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purs & Feathers is the official publication of the University of South Carolina Gamecock Club. It is published monthly, 12 times per year and is available to Gamecock Club members as well as additional subscribers. To opt in or subscribe, email subscribe@spursandfeathers. com or call 843-853-7678. The Gamecock Club and Spurs & Feathers thank you for your support. Below is our publication schedule for 2019:

Jan. 23 Feb. 20 March 20 April 24 May 22 June 19

July 24 Aug. 28 Sept. 25 Oct. 23 Nov. 20 Dec. 18

Editor’s Note: The editorial deadline for this issue was Oct. 14.





5 Legendary fan: John Horne

6 Legendary fan: Robert L. Underwood

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Five Stars: These Gamecocks have shined in season’s first half


Big Kick: How SC developed one of best punters in country


Party in Athens: Gamecocks celebrate win over Georgia

8 Firehouse Athlete of the Month: Bryan Edwards


High Class: Maria Hickman helping student-athletes excel academically

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SC-Kentucky Recap: Taming Wildcats


SC-Missouri Recap: Mizzou mayhem


SC-Alabama Recap: Promising showing




Fast and Furious: Martin revved up over athletic team






Shark Attack: Bahr taking bite out of opponents with offense



Gunter: How to salvage this strange season

43 Girardeau: The history of football’s 2-3 starts

On The Cover: T.J. Brunson

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October 2019

Legendary fan John Horne relishes South Carolina’s championship seasons By Brian Hand | Contributing writer • Photo by Allen Sharpe


he Gamecock Club and South Carolina athletics has always played a huge role in the life of John Horne, who attended his first South Carolina football game in 1961. For his longtime commitment to the Gamecocks, Horne was chosen as the Legendary Fan of the Game for the Alabama game on Saturday, Sept. 14.  Being the Legendary Fan was something that Horne had not really thought about before getting the call that he was going to be honored. “It’s not why you do it as a Gamecock, but it was very surreal to get that call that I was going to be honored,” Horne said.  A native of Ocean Drive Beach in the North Myrtle Beach area, Horne grew up watching TV stations based in Wilmington, N.C., which obviously meant that he had to see a great deal about the ACC and, in particular, North Carolina. 

A product of a Gamecock family, Horne’s father was an attorney in the area and a member of the Horry County Gamecock Club. Having seen so much about North Carolina basketball growing up, he relished the 1971 ACC Tournament, when the Gamecocks beat the Tar Heels to win the tournament title. Well, that is until 2010. Watching South Carolina win the College World Series and its first baseball national championship is a pretty close second or even a tie for Horne.  “Watching that magical run to Omaha and being with my son, Brent, at historic Rosenblatt [Stadium] was something I never expected to see in my lifetime,” Horne told the Gamecock Club.  In addition to the team triumphs, Horne loved watching Heisman winner George Rogers.  “I was fortunate enough to be in attendance upon his arrival to the Columbia Metropolitan Airport

with his Heisman Trophy in hand,” Horned noted. “The best thing about George is his smile and the way he treats fans.” The Gamecocks are a way of life for the Horne family. Horne and his wife, Vicky, made it a point 45 years ago when they got married to attend South Carolina football games on

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Saturdays. That tradition continues with their children, Brent and John. “I was in the clouds that whole day. It was just a real honor to have my family there with me on the field,” Horne said after he was honored. “It truly was one of the best days of my life.”. 


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Legendary fan Robert Underwood says being a Gamecock is ‘who I am’ By Brian Hand | Contributing writer • Photo by Allen Sharpe


t was truly a special night for Robert L. Underwood. Not only was it a great night because the Gamecocks took care of business with a 24-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday, Sept. 28, but Underwood was also honored as the Legendary Fan of the Game. It’s an honor Underwood truly appreciates and deserves.  “Having received my BS in 1983 and my MBA in 1991, I am a proud member of both the Alumni Association and the Gamecock Club,” Underwood told the Gamecock Club. “It’s who I am.” Underwood attended his first Gamecock football game as a student in South Carolina’s 37-0 season-opening win over Pacific on Sept. 6, 1980. 

