Tennessee. “The league we play in, you play against the best every week,” he said. “There are no weeks off and when you get an experienced guy, juniors and seniors, going against freshmen, you have to be on your A-game. For him to come in and do what he did helped us a
good bit.” Bentley was impressed by the confidence Wonnum brought to the offense. “There really wasn’t any drop off. He just responded really well and continued to get better each and every week,” he said.
WR Josh Vann Vann, a highly recruited wide receiver, played in every game and started twice. He finished the season with 18 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Vann missed spring practice last year after shoulder surgery but came on strong in fall camp and worked his way into into the receiver rotation, out-playing more experienced pass catchers. “He came in and stepped up and made some plays,” Smith said. “That says a lot about his progress and his intelligence,” Muschamp said. Bentley became more confident in Vann as the season progressed and found him for a key touchdown reception in the win against Ole Miss. “I think he’s just gotten more mature. You can just see maturity in the way he prepares for the game, knowing what he needs to do throughout the game to stay locked in and be able to come in, whether it’s the third quarter or first quarter, and make plays,” he said. “I’m really proud of him for the way he has grown this year and his knowledge. He wants to get bigger and he wants to get better.
That’s the best thing about Josh, he wants to be the best player he can be.” “Josh Vann is going to be a special player here,” receiver Bryan Edwards added. “He has all the intangibles, it’s just about him putting it all together and working hard, and I think he will do that.”
C Hank Manos His teammates knew right away that Manos would be a factor on the offensive line. As a state wrestling champ, Manos (6-4, 289) had the swagger and all the moves. “When he first got here, he was throwing people down and doing wrestling moves,” Bentley said. “We were like, ‘Hank, what are you doing?’ Just the aggressiveness he plays with is the biggest thing you see, how he attacks people and grabs them and doesn’t let them go. You can definitely see the wrestler in him.” “You can just look at Hank and tell that that guy is jacked up in the head,” Stanley said. “The way he walks, the way he acts, you can tell he has been doing some boxing or wrestling. We need guys like that.” That aggressiveness is what
impressed Muschamp most when he was recruiting Manos. “I love wrestlers,” he said. “My experience recruiting guys who have wrestled before has been very good.” Manos played in just two games but started at center in the Belk Bowl when senior guard Zack Bailey was injured. On an offensive line with several young backups, Wonnum and Manos progressed the most throughout the season. “Hank has gotten better and his confidence has gone up,” Stanley said. “He’s in the weight room every day. When we get out of practice, he is going straight to the weight room. He has put the time in to become a good offensive lineman.” Muschamp said Manos made “tremendous strides” in the weight room and it’s paid off on the field. “He’s a much stronger player than he was last spring,” he said. “And he’s really, really bright. He makes all the calls. We are really excited about his future.”
RB Deshaun Fenwick Fenwick played in only two games, but he made an impression. Playing behind juniors Rico Dowdle, A.J. Turner, Ty’Son Wil-
liams and Mon Denson, Fenwick didn’t see the field in the first nine games. But with South Carolina holding a comfortable lead against Chattanooga, Fenwick got 17 carries and led the Gamecocks with 112 yards rushing and a touchdown. Muschamp said Fenwick “is a young guy who has really come along for us. When given his op-
portunities, we think he has done very well.”
QB Dakereon Joyner Joyner, a highly recruited quarterback from North Charleston, played in just one game, completing just one pass and rushing for 24 yards in mop-up duty against Chattanooga. But he flashed his potential and made a big impact
on the scout team, helping the defense prepare for elusive, dualthreat quarterbacks. His patience and commitment impressed Bentley. “Dakereon comes in with the mindset that he wants to learn every day,” he said. “I don’t think I have ever seen him not locked in and have that feeling that I don’t want to be here. He’s always excited about practice and to do whatever he can to help the team. He’s a really competitive guy that I love having on the team.” Muschamp said Joyner “[has taken] his opportunities and has done some really nice things for us. His command has continued to improve to where we want to be.” From Wonnum and Vann on offense to Enagbare, Horn and Roderick on defense, South Carolina developed a host of freshmen this season that should make a big impact in the next few years. “That’s a testament to how the coaches have recruited and the guys they have brought in who just continue to get better,” Bentley said. “That’s the main goal in recruiting, continue to bring guys in who will continue to improve the team.”
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Five-star recruit, four-star quarterback highlight impressive 2019 signing class
By Josh Hyber and Jeff Owens | Staff Writers Photos by SC Athletics
We got better today, there is no doubt about about that,” Will Muschamp said in introducing South Carolina’s 2019 class of signees. The class of 19 players features four four-star recruits, including “elite” quarterback Ryan Hilinski, and Muschamp’s first five-star signee in defensive end Zacch Pickens. In all, the class features 11 offensive players, including four offensive linemen and the highestrated quarterback in eight years. The eight players on defense include five defensive linemen. “As I say every signing day, we will know about this class in two or three years,” Muschamp said. “We are big, long and athletic. You’ve got 13 guys that are line-of-scrimmage players [including 2018 defensive lineman Josh Belk], and that’s a
place we needed to continue to im-
prove our program.” The class features players from seven different states, including four from South Carolina and one from California. Of the 19, seven played for state championships and three won state titles in high school. “Being able to attract guys from winning programs is always important,” Muschamp said. Here’s a look at the 2019 class (with mid-year enrollees noted with an *).:
Joseph Anderson, DE Size: 6-4, 260 Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tenn. High School: Oakland Stats: 60 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss and three sacks as senior. Ratings: No. 4 player in Tennessee and No. 11 strongside DE in country; No. 93 overall by Rivals, No. 147 by 247; No. 281 on ESPN300. Accolades: Led Oakland to 14-1 record and Tennessee Division I
FOOTBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
Class 6A state championship; dad played DB at Mississippi State. Muschamp: “He dislocated his elbow in the first game of the year and never missed a snap. He is guy that’s got some toughness about him. Coach [Kevin] Creasy and his staff rave about Joseph and his leadership ability. I think he is a guy that tremendously improved throughout his senior year and played at an extremely high level, especially in the playoffs, and was a very difficult guy to block. We had some coaches at the state championship game and they were extremely impressed with Joseph and what he did on the field.”
Accolades: Selected to play in Shrine Bowl; named team captain for N.C. squad and earned Spark Plug Leadership Award. Muschamp: “Derek was a guy that played wildcat quarterback, he played running back, he played linebacker, he played safety. He’s a very explosive guy. We had him in camp and saw his movement skills. We’re really excited about him and the upside he has. He’s originally from Beaufort, S.C. and grew up a Gamecock so we’re excited to have him come home here.”
Jahmar Brown, LB
*Derek Boykins, LB Size: 6-2, 208 Hometown: Concord, N.C. High School: Central Cabarrus Stats: 117 tackles, six for loss, four sacks, three interceptions and three forced fumbles as senior; 79 tackles, including eight for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as junior. Ratings: No. 22 player in North Carolina, No. 26 outside linebacker and No. 519 overall by 247; No. 11 inside linebacker by ESPN.
Size: 6-0, 195 Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. High School: St. Thomas Aqui-
Stats: 56 tackles with four sacks and scored three defensive touchdowns; 86 tackles and six sacks as junior and senior. Ratings: No. 78 player in Florida, No. 37 outside linebacker and No. 619 overall by 247; No. 34 outside linebacker by ESPN. Accolades: Played at traditional power St. Thomas Aquinas; helped lead Raiders to 13-2 record and 7A state championship game as senior. Muschamp: “Jahmar has got 33-inch arms and 11-inch hands and is a guy we think has a tremendous upside as far as his structure is concerned. He’ll be a 215-, 218-, 220-pound guy in a year or so. He has really good athleticism and is really smart. He directed the defense the last three years and Jason Taylor is the defensive coordinator, who I coached at the Dolphins. Jason thinks he’s a really smart player and is a guy that gets everyone aligned and can really command the defense, which is obviously something that excites me.”
Jabari Ellis; also played high school basketball. Muschamp: “This one goes back about two years. This is why you have camp. You find guys like this. Devontae was at Silver Bluff High School over in Aiken. You see his length and athleticism. He went to Georgia Military and did a fantastic job there. … He’s big and athletic and has great length. I’m really excited to finally have Devontae here.”
John Dixon, DB Size: 5-11, 180 Hometown: Tampa, Fla. High School: Chamberlain Stats: 102 tackles, 14 pass breakups and three interceptions in 30 games; 15 tackles and four pass breakups as senior; missed most of junior year with knee injury. Ratings: No. 55 player in Florida, No. 45 cornerback and No. 435 overall by 247. Accolades: Led Chamberlain to 8-2 record as senior; varsity starter since freshman. Muschamp: “Two years ago, we had John in camp and we felt like he was one of the best cover corners that we’ve seen in our camps. He had a patella issue with his knee to start his senior year and really
didn’t play a whole lot and wasn’t healthy through the entire season. We know what John can do when he’s healthy. We think he’s a lockdown corner, a guy that has a tremendous upside.”
*Rodricus Fitten, LB Size: 6-2, 232 Hometown: Atlanta High School: Booker T. Washington Stats: 45 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Played DE, LB and DL. Ratings: No. 51 player in Georgia, No. 35 weak-side DE, No. 476 overall by 247; No. 44 DE by ESPN. Accolades: Georgia 6-A AllRegion first-team. Muschamp: “Rodricus is a twitch guy on the edge. He’s very similar to Bryson Allen-Williams. He gives you a faster twitch on the edge. He was our first commitment in this class, and has stuck with us ever since. He had an outstanding senior year. We think he has a tremendous upside.”
Mark Fox, OL
Size: 6-4, 292 Hometown: Miami High School: Miami Northwest-
Stats: Led Bulls to 10-5 record and 6A state championship. Ratings: No. 73 player in Florida, No. 43 OT and No. 579 overall by 247; No. 31 OG by ESPN. Accolades: Led team to 6A state championship after 0-4 start. Muschamp: “Mark was on a state championship team.
*Devontae Davis, DL
Top: Derek Boykins Right: Jahmar Brown January 2019
Size: 6-4, 280 Hometown: New Ellenton, S.C. High School: Silver Bluff/ Georgia Military Stats: Played two years at Georgia Military College; played multiple positions; had 30 tackles in 10 games with 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and a fumble recovery; five sacks in nine games as a freshman. Ratings: No. 3 JUCO DE prospect and No. 32 overall, according to 247; No. 6 JUCO DE by ESPN. Accolades: Joined team in December and went through Belk Bowl mini-camp; junior-college teammate of DL
Left: Devontae Davis Middle: John Dixon Right: Rodiricus Fitten 2019 SIGNEES • FOOTBALL
… He’s a guy that we had in camp and he’s very athletic. We think he can be a three-position guy as far as center, guard or tackle. He gives you a lot of variety as far as his athleticism and length.”
*Kevin Harris, RB Size: 5-10, 230 Hometown: Hinesville, Ga. High School: Bradwell Institute Stats: 1,696 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns; rushed for 1,556 yards and 22 TDs with eight 100-yard games as senior; 1,680 yards rushing with 16 TDs and 6.0-yard average as junior; 4,100 career yards rushing with 18 100-yard games and 42 rushing touchdowns. Ratings: No. 70 player in Georgia, No. 43 RB and No. 687 overall by 247; No. 59 RB by ESPN. Accolades: Georgia Region 2-AAAAAA Player of the Year; WJCL Big 22 All-Star; Region Offensive Player of Year as junior. Muschamp: “Kevin Harris really came and earned his scholarship at camp. We really liked his film, but we weren’t totally certain about his topend speed. But he came into camp and ran 4.55 with a vertical of 35 inches, which is really good. A really big lower body and a very difficult guy to tackle when you talk in terms of a power running game and getting better there and adding some toughness to that position for us.”
*Ryan Hilinski, QB Size: 6-4, 232 Hometown: Orange, Calif. High School: Orange Lutheran Stats: 8,102 career passing yards, 85 total touchdowns; threw for 2,771 yards and 29 TDs as a senior. Ratings: Elite 11 QB; No. 2 prostyle QB in country, No. 10 player in California and No. 54 overall by 247; No. 25 on ESPN300. Accolades: Invited to Pro
Football Hall of Fame World Bowl and Army All-American Bowl; won the Sam B. Nicola Award as 2018 National High School Player of the Year; finalist for All-American Bowl Offensive Player of the Year. Muschamp: “Ryan Hilinski won multiple national awards as far as the quarterback position is concerned. He is an elite level. He can really spin it. … We had him in camp and [quarterbacks coach] Dan Werner did a fantastic job with Ryan. … We think he is a really good football player who has a lot of the intangible qualities you have to have at that position.”
Ratings: No. 66 player in Georgia and No. 110 WR by 247; No. 60 in Georgia by Rivals. Accolades: Originally part of the 2018 class, spent the 2018 season at Fork Union Military, leading Blue Devils to a 9-0 record. Led Screven County to 11-1 record and AA playoffs as senior. Also competed in track & field. Muschamp: “He’s another guy who came to our camp a year ago and put up some impressive numbers. He had a 36 1⁄2-inch vertical leap and a 10-4 broad jump. He’s a very explosive guy, especially at that 6-3, 200-pound size. We continue to improve our receiver room, and I think he certainly is going to be able to do that.”
*Traevon Kenion, TE Ryan Hilinski
Tyquan Johnson, WR Size: 6-3, 180 Hometown: Sylvania, Ga. High School: Screven County Stats: Caught 32 passes for 661 yards and 10 touchdowns as high school senior; 32 catches for 822 yards and 13 touchdowns as junior.
Size: 6-3, 242 Hometown: Monroe, N.C. High School: Wake Forest Stats: 38 receptions for 746 yards and 14 touchdowns as senior; 68 career receptions for 1,429 yards and 23 touch-
downs. Ratings: No. 18 player in North
Carolina, No. 18 TE in country and No. 442 overall by 247. Accolades: Selected to play in Blue-Grey All-American Bowl; also competed in basketball and track & field; led Wake Forest to 13-0 record and to 4AA state championship game. Muschamp: “He’s a guy at the tight end position that we think is really gifted in the throwing game. When he came to camp, the thing I was most impressed with was his competitive edge. He really competes when he gets on the field, and obviously, you see what he did this past year. We’re really excited about him.”
Xavier Legette, WR Size: 6-3, 190 Hometown: Mullins, S.C. High School: Mullins Stats: Played quarterback in high school, rushing for 1,826 yards and 19 touchdowns and passing for 887 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior; caught 44 passes for 733 yards and eight touchdowns as sophomore. Ratings: No. 8 player in South Carolina and No. 40 athlete in country and No. 701 overall by 247. Accolades: Led Mullins to 8-2 record and AA state playoffs; finalist for WPDE Zoneman Trophy; threesport athlete also played baseball and basketball. Muschamp: “He had NFL combine numbers when he came to our camp. Off the charts, as good as anybody at the combine. He plays at a really small school. He plays quarterback but we put him through a receiver drill. We really liked what we saw, and then we watched his senior tape and he has as good a senior tape as any athlete we’ve seen.”
Jakai Moore, OL Size: 6-5, 285 Hometown: Nokesville, Va. High School: Patriot Stats: Led Pioneers to 7-4 record as senior. Ratings: No. 13 player in Virginia, No. 28 offensive guard in country and No. 493 overall by 247. Accolades: Earned 6A All-Region Left to right: Mark Fox, Kevin Harris, TyQuan Johnson, Traevon Kenion, Jakai Moore
FOOTBALL • 2019 SIGNEES
honors; two-sport star who was the 2016-17 Manassas Park Basketball Player of the Year. Muschamp: “I saw Jakai play basketball. It’s pretty impressive to see a 6-4, 300-pounder run up and down the court. … Jakai is a guy we’ve really pinpointed. He’s a guy that has tremendous upside as a football player. We think his genetic ceiling is very high, as far as a guy that’s got a lot sitting in front of him. We’re really excited about him.”
Vincent Murphy, OL Size: 6-2, 290 Hometown:
High School: St. Thomas Aquinas Stats: Led Raiders to 13-2 record and Class 7A state championship game. Ratings: No. 70 player in Florida, No. 5 center in country and No. 557 overall by 247; No. 5 center by ESPN. Accolades: Named to Broward County All-County team as junior; three-year starter who played all five positions on OL. Muschamp: “Vincent was one of the first underclassmen ever in St. Thomas history to be named a team captain; you talk in terms of leadership ability. We think he’s a guy that can be a center or a guard. We’re excited about having Vincent as a
part of our program.”
guy’s got a huge upside.”
Keveon Mullins, WR
*Zacch Pickens, DE
Size: 6-1, 206 Hometown: Memphis High School: Whitehaven Stats: Caught 24 passes for 500 yards with nine touchdowns in nine games as senior; 52 catches for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns as junior. Ratings: No. 10 player in Tennessee, No. 16 athlete in country and No. 315 overall by 247; No. 48 athlete by ESPN. Accolades: Played on both sides of the ball; led Tigers to 11-4 record and Division I Class 6A state championship game; named 6A All-Region as senior. Muschamp: “[He] played for the state championship against Joe Anderson. Big receiver [at] 6-3, 200-plus pounds, came to our camp and has really good ball skills. A guy that we are really excited about.”
Size: 6-5, 290 Hometown: Anderson, S.C. High School: T.L. Hanna Stats: 87 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and six sacks as senior; 889 yards rushing and averaged 8.5 yards per carry as fullback. Ratings: Rated No. 1 in state and No. 2 strong-side DE in country; No. 15 overall by Rivals, No. 18 by 247; No. 20 on ESPN300. Accolades: South Carolina Gatorade Football Athlete of the Year and South Carolina’s “Mr. Football”; selected to Under Armor All-American Game and S.C. Shrine Bowl. Muschamp: “Zacch led T.L. Hanna to the state championship game this year. He did about everything for them, close to 1,000 yards rushing, a fantastic defensive end that is bringing a lot to our program. He won about every award there was in the state of South Carolina and was the player of the year in the state. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go and stayed right here at home in the state of South Carolina to play for his state school. We’re really excited about Zacch. … His brother, Kevin, is a walk-on on our football team right now and he’s been outstanding, so we’re excited about getting Zacch back on campus in January.”
*Jaylen Nichols, OL Size: 6-4, 310 Hometown: Charlotte High School: Myers Park Stats: Led team to 13-2 record and 4A state semi-finals; led Mustangs to 12-2 record as junior. Ratings: No. 42 player in North Carolina, No. 84 OT and No. 979 overall by 247; No. 78 OT by ESPN. Accolades: Started at both offensive guard and defensive tackle. Muschamp: “Jaylen is from another outstanding program at Myers Park. He’s a big guy that we had in camp. … You watch him athletically, his feet, changing direction, his lower body flexibility — it was extremely impressive. This
*Cameron Smith, DB Size: 6-0, 171 Hometown: Blythwood, S.C. High School: Westwood Stats: 65 tackles, four for loss, 16 pass breakups and four forced fumbles as a senior; 112 tackles and
three interceptions as junior and senior. Ratings: No. 2 player in South Carolina, No. 24 cornerback and No. 211 overall by 247; No. 29 cornerback by ESPN. Accolades: Selected to play in the Shrine Bowl and All-American Bowl. Muschamp: “Cam is a guy that came from camp and ran a sub-4.5, 36 vertical, 10-5 broad. Those are NFL numbers in the combine as far as explosive power to be a 6-1 corner at 185 pounds. Cam’s got a huge upside. He doesn’t have anything wrong with his shoulder. There were some claims out there that he had all kinds of shoulder injuries, but he doesn’t.”
*Keshawn Toney, TE Size: 6-2, 236 Hometown: Williston, S.C. High School: Williston-Elko Stats: Caught 51 passes for 750 yards and nine touchdowns as senior; 158 career receptions for 2,321 yards and 20 TDs. Ratings: No. 15 player in state, No. 45 TE in country by 247; No. 11 TE by ESPN. Accolades: Selected to play in Shrine Bowl; also played DE; twotime all-state basketball player Muschamp: “When you get the feedback from the Shrine Bowl coaches, that’s one of the things they talked about, how impressed they were with him. I think this guy’s got a tremendous upside. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what he can do. He played mostly wideout for Williston-Elko, but now he’ll be more of an attached tight end for us. I think he has a tremendous upside.” * Mid-year enrollee expected to participate in spring practice. Left to right: Keveon Mullins, Jaylen Nichols, Zacch Pickens, Cam Smith, Keshawn Toney, Xavier Legette
2019 SIGNEES • FOOTBALL
Belk Bowl: Virginia 28, South Carolina 0
Inexplicable Gamecocks struggle for answers after disappointing Belk Bowl loss By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth
HARLOTTE — Jake Bentley shouldered the blame for one of the worst games of his career. Will Muschamp apologized to Gamecock fans. And player after player struggled to explain what went wrong at Bank of American Stadium, where South Carolina suffered a disappointing and inexplicable 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl. South Carolina entered the game on a roll offensively, averaging 33 points and 440 yards per game during a 7-5 regular season. It was favored to handle a 7-5 Virginia team that finished 4-4 in the ACC. The Gamecocks were playing without several starters on defense
FOOTBALL • BELK BOWL RECAP
after suffering a rash of injuries in the second half of the season. Even without star receiver Deebo Samuel, who skipped the game to prepare for the NFL Draft, and senior offensive lineman Zack Bailey, who broke his leg in the final regularseason game, they were expected to score enough points to outlast the Cavaliers. But before a large contingent of Gamecock fans, who made the trek to Charlotte just before the new year, South Carolina played its worst game of the season, struggling to stop a versatile Virginia Cavalier attack and mustering just 261 yards of total offense, a season low. “I appreciate our fan base. We
sold all of our allotment of tickets and we didn’t put on a good show. That’s on me,” Muschamp said. “I apologize to them.” “I don’t think I played that well, not well at,” said Bentley, who completed just 17 of 40 passes for 218 yards and threw two second-half interceptions. “Interceptions, especially, those are tough, and not executing down in the red zone, it’s always a tough thing to swallow. I’ve just got to be better and work and remember this feeling.” The Gamecocks had several practices in Columbia in the three weeks leading up to the game and had two more light workouts in Charlotte. The players pronounced
themselves fired up and ready to play after the Charlotte practices. But that focus didn’t carry over to the game. “It was a bad day, wrong mindset,” center Donell Stanley said. “Our mindset wasn’t there. That wasn’t the South Carolina we have seen all year.” “We just didn’t come out ready to play,” receiver Bryan Edwards said. “It’s really disappointing to see this team go out like that, just not even play nowhere near our ability. It hurts.” The South Carolina offense struggled from the start, coming up short on critical third- and fourth-down plays and missing a field goal in the first half. They were just 4-of-18 on third and fourth down in the game. Virginia, meanwhile, took a 14-0 halftime lead with two long touchdown drives and dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 42:35 to 17:25 for South Carolina. When Virginia went ahead 21-0 early in the second half, the game was all but over. “They just outplayed us and out-executed us,” Stanley said. “They had a better mindset than us. It was [that way] from the start and then it goes on and on and on throughout the game. It was just a bad day for us.” Carolina clearly missed Samuel, who led the team in receiving and scored 13 total touchdowns in 12 games, and all four starters on the defensive line. “That is too easy,” Edwards said. “When you look at it, we had opportunities to make plays and we just didn’t. We missed some throws and we ran some wrong routes. We just looked sloppy. … I don’t know. I can’t even explain it.” A year after winning the Outback Bowl to cap a 9-4 season, South Carolina finished a disappointing 7-6 in Muschamp’s third season. The team was decimated by injuries, playing 11 freshmen, including five starters, against Virginia. Muschamp vowed his team would bounce back quickly and get back on track next season. “We recruited well. We’ve got a lot of good players coming back. We had a really good signing class in December,” he said. “Are we better than day one? It’s night and day. It’s 100 percent better, and the future is extremely bright. This is just a disappointing day.” — Josh Hyber contributed to this story. January 2019
3 PLAYER OF THE GAME
NUMBERS THAT MATTER South Carolina was shut out for the first time since an 18-0 loss to Georgia in 2006. It was the first time Carolina was shut out in 23 bowl games.
C Hank Manos made his first career start. DT Jabari Ellis had his first career sack.
QB Jake Bentley ended his season with 3,171 passing yards, third on Carolina’s single-season list.
LB T.J. Brunson led the Gamecocks with 12 tackles, giving him 106 for the season and 206 in his three-year career.
P Joseph Charlton
Charlton averaged 45.2 yards on five punts, with a long of 59 yards. For the season, Charlton, a secondteam All-SEC punter, averaged a school record 44.8 yards and ranked 12th in the nation. He is South Carolina’s career leader with a 44-yard average.
Carolina had four players start all 13 games — offensive linemen Donell Stanley and Sadarius Hutcherson and linebackers T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene.
The Gamecocks are 22-17 in Will Muschamp’s three seasons after finishing 7-6 in 2018.
Shi Smith had a career-high 62-yard kickoff return. He also led the Gamecocks with six receptions for 76 yards.
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BELK BOWL RECAP • FOOTBALL
Thrill Ride Gamecocks get a high-speed NASCAR experience before Belk Bowl By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
HARLOTTE — When South Carolina accepted an invitation to play in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, no one was more excited than senior tight end Jacob August, who would get to fulfill a life-long dream. A Columbia native, August grew up a NASCAR fan, following four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon. He got a thrill of a lifetime when the South Carolina football team participated in the Richard Petty NASCAR Racing Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. August had ridden around the
1.5-mile track as a kid, but on Dec. 26 he rode with a trained racecar driver at more than 160 mph. “When we found out we were going to the Belk Bowl, this was the first thing I thought of,” August said. “It was pretty unreal. You don’t think they go as fast as they do but they push it to the limit.” Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley was exhilarated after climbing from one of the stock cars. “Unreal, unreal experience,” he said. “Just the amount of control
FOOTBALL • CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
those drivers have to have, I have so much respect for anyone that drives a racecar because that was pretty intense. … That was crazy.” Bentley admits he was a bit nervous when he heard the roar of the 700-horsepower engines on the way into the speedway. He relaxed a bit, he said, when he was helped into car No. 19 — the same number on his garnet and black jersey. “When I saw we were in the 19 car, I knew that was a good sign,” he said. “My nerves kinda went away when I got the 19 car.”
Bentley rode the fastest roller coaster at Busch Gardens when South Carolina played in the Outback Bowl in Tampa last year. Riding in a NASCAR stock car blew that away, he said. “There is no [comparison to] a roller coaster when you think about everything that could go wrong,” he said. “… And then he got pretty close to the wall. He was just chilling but I’m over there like … ‘whoa the wall is right there!’ The driver was so calm and I was over there freaking out.” Head coach Will Muschamp took a ride around Darlington January 2019
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Raceway in a pace car in 2017, but this was his first time in an actual stock car. “It’s a lot faster here, but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast they run against those walls. … Really close, closer than I wanted to be, I can tell you that. I felt like I could touch it.” Running backs A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams compared the experience to breaking a long touchdown run — with a much greater element of danger. Turner was still shaking minutes after climbing out of the car and said he held onto his seat belt and cell phone as tight as he could. The ride made his teeth rattle, he said. “That was crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he said. “Any closer and we would have hit the wall.” Linebacker Bryson AllenWilliams compared it to a big hit January 2019
on defense, one where “you feel like your whole body and every power that you have comes out of your body.” “I wasn’t going to do it; I was nervous, I ain’t going to lie,” he said. “But I’m glad I did. It was definitely a fun experience.” Most players said they would do it again if given the chance. “A thousand percent, I would do it again,” Bentley said. “I would love to drive one.” “I’m ready right now,” Turner said. “I’m ready to get my helmet and my little do-rag. I am ready for round two.” Not Muschamp. He’d had enough. “That may be my last time,” he said. “I think everybody needs to do it, but I don’t know that I will try it again. … Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. doesn’t have to worry about anything; I’m not going to threaten his job.”
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CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY • FOOTBALL
Photos by Allen sharpe & Jenny Dilworth
SEASON IN REVIEW
Awards Deebo Samuel Photo by Jenny Dilworth
ALL-AMERICAN Football Writers Association
Deebo Samuel — 2nd team, KR
Deebo Samuel — 1st team, All-Purpose
Deebo Samuel — 2nd team, KR
Dylan Wonnum — Freshman, OL
ALL-SEC Associated Press
Deebo Samuel — 1st team, All-Purpose Deebo Samuel — 2nd team, WR Zack Bailey — 2nd team, OL
Deebo Samuel — 1st team, All-Purpose Deebo Samuel — 2nd team, WR Zack Bailey — 2nd team, OL Joseph Charlton — 2nd team, Punter Dylan Wonnum — All-Freshman, OL Jaycee Horn — All-Freshman, DB
Deebo Samuel — 1st team, WR Deebo Samuel — 1st team, KR Zack Bailey — 2nd team, OL T.J. Brunson — 2nd team, LB
FOOTBALL • SEASON IN REVIEW: AWARDS
Photo by Jenny Dilworth
South Carolina Awards Coaches’ Awards Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete — Donell Stanley, Jay Urich, Malik Young, Danny Gordon Community Service — Spencer Eason-Riddle Strength & Conditioning — Sadarius Hutcherson, Kyle Markway, Bryan Edwards Comeback Player of the Year — Deebo Samuel, Bryson Allen-Williams, K.C. Crosby Offensive Scout Team — Hank Manos Defensive Scout Team — Jason Senn, Javion Duncan Special Teams Scout Team — Jaylan Foster Nutrition Award — T.J. Brunson
Players’ Choice Awards Unselfish Teammate, Offense — Michael Scarnecchia, Jacob August, Blake Camper, Dennis Daley Unselfish Teammate, Defense — T.J. Brunson, Rashad Fenton, Steven Montac Unselfish Teammate, Special Teams — Kiel Pollard, Keisean Nixon, Ben Asbury Tenacity Award, Offense — Zack Bailey Tenacity Award, Defense — Bryson Allen-Williams Tenacity Award, Special Teams — Kiel Pollard Steve Spurrier MVP, Offense — Deebo Samuel Joe Morrison MVP, Defense — T.J. Brunson, Javon Kinlaw Jim Carlen MVP, Special Teams — Joseph Charlton, Parker White Leadership Award, Offense — Jake Bentley Leadership Award, Defense — T.J. Brunson Leadership Award, Special Teams — Kiel Pollard Most Explosive, Offense — Deebo Samuel Most Productive, Defense — T.J. Brunson, Jaycee Horn Most Productive, Special Teams — Deebo Samuel Steve Wadiak MVP — Deebo Samuel Rex Enright Captians’ Award — Bryson Allen-Williams, Zack Bailey, Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson January 2019
un-shhh. un-zzzz. unveiled. A redefining art experience.
Electrifying Moments Deebo & Co. kept fans on edge of their seats with big plays
By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe, Jenny Dilworth and SC Athletics
ill Muschamp often talks about explosive plays, what he defines as a run of 10 yards or more or a pass competition of 20 yards or more. The South Carolina head coach wants at least eight explosive plays per game from his offense. But not all exciting plays, or game-changing plays, come in the explosive variety. Though South Carolina (7-6) ended its season on a low note, there were many plays the Gamecocks made that electrified Williams-Brice Stadium and got fans of the Garnet & Black on their feet. Here are some of the top plays from the 2018 season:
DEEBO DOES DEEBO South Carolina scored six
touchdowns in a 48-44 win over Ole Miss, but none may have been more important, or at least more electrifying, than the first. Samuel took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown against Mississippi, silencing the Oxford crowd and proving the Gamecocks could go toe to toe with the high-octane Rebels.
SEEING GREENE With the Gamecocks trailing Missouri midway through the third quarter and a pouring rain falling on Williams-Brice Stadium, linebacker Sherrod Greene picked off Tiger star quarterback Drew Lock and ran it back 12 yards for a touchdown to give the home team an eight-point lead. The Gamecocks eventually relin-
FOOTBALL • SEASON IN REVIEW: PLAYS OF THE YEAR
quished that lead, but then …
on the mark(way) With the Gamecocks trailing 35-34 with 42 seconds to go in regulation and with the ball at its own 42-yard-line, Kyle Markway caught a pass from Michael Scarnecchia — who started with Jake Bentley out with an injury — for a 27-yard gain. It was just one of three catches the Missouri native had this season, but it set up a Parker White game-winning field goal with two seconds to go.
87 GOES FOR 67 South Carolina’s offense put up one of its best performances ever against Clemson, rolling up 600 yards and scoring 35 points against the nation’s No. 2 defense.
One of the team’s longest gains came midway through the second quarter when tight end Kiel Pollard caught a Bentley pass on a crossing route and took it 67 yards for a touchdown.
WHITE DOES RIGHT Last season it was Louisiana Tech, this season it was Missouri and Tennessee. But in the battle of Parker White game-winning field goals, we’ll give the nod to the winner against the Tigers because it was from a longer distance (33 yards vs. 25 yards) and the Gamecocks trailed. His game-winner against the Vols came with the game tied.
TWO FOR TWO The Gamecocks trailed Texas January 2019
A&M 16-0 late in the third quarter before Bentley found Shi Smith for a 22-yard touchdown. The Gamecocks went for a 2-point conversion, which they converted on a Bentley-to-Byran Edwards connection. After Chavis Dawkins caught a touchdown four minutes later, Bentley found Edwards again on another 2-point connection. The 2-point conversions completed a 16-point rally and tied the game entering the fourth quarter.
A.J.’S big DAY A.J. Turner scored three touchdowns in the first half in the Gamecocks’ blowout win over Chattanooga, but none was more exciting than the second: On a second-and-goal from the 6, Bentley rolled left and, just feet from the sideline, heaved a pass toward the back right of the end zone, where Turner reached up for it while his feet were planted inches from the end line.
DEEBO PROVES HE’S NFL READY He caught a touchdown pass to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead and a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cut the Carolina deficit to 21, but Samuel’s highlight January 2019
score against Clemson came five minutes before halftime. In a formation with just four offensive linemen, Samuel caught a crossing route out of the right slot and went for a 75-yard touchdown.
DEEBO CAN CATCH Another explosive play from Samuel in a loss, but when the junior caught a laser from Jake Bentley early in the third quarter of SC’s loss to Kentucky and took it 58 yards for a touchdown, it brought the Gamecocks to within two scores. It was a typical makesomething-out-of-nothing play, with Bentley scrambling and finding Samuel, who raced 35 yards for the touchdown.
He CAN THROW TOO South Carolina trailed Georgia by only 10 at halftime partly because of a trick play that resulted in a touchdown. On second-and-8 from the UGA 13-yard line, Deebo Samuel took an endaround handoff and tossed a pass into the right corner of the end zone to Edwards, who made an uncontested catch. Williams-Brice Stadium roared as the Gamecocks held close early on. SEASON REVIEW: PLAYS OF THE YEAR • FOOTBALL
Photos Of the year Photos by Allen Sharpe, Jenny Dilworth and SC Athletics
FOOTBALL â€¢ SEASON REVIEW: PHOTOS
SEASON REVIEW: PHOTOS â€¢ FOOTBALL
Freshman Keyshawn Bryant electrifying crowds with highflying game
Showstopper By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Allen Sharpe
ore than any other moments during non-conference play, Colonial Life Arena crowds became the most excited — and had the most anticipated excitement — whenever Keyshawn Bryant swiped a steal and had nothing but daylight between him and the basket. Sometimes it was from inside the 3-point line. Sometimes half-court. But wherever it was from, there was an audible gasp and a you-better-watchthis anticipation. “The only thing going through my head [during those moments] is to get the basket. But you know me, I like to put on a show,” said Bryant, the South Carolina freshman forward. “Every time I’m on the break, it’s just my moment. It’s time to bring the crowd out.” Bryant, through South Carolina’s non-conference play, was fourth on the team in scoring, third in assists and blocks and tied for fifth in rebounding. After SEC games against Florida and Mississippi State, the 6-6, 175-pound wing was averaging 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and multiple highlight-reel plays per game.
MEN’S BASKETBALL • KEYSHAWN BRYANT
Some, though, have labeled Bryant an “athlete,” a term in basketball circles that underscores the fundamental talent and skill a player has. “I won’t say it’s a negative, but I don’t see myself as just an athlete,” he said. “I feel I have more things that I can do. But people label me as just an athlete, so they really don’t get to see that. “When they see me doing more stuff than just dunking, they’ll be surprised what I can do.” Those electrifying dunks, after all, would not be possible if not for Bryant’s ability to read offenses and to know when to jump passing lanes. “He’s got what I call basketball instincts. Like he knows, he can feel a pass. He kind of knows how to get out in the open court and go get a basket,” Gamecock head coach Frank Martin said. “You know, there are some guys that are faster than him and never get a breakaway. “But yet he’s got that knack for that breakaway. He’s got those instincts.” Those instincts, Bryant said, formed during his high school career, and it’s those instincts that have led to the SportsCenter Top 10-worthy dunks.
Dunking ability, he noted, that has not been put on full display yet. “I’ve definitely got a little left,” he said. “I’m holding back a few things. I won’t try them in the games, but I think there’s a few things coming that you’ll be surprised with.” Entering this season, Bryant was billed as highenergy and high-flying player — a cross between young versions of Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett and someone who shares his surname, Kobe Bryant. “He tries to dunk on me every single practice,” Chris Silva, the team’s resident high-flier, said in October. “He’s incredible the way he gets up and how quick he gets up.” Martin, too, praised the freshman, who averaged 22.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks as a high school senior. “Key is a dynamic player,” Martin said. “High-flyer. Athletic. Shoots it, but has to learn how to trust his shot.” Bryant has been as advertised. The freshman awoke a late-arriving crowd with an emphatic left-handed slam on a drive down the left side of the lane less than five minutes into the season opener. He finished his debut with 21 points and seven rebounds and gave the home crowd an energy boost. “The big talk coming in was, ‘What would Chris Silva do?’ Well, he got a double-double. But all the talk after tonight will be about what Keyshawn Bryant did,” SEC Network play-by-play man Burch Antley said on the television broadcast after the game. Gamecock legend and color analyst Alex English followed suit. “I’ve said from the beginning, I’m excited about this young man,” he said. “He’s very athletic, has a lot of skill and knows how to get to the rim and finish. “… When he got to the rim, he wanted to finish. He didn’t care if there were two guys there. He went up strong.” But Bryant wants to be known as more than a dunker. He has focused on practicing his 3-point shot and mid-range game. Against Florida, who he grew up rooting for as a Winter Haven, Fla. native, Bryant scored two points and turned the ball over seven times in the first half. But he didn’t want to play that way in front of the 40 or so family members who made the 130-mile trek north from his hometown. He finished with eight points, including six in the second half that came as part of a game-tying 9-0 run. “I tell you what I learned from him today,” Martin said after the game. “He can take coaching. Because I was on him pretty hard and he never hung his head and was always ready to go. When I called his number, he responded.” After the season-opener, Martin gave a foreshadowing of the rest of this season and Bryant’s career. “He’s got a knack to score. Which, some guys can jump and dunk, but they have no feel how to score. He’s got a feel to score,” the coach said. “He’s not a great shooter, but he’s not a bad shooter. He actually makes 3s in practice. “... I’m telling you, he’s going to be fun.” And the freshman has goals. Said Bryant, “Finish the season off right, get an SEC championship, get to that March Madness tournament and get the [win].” January 2019
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Mac Credille honored for 46 years of service to Gamecock basketball By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Jenny Dilworth
he first time Frank Martin got to know the man and character of Mac Credille came during the summer of 2012, a few months after the former was hired as South Carolina men’s basketball head coach. Martin had been out recruiting for months when he returned to Columbia for a high school camp weekend. It was around 10 p.m. when the last Friday night game ended. “I was walking through the Coliseum and there’s no one in the gym but Mac,” Martin remembers. “There’s paper cups everywhere. There’s tape. … And he’s on his hands and knees drying up a wet spot by one of the benches. “I walked up to him and said, ‘Mac, come on man. It’s 10:30 at night.’ He looked at me dead in the eyes and said, ‘Coach, this is my job.’ I never once again questioned that man’s loyalty to his job and making this a better place for everyone that’s a part of basketball on this campus.”
Credille, who began working at South Carolina in 1973, retired as the team’s equipment manager in January after 46 years at the university. Athletics Director Ray Tanner put Credille on the highest Credille pedestal, telling Spurs & Feathers, “As an employee, he ranks among the greatest that have ever come through the athletic department.” Credille joined the South Carolina athletics staff in 1977 and began working as the Gamecock men’s basketball equipment manager before the 1993-94 season. “Mac’s a legend. We’re going to miss him,” Tanner said. “Mac’s one of those people that’s always been a giver. He’s serves our studentathletes and our coaches. … It has never been about him. He’s always
working to do what he can for somebody else.” Tanner said, at times, Credille met the team when it returned from road trips at all hours of the night just so he could get a head start on his next day’s work. “He felt a sense of loyalty to his players,” he said. “I’ve walked in here and opened the locker room door to go change, and he’s sleeping on the couch because he was in here until four in the morning doing laundry,” Martin said. “So everyone, coaches included, could have clean clothes the next day. That’s a sacrifice that he made for 46 years.” When South Carolina women’s basketball team arrived at one SEC Tournament and realized it had forgotten its opponent scouting reports, Dawn Staley knew what to do. “We made one call,” the Gamecock women’s basketball coach said. “To Mac. And we got them the next day.”
Credille is a 1970 graduate of Dentsville High School. After graduation, he was on the equipment staff at Spring Valley High School for three years (1970-73). He joined the staff at SC in 1973, working in the equipment room at the Physical Education Center until joining the athletics staff in August 1977. Former Gamecock head coach Dave Odom presented Credille with the team’s Sixth Man Award for his dedication to the men’s basketball team in 2003. Martin announced Credille was retiring after a recent game. “That man has given 46 years of his life to make sure that men’s basketball around here, and women’s basketball, functions second to none,” he said. “He’s not going to be real happy, because he didn’t want anyone to know about it, but you don’t give 46 years of your life to help others and not have somebody say thank you for it.”
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Finding Her Way Dynamic guard Te’a Cooper fitting in with Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Jenny Dilworth
torn ACL, a transfer from Tennessee followed by a season on the bench and an inconsistent start to non-conference play in 201819 — it all came to a head for Te’a Cooper on the morning of Jan. 2. “I went through a little slump and I was in my own head,” Cooper told Spurs & Feathers. “I was dealing with my knee and, you know, had stuff going on and wasn’t really being myself. “I didn’t feel like I was doing what I know I can do.” So for 15 minutes after South Carolina’s practice that afternoon, the senior guard and Dawn Staley met in the head coach’s office. Staley’s message was simple: Free your mind, have fun, enjoy the game and, in Cooper’s words, “just be a killer.” Said the senior, “That’s what I went out and did.” Two days later, on the road against No. 21 Texas A&M, Cooper scored 24 points (12 in the third quarter) on 7-of-18 shooting, including two free-throws in the final seconds to seal a three-point win. She also notched career highs in rebounds (seven) and assists (six), hit
9 of 11 free-throws and, oh yeah, defended Aggie star guard Chennedy Carter for most of the night. “There are very few players that have the offensive prowess as Te’a Cooper, that embrace the challenge of playing someone that’s very talented like Chennedy Carter,” Staley said the next day. “… They want to outscore them, but they don’t want to shut them down. “Te’a took on that [challenge]. That’s her personality.” Through the first two games of SEC play, Cooper was averaging a team-high 12.6 points and was the Gamecocks’ leading scorer in seven of 14 games. But her play was inconsistent: She led the team in scoring in four of its first six games but was fourth in scoring against East Tennessee State and fifth against Dayton. She dropped 31 points against Drake but just two against Purdue. She had four points against Furman on Dec. 30. Then came the chat with Staley, something she agreed was more common than some made it out to be.
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL • TE’A COOPER
“Problems can get solved very simply just with communication,” Staley said. “And a small amount of communication. I thought Te’a took it well. I guess she released the kind of pressure that was on her. I wish we would have had that conversation a lot sooner.” The coach mentioned Cooper’s aggressive style of play, and that she was struggling a bit getting Gamecock forward Alexis Jennings — who herself was getting healthier in her return from injury — involved. “That doesn’t mean [Te’a] has to sacrifice her aggressiveness and her ability to score and attack and shoot the basketball,” Staley said. “I want her to be dynamic. I want her to, when it’s there, pass it into the post. But when it’s there for her to do what she did at the beginning of the season, continue to do that.” Not to mention Cooper is playing this season after sitting out the previous two, the first one with an ACL injury and the second due to transfer rules. “The only thing that was a struggle was I wasn’t on a team, so I didn’t have a role,” Cooper said. “I was just
playing freely. There are a little more consequences when you’re playing and there aren’t wins and losses.” Cooper takes positives from the time she spent not playing. She took time to learn about herself. She built relationships with her teammates. “I got to learn how to step outside of myself and understand someone else’s reality and that may not be what my reality is sometimes,” Cooper said. “How I see something is maybe not how they see it. What I could be upset or feel some type of way about wasn’t even their intentions. I learned a lot about that, and just being understanding.” She read books, including “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. “That was pretty awesome. [I learned that] you can love someone, but how they want to be loved is the only thing that matters,” she said. “It won’t be the same if you love them the way you want to love.” She also read one called “How To Listen.” “It wasn’t as simple as you would think,” she said. “You have to listen from someone else’s point of view. You can’t listen from your own. … And I learned how to talk so people listen to you.” Cooper wants to be dependable. Consistent for her teammates and coaches on and off the court. But until the game in College Station, Texas, it had been an upand-down season. “I haven’t played in two years so I’m still kind of getting back into the swing of things,” Cooper said. “I’m still trying to figure out how to be consistent. I’m learning along the way.” That includes her style of play. Is she a score-first guard? A pass-first guard? By early January, Cooper led the team is assists in games against Maryland, Texas A&M and Alabama. It doesn’t matter to the Powder Springs, Ga. native and 2016 SEC All-Freshman team honoree. “I think I can do both, it’s just a matter of having that balance in the game, knowing when I need to be more aggressive or when I need to be more passive,” Cooper said. “Sitting out, it’s easy to just play basketball. But knowing how to play it with other people in a system is harder. Playing defense and rotating.” Said Staley after the Alabama win, “Te’a has always been one that’s very confident. I think she’s a really, really aggressive defender and competitor.” January 2019
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Strategy Games Carmen Mlodzinski
Kingston may employ new pitching philosophy with plenty of options By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photo by Jenny Dilworth
outh Carolina head coach Mark Kingston had a particularly keen interest in the Major League playoffs last fall. And not just because the Boston Red Sox, led by two former Gamecock stars, won the World Series. Kingston and pitching coach Skylar Meade paid close attention to how big-league clubs were using their pitching staffs and may adopt a similar strategy this spring. That means South Carolina may not have a traditional starting rotation. Instead, it may have a Friday night ace and then piece together the rest of the rotation throughout the weekend. Start-
BASEBALL • 2019 CAMP PREVIEW
ers may pitch only two or three innings before Kingston goes to a deep bullpen to finish out the game. Or he could use an “opener” or a “bullpen day,” the way the Tampa Bay Rays utilized their staff to win 90 games last season or the way the Oakland A’s employed the strategy to make the American League Playoffs. Kingston and his staff are always following the latest trends and the bullpen-heavy, starter-bycommittee approach may be one they use this season. “We are going to study all winter how big-league teams are using
pitchers in terms of how many times through the order,” Kingston said. “You’ve heard the term ‘opener.’ I don’t know if we will go that route yet, but everything will be on the table. You have to try to play your cards the best you can to give yourself the best chance to win and that’s what we are going to do.” South Carolina, which opens its season Feb. 15 against Liberty, could have a thin rotation after the loss of Adam Hill and Cody Morris to the MLB Draft and Logan Chapman to Tommy John surgery. The only experienced starter is sophomore Carmen Mlodzinski,
who is expected to be the Friday night starter after making seven starts last season. While potential starters emerged in fall camp, Kingston entered the preseason with questions in the rotation but a deep bullpen led by closer Sawyer Bridges, swing man Ridge Chapman and a host of middle-relief options, including some impressive newcomers. With so many options and undefined roles, South Carolina may employ an unorthodox strategy. “There is a traditional model of starters that give you six innings and then you hand it off to a set-up man and a closer. We may or may not be able to follow that traditional model,” Kingston said. “What we are going to do is the best way we can use what we have to win the most games we can. A lot of that will be studying what the latest trends are and what the latest strategies are based on what you have and based on what the statistics say in terms of times through the order, left-right matchups, all that stuff. We’ll study all that and marry that with our personnel and come up with the best strategy.” Mlodzinski, a 6-2 righthander from Hilton Head, was 3-6 with a 5.52 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 45.2 innings as a freshman. He had a couple of impressive starts, however, in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regionals. He was one of Carolina’s most improved and impressive pitchers in fall camp. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s more physical and because of that all his stuff has taken an uptick,” Kingston said. “His fastball is a little better, his control is a little better. He’s throwing a cutter so he has a lot of good pitches now he can use as weapons, and I think his command is better. He is a guy who has definitely taken the next step and will be a very key pitcher for us on weekends.” While the rest of the rotation is a question mark, there are plenty of options in the bullpen. Along with Sawyer and Chapman, TJ Shook, Parker Coyne and John Gilreath all got vast experience last season. They will be joined by junior-college transfers Reid Morgan, Hayden Lehman and Cole Ganopulos. January 2019
Noah Campbell and infielder/outfielder Jacob Olson. Hopkins decided to return for his senior season instead of turning pro and brings valuable leadership to a young team. He hit .345 in an injury-riddled 2018 season and will either hit at the top of the order or in the middle of the lineup. Campbell, who started at DH and in the outfield as a freshman, was one of the top players in the elite Cape Cod League last summer and Kingston calls him “one of the better hitters in America” and a “borderline All-American.” He took over the second-base job in the fall and likely will hit at the top of the lineup again. Olson, a senior and two-year starter, worked at third base in the fall and could start there or move back to the outfield. He led the Gamecocks in extra-base hits last year with 12 home runs and 20 doubles.
2019 SCHEDULE (All times eastern)
Feb. 15 Feb. 16 Feb. 17 Feb. 19 Feb. 20 Feb. 22 Feb. 23 Feb. 24 Feb. 26 March 1 March 2
Liberty 4 p.m. Liberty 3 p.m. Liberty 1:30 p.m. Winthrop 4 p.m. Presbyterian 4 p.m. Utah Valley 4 p.m. Utah Valley 2 p.m. Utah Valley 1:30 p.m. App State 4 p.m. at Clemson 6 p.m. Clemson (Fluor Field, Greenville) TBA March 3 Clemson 1 p.m. March 5 The Citadel 7 p.m. March 6 Gardner-Webb 7 p.m. March 8 Valparaiso 7 p.m. March 9 Valparaiso 4 p.m. March 10 Valparaiso 1:30 p.m. March 12 at The Citadel 7 p.m. March 15 Georgia 7 p.m. March 16 Georgia 4 p.m. March 17 Georgia 1:30 p.m. March 19 at Furman (Fluor Field, Greenville) 6 p.m. March 22 at Tennessee 7 p.m. March 23 at Tennessee 2 p.m. March 24 at Tennessee 1 p.m. March 26 NC A&T 7 p.m. March 29 Auburn 7 p.m. March 30 Auburn 4 p.m. March 31 Auburn 1:30 p.m. April 2 NC State (BB&T Park, Charlotte) 7 p.m. January 2019
April 4 at Alabama TBA April 5 at Alabama 7 p.m. April 6 at Alabama 2 p.m. April 9 Charlotte 7 p.m. April 11 at Florida TBA April 12 at Florida 6:30 p.m. April 13 at Florida TBA April 16 North Carolina (BB&T Park, Charlotte) 7 p.m. April 18 Texas A&M 7 p.m. April 19 Texas A&M 7 p.m. April 20 Texas A&M 1:30 p.m. April 23 Charleston Southern (SRP Park, North Augusta) 7 p.m. April 26 at Missouri 7:30 p.m. April 27 at Missouri 7:30 p.m. April 28 at Missouri 3 p.m. May 3 Vanderbilt 7 p.m. May 4 Vanderbilt 4 p.m. May 5 Vanderbilt 1:30 p.m. May 8 Furman 7 p.m. May 10 Kentucky 7 p.m. May 11 Kentucky 4 p.m. May 12 Kentucky 1:30 p.m. May 14 USC Upstate 7 p.m. May 16 at Miss State 7:30 p.m. May 17 at Miss State 7:30 p.m. May 18 at Miss State 2 p.m. May 21-26 SEC Tournament (Hoover, Ala.) TBA May 31 NCAA Regionals TBA June 7 NCAA Super Regionals TBA June 15 College World Series TBA
Senior Chris Cullen returns behind the plate and will share catching duties with junior-college transfer Luke Berryhill, who led the team in home runs in the fall and was one of the team’s most impressive overall players. “He’s a big, strong kid that gives you good at-bats and can hit a home run at any time,” Kingston said of Berryhill. “His defense developed and got better over the course of the fall … so he is definitely a very viable candidate back there.” The rest of the lineup will feature young players and newcomers. Freshman Josiah Sightler and sophomore Jordan Holladay will battle for the first-base job. Kingston says Sightler, a 12thround pick in the MLB Draft, has “tremendous potential” and “a bright future.” Joining Hopkins in the outfield will be junior-college transfer Andrew Eyster, a JUCO and summer-league star who will hit in the middle of the order, and Brady Allen, the best of the freshman in the fall. Junior-college transfers Nick Neville and George Callil will continue their battle for the starting shortstop job, while freshmen
Jonah Beamon and Jacob English and transfer Quinntin Perez will provide depth in the infield. The 2019 roster will feature 18 newcomers, including 10 freshmen. Kingston spent the fall getting to know his new players and figuring out how they fit with the 14 returnees. He and his veteran players liked what they saw. “I could see progression throughout the fall,” Campbell said. “A lot of guys just wanted to get better and were willing to accept what the coaches were saying and get better in those areas. I felt like toward the end of the fall, we really became a team that has a good chance to do pretty special things this year.” “They all had ups and downs, as we expected,” Kingston said. “But we saw some good things out of all of them. We saw some flashes of what they can be. Now it’s up to them to be consistent at the highest level and try to eliminate and minimize those down times. “They all have things they need to improve in their game, but they did make progress throughout the fall. I think come February they will be in a pretty good spot to help us.”
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Among four freshman pitchers, left-hander Dylan Harley and righty Wesley Sweatt stood out in the fall and “are going to have a chance to pitch a lot this year for us,” Kingston said. While the Gamecocks also lost key reliever Graham Lawson to Tommy John surgery, the bullpen should be a strength. “We feel very, very good about the bullpen,” Kingston said. “It’s just a matter of picking guys out of those roles and deciding who has the best chance to give you a little bit of length as a starter. We have got a lot of guys who are in that 8993 [mph] range with good control and a good secondary pitch. It’s just a matter of figuring out who is ready, who is most mature, who can handle going through the lineup multiple times.” Offensively, the Gamecocks will rely on three key veterans — centerfielder TJ Hopkins, second baseman
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Big Strides After ‘tremendous’ summer, Noah Campbell ready to become elite player By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
ark Kingston predicted big things for Noah Campbell the first time he saw him in the fall of 2017. Campbell showed flashes of that potential as a freshman, batting .270 with a .372 on-base percentage in 47 games as South Carolina made it to the NCAA Super Regionals in Kingston’s first season. Campbell seems poised to take a giant leap for the Gamecocks in his second season. If his performance and development this summer in the elite Cape Cod League is any indication, Kingston believes he could emerge as one of the best players in the country. “His progress has been very impressive,” he said. “He had a solid freshman year, he went to the Cape and had a great summer. He could have been named the MVP of the Cape Cod League, so he had a tremendous summer.” Playing in the top summer league for college players, Campbell finished second in the league in
BASEBALL • NOAH CAMPBELL
both hitting and on-base percentage to make the Cape Cod All-Star team. In 32 games, he hit .364 with a .456 on-base percentage and an OPS of 1.092. He hit six home runs, scored 20 runs and had 27 RBI to help lead the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox to the Cape playoffs. When Campbell returned to Columbia in the fall, he looked like an elite player. “He continued to develop offensively and defensively and he picked right up where he left off this fall,” Kingston said. “He had a great fall for us and is another kid who is a great leader and a great example of what we want our players to be. I expect him to be borderline AllAmerican this year. I really do.” Campbell’s biggest challenge was to learn to play second base, where he is expected to start this season and is projected for the next level. Campbell came to South Carolina as an infielder but was stuck behind seniors LT Tolbert and Justin Row at second base and
senior Madison Stokes at shortstop last year. He spent most of the season as the team’s DH before getting some outfield work late in the season. When he arrived in the Cape, his mission was to return as a solid defensive second baseman. He spent 10 games at DH while he worked on his defense, and then took over the position for his team. “Coach Kingston basically told me I needed to go to Cape Cod and work really hard on my defense so when I came back I was ready to play second base at this level, so that was something that I really, really worked on,” Campbell said. “I was pretty solid on balls straight at me and balls to my left, I just needed to work on the charge play to my right and balls to my right and just working around the bag and just having a feel for what it takes to play second base. I feel like a lot of those things I have gotten better at but I can still get better.” Campbell looked solid at the
position in the fall, handling routine plays and making several outstanding plays as well. Kingston was pleased with his progress and said after fall camp he expected Campbell to be the starting second baseman. “His defense has come a long way,” he said. “I’m not quite where I want to be, you always have to keep getting better, but I felt like I made significant improvement,” Campbell said. Offensively, Campbell continued to refine his approach at the plate and became more of a power and run-producing threat. He had just three home runs and 13 RBIs in 47 games as a freshman but hit six with 27 RBI and 15 extra-base hits in 32 games this summer. “It was just refining my approach,” he said of his summer work. “I feel like my swing didn’t really change that much, if at all, it was just going up there and knowing what pitches I can hit and do damage on and just get on base with.”
A high school All-American who was drafted in the 19th round by the Milwaukee Brewers, Campbell had a solid freshman season but also endured his share of struggles. He got off to a strong start but missed 16 games with a broken finger and struggled a bit when he returned. Asked what he learned during his first season, Campbell said, “It’s an everyday thing. You have to go out there ready to play every day, because the day you are not ready to play is the day you are 0-for-5 and don’t help the team win. Just go out there and just be yourself every day, confident and ready to go.” Dealing with the injury last season was frustrating, but Campbell kept his head up and was able to help the Gamecocks after he returned. With center fielder TJ Hopkins also out with injury, Campbell was able to play some games in the outfield late in the season and continued contributing at the plate. “It was a little frustrating with the injury, but at the same time, when I came back we were doing really well as a team so it was hard to think about my finger when we were doing so well toward the end
of the season,” he said. “And then we made it to a Super Regional and I didn’t really think about my finger too much.” Campbell also had to adjust to serving as the designated hitter after playing in the field his whole career. That requires tremendous patience and mental fortitude but the freshman handled it well. When he wasn’t in the field, he was
analyzing the opposing pitcher and preparing for his next at-bat. “DH takes some time getting used to,” he said. “I feel like it’s one of those things that when you start out, you’re like, ‘I’m used to running back out on defense and not thinking about hitting.’ But then when you are in at DH, all you can think about is hitting. You just have to kinda flush it and
move on to your next at-bat and help the team win.” Kingston is looking forward to having his budding star in the field and in the lineup every day this season. The big question is where will he hit in the lineup? He hit leadoff last season but showed enough pop this fall to hit in the middle of the order. “I think he is one of better hitters in America,” Kingston said. “The big decision for me and our staff is how do we use him offensively. Is he a leadoff catalyst? Is he a two-hole guy? You can put him in the three-hole because I think he will hit in the .350 range and will be able to drive in a bunch of runs as a line drive hitter. A lot of things are still on the table for how we use him … but Noah is going to be a big part of our success.” No matter where he hits, Campbell seems poised and prepared for a big year. “I feel like I’m going to go out there and have a chance to play second base and wherever he puts me in the lineup I feel like I am going to do my job and help the team win, drive in runs, score runs, steal bases, play good defense,” he said. “If I do that then I feel like the team is going to do pretty well.”
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Grand Slam Experience Gamecock tennis teams head Down Under to play at Australian Open By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe
outh Carolina men’s tennis coach Josh Goffi has traveled all over the world playing and watching professional tennis. As a kid, he followed his dad, Carlos Goffi, the legendary coach of such stars as John McEnroe, Peter Fleming and Mary Carillo. After an All-ACC career at Clemson, Goffi played on the ATP Tour from 2001-05, rising to No. 121 in the world in doubles. But the one country — and the one big tournament — he never made it to was the Australian Open. “That was a dream,” he said. “I told myself the only way I’ll go to Australia is if I was going to be playing, and I’m only going to go if I’m playing in the Open.” Goffi got to fulfill at least part of that dream in January as the South Carolina men’s and women’s teams
TENNIS • AUSTRALIAN OPEN
traveled to Melbourne to participate in the first-ever collegiate matches associated with a Grand Slam event. The two teams were scheduled to compete in exhibitions against Southern California and the Tennis Australia National Academy before ending the trip with regular-season dual matches against the Trojans. “This is pretty cool,” Goffi said as the men’s team prepared to make the journey to Australia. “I never accomplished that as a pro so it’s pretty cool that we get to go and take part in this event.” Craig Tiley, the CEO of Tennis Australia and Director of the Australian Open, led the University of Illinois to the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship in 2003 and carried his love for college tennis down under. When he contacted the ITA
(Intercollegiate Tennis Association) about bringing two college programs to the Grand Slam event, the ITA invited South Carolina and Southern Cal, two top-25 programs. Goffi said the invitation is “huge” for the university and both Gamecock tennis programs as well as for college tennis. “We’re making history — first college match at a Grand Slam,” he said. “It’s going through the tennis world. All my dad’s buddies who were on tour back in the ‘70s, I’m getting text messages from them, ‘Hey man, how’d this come about?’ It’s been really cool. It’s starting to infiltrate the rest of the [tennis] world that there is a college tennis match coming to the Australian Open.” Women’s coach Kevin Epley, a former coach for 2000 Australian
Open winner and three-time Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport, has been to Australia and the Open. He was in Sydney in 2000 as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team. He got the call and invitation from the ITA and said “we happily accepted.” “It’s just a really neat opportunity not only for us, but it’s a neat step for college tennis in general to get a footprint somewhere else in the world,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the profile of our program and what people think of us. We’ve been working hard, Josh and I, over the last several years at building this program and … we are truly honored to be considered.” “It says a lot about what we bring to the table and what we stand for as a program and our core values,” Goffi January 2019
izing greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokavic but can’t contemplate reaching that level. Goffi wants to use the experience to help change that perception. “They still hold this pro game like it’s almost unreachable, and that’s not OK,” he said. “It is reachable. It’s there, it’s tangible, and there’s no other way to do it than play against it or be on the court next to it, feeling the ball, feeling the same thing. They kinda look over there and say, ‘I can do that.’ “I am looking at this trip as a learning and educational experience for our guys to really motivate them in the sense that we are not that far away.” Goffi, who beat six top-100 players in singles as a pro, wants to emphasize that message to players like Jubb, whom he calls the most improved player in college tennis and one of the best in the country. “That’s my No. 1 objective for him. He has a legitimate shot, but he has a lot of work left,” he said. “This could not come at a better time for him or a couple of other guys who just got on the team that are in that same boat. It’s like, ‘Hey, I can do that, that’s reachable.’” The experience will also present a unique opportunity for team bond-
ing before another grueling spring season. It’s summer in Australia and Epley says the Open has a more laidback atmosphere than other Grand Slam events. “It’s a real inviting vibe and a great place to watch tennis,” he said. “It will be a different take being in a different culture outside the normal exposure that we have for a college season,” he said. “We’re going to go out on the town and hopefully go see some kangaroos and do some things that will help with [team bonding] and give us some opportunities to chat about some tennis we are seeing at that level. “The girls are very excited and we are excited about the challenge.” To both coaches, there is no better way to start the season than playing one of the best teams in the country in a special setting on a grand stage. “It’s not just a vacation. We’re going to play one of the best teams in the country in an environment where you are just naturally juiced and energized because everybody is in love with the sport there,” Goffi said. “You’re reigniting that childhood flame of being excited to be on the court all the time. There is not a better recipe for that. “We are going to get shot out of a cannon coming out of Australia.”
the best in the country again this season and were thrilled with the opportunity to start their seasons on an international stage. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said junior Paul Jubb, the No. 7-ranked singles player in the country. “It will give us Josh Goffi an opportunity to see what tennis at that level is like and what we need to do to get there. It will be said. “The ITA didn’t just a great base for randomly pick somebody the start of the out of a hat. Were were season.” chosen because of what we Goffi, whose bring and what we repre2019 team sent when we compete.” includes six Epley has led South freshmen, is Carolina to the NCAA looking forward Kevin Epley Tournament each of his to introducing six seasons, including his young team back-to-back appearances to the pro game and the greatest playin the Sweet 16. The Gamecocks rose as high as No. 5 in the nation last year ers in the world. “We have a bunch of eager guys and finished No. 12 in the final ITA that want to be great at tennis. They rankings. love the game. They are fans of the Goffi has led the men to the game,” he said. “I want to kind of NCAA Tournament five times in transition that into being a student his eight seasons and advanced to of the game and there is not a better the second round the past two years, place to do it than seeing the greatest finishing in the top 25 in the final players in the world.” rankings. Most college players grew up idolBoth teams expect to be among
AUSTRALIAN OPEN • TENNIS
Iâ€™m glad 2019 is here after December to forget By Bill Gunter | Contributing writer
tâ€™s a brand-new year, which is a good thing, because the way December finished up, it was time to move on for Gamecock athletics. Iâ€™m not saying 2018 was bad across the board, but December was a month that might have made you feel a little sick to your stomach, and not because of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. I am not a doom-and-gloom type of person. I tend to look for the positive in every situation and the month of December did bring another stellar football recruiting class. But the menâ€™s basketball team struggled against stiff competition, while the Belk Bowl was â€Ś well letâ€™s just forget about that. But there have been some positives. I know it is hard to embrace them right now, but once you get through the dreary month of January, you will see it. There are a couple reasons that an eternal optimist like me is ready to move on to the 2019 football season. For starters, the Gamecocks landed three major recruits. Maybe Donell Stanley, Jake Bentley and
Bryan Edwards were not considered â€œrecruitsâ€? any longer but trust me, the return of those three players was just as big as landing five-star defensive lineman Zacch Pickens and elite quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Bentley was fantastic over the last month and a half of the regular season and showed that he is poised to live up to the hype that followed him to Columbia. The bowl game obviously did not go as planned, but the strides Bentley and the offense made during the last half of the season cannot be denied and should help the Gamecocks against the formidable schedule that awaits in 2019. Bringing back two experienced offensive players like Stanley and Edwards was extremely important. For Edwards, replacing Deebo Samuel as the true go-to receiver will help his NFL Draft stock but also give the receiving unit a veteran to help with the development of younger players like Josh Vann and Keveon Mullins. Stanley is a bigger piece to the puzzle than I think most realize as the offensive line has improved
tremendously since the return of coach Eric Wolford. While there are several solid prospects ready to step in and contribute, the return of a player with Stanleyâ€™s experience and leadership is important to next yearâ€™s offense. The fact that Wolford now returns three linemen with starting experience plus Hank Manos, who started the bowl game, should be extremely beneficial in 2019. Along with the return of three key players, the Gamecocks are ready to move into the new football operations building. Every Gamecock coach I have spoken to raves about how the building is not only unique and beautiful but brings everyone together on a daily basis. With the coachâ€™s offices, locker room and weight room so far apart at Williams-Brice Stadium, it was a different approach. Now things are much more connected and, while it is a subtle change few will notice, it is a big step for the program as a whole. Finally, another crop of Gamecocks have arrived, led by Pickens, Hilinksi and local defensive back
Cameron Smith. I believe Muschamp has continued to upgrade the talent across the board and this class once again shows that with talented players at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and on defense. None of this makes us forget the way the 2018 season ended, and it shouldnâ€™t as the team needs to remember the feeling at the Belk Bowl. But I think Muschamp was tasked with a difficult job upon arriving, one that is made more difficult by the success of the Gamecocksâ€™ two biggest rivals in Clemson and Georgia. Steps to improve and become nationally relevant again are being made, but patience is going to be required as we turn the calendar to 2019.
Bill Gunter is the co-host of the Early Game on 107.5 The Game in Columbia. Follow him on Twitter @WillGunter.
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After rough December, January wins help heal psyche
By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer
lina was not the only team going through this type of situation. Georgia, West Virginia, NC State and Michigan, just to name a few, had players sit to get ready for the NFL. Those teams all went out and laid an egg, so the Gamecocks had company. I do not blame Deebo. It’s hard to relate to. For me and the guys I grew up with, if we had a pickup game it was to the death. There was no way I wasn’t going to play. Until I suffered a concussion and could not do my job for three weeks. I discovered maybe work and getting paid was a little more important than missing a basketball game. On top of that, I haven’t had a million-dollar contract staring me in the face, one that could be washed away by getting hurt. Sure, it’s disappointing to fans, but I certainly understand. Here’s the reality. That’s going to become much more normal, if not the norm, in years to come. Let’s face it, if you’re not playing for the championship, it’s more or less an exhibition game. We’re always told that it’s a great opportunity for younger players to get some extra
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practice and playing experience. Make this a positive experience. Tell the seniors thanks for all they’ve done and allow them to sit out if they want. But make it a positive and take the negative of not playing out of it and get the young players ready for next year. The good news: South Carolina lost to UConn 20-7 in the Papa John’s Bowl after the 2009 season. It was awful and, yes, very similar to the Belk Bowl. The next year South Carolina won the SEC East. After the 2010 season, it lost to Florida State in the Peach Bowl. It went on to finish 11-2 the next three years. Yes, there is a tidal wave coming next year. An early preseason poll has the new national champion, Alabama and Georgia ranked 1, 2, 3. We play two of them in Columbia, one in Athens. Florida and Texas A&M are ranked 7 and 9, respectively. We could lose to all five of those teams and still be one of the best teams in the nation. Hope it doesn’t happen, but it won’t be easy. But think about this. Is there anybody who doesn’t think we should’ve beaten Florida in the Swamp this year? How about Texas
A&M in Columbia? There wasn’t much difference between South Carolina and those teams and they are ranked in the top 10. Get some players healthy and add a few new ones, get the defense playing well and maybe that last game of the season becomes the upset of the century. It could happen. We’re not that far away. South Carolina football is getting better. Sometimes it might not feel like it, but stay the course. Next year offers a tremendous opportunity to set the world on fire. Isn’t it interesting how a couple of wins in January can help you see the light. With loyal devotion, remembering the days …
Ed Girardeau is a 1982 South Carolina graduate and has been a columnist for Spurs & Feathers since 2012.You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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ED GIRARDEAU • COLUMN
hat a difference a month can make for the psyche. All was lost in December, but along comes January and two wins by the Gamecock women and two by the men and suddenly there is hope that this will not be a lost basketball season. December was tough, especially if you throw in the last week of November. Both basketball teams seemed destined for long seasons. Then there was football. Losing Thanksgiving weekend by 21 points, no matter how many points we scored and how many yards we gained against a really good team, we still lost. And if that wasn’t bad enough, then came the bowl game. That was not what anybody expected. Fortunately, there has been time for reflection. What went wrong? Based on social media comments and personal interaction, Deebo Samuel choosing not to play triggered most of the angst. To some, Deebo sitting out sent a message to the team that this wasn’t an important game. That being said, South Caro-
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