He has not missed a home game since then, with that historic George Rogers Heismanwinning season in 1980 beginning a long love affair with Carolina athletics. That passion for the Gamecocks has been passed down to his children and, for Underwood, that contributes to his favorite Gamecock memories. He loves to share special Gamecock moments with his family. If he had to pick a favorite game, though, it would have to be South Carolina’s 38-26 win over No. 11 Florida State on Saturday, Nov. 10, 1984, when the Gamecocks improved to 9-0 on the season before finishing 10-2. “It was pretty special,” Underwood said.. 

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s South Carolina’s schedule got tougher, so did its best wide receiver and offensive player.

Edwards, a senior from Conway, S.C., had a career-high nine receptions for 79 yards against No. 2 Alabama. A week later, he was South Carolina’s best weapon at Missouri, catching six passes for 113 yards. His spectacular 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run to start the second half cut Missouri's lead to 17-14 and was South Carolina’s biggest offensive play of the game. Edwards also continued his assault on the school record book. After catching six passes against Kentucky, he moved to second on the all-time list with 190 career receptions. His 2,577 yards after the Kentucky game was third in school history, as was his 19 career touchdown catches. At Georgia, he caught a 46-yard touchdown pass, the 20th of his career, and set a school record with a reception in 44 consecutive games. Edwards continues to be one of South Carolina’s most valuable players. “He competes his butt off,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s a guy who made a great decision to return to school and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity sitting in front of him.”

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October 2019


Making a difference Maria Hickman, academic staff helping Gamecocks set records, excel in classroom By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe


outh Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner is often asked about his best coach at the university. His answer is usually a surprise. “I go, ‘Maria Hickman.’ They go, ‘what does she coach?’ I say, ‘she coaches 500 athletes, and she’s pretty good at it.’” As Senior Associate Athletics Director for Academics and Student Development, Hickman oversees the academic program for student-athletes. And her record of success rivals any coach on campus. “I have the best job [in the athletic department] because they work with their teams, but I have an opportunity to work with all the teams and all the studentathletes,” Hickman says. A graduate of Mars Hill (N.C.) University with a master’s degree in sport administration from Louisville, Hickman has overseen the academic program 10 SOUTH CAROLINA ATHLETICS • MARIA HICKMAN

for student-athletes since 2013. During that time, South Carolina student-athletes have produced record-setting numbers. Last fall, the athletic department had its highest collective GPA ever at 3.335. In the spring, it topped that number with a 3.338, giving the department 25 straight semesters with a 3.0 or better. Of the school’s 18 teams, 17 had a 3.0 or better last spring, while 392 of more than 550 student-athletes had at least a 3.0. Of those, a record 82 made the President’s List with a 4.0. Those numbers are among the best in the SEC and nation. South Carolina typically leads the SEC in student-athletes on the SEC Academic Honor Roll and has led the conference in community service hours for five straight years. Hickman attributes that to her staff and the support it gets from Tanner and coaches. “It’s really the people,” she said. “We have a great system in

place, but we have people who truly care about the students, and not just the athletic side, but the student as a person. We are all here for the students. Everything we do, all decisions we make are for our students and what is best for them.” The emphasis on academics starts during the recruiting process. Every prospective student-athlete is required to meet with an academic advisor on their recruiting visit, as well as an advisor in the field they plan to major in. The meetings are to help ensure students and their parents that they select the right major but also that they understand the academic requirements. “It’s important for students and parents to understand our system and what they are getting when they come here,” Hickman said. “It’s important to me that a student leaves here in four or five years with a degree with the major they choose. There are no easy

majors here. I make sure students understand that. You are going to have to do your work, you have to go to class. What you see is what you get because I don’t want a false sense [of expectations].” The Dodie Academic Enrichment Center — or “The Dodie” — opened in 2010 and is considered one of the finest academic facilities for student-athletes in the country. The three-story building located next to the Rice Athletics Center features computer labs, classrooms, study rooms and a first-class dining facility. Hickman’s staff of 19 has eight full-time academic advisors that work with multiple sports, including three that work with the 115-player football team. Every freshman student-athlete and first-year transfer is required to participate in study halls at The Dodie throughout their first year on campus. Each student has an academic coach and there are individual tutors available to help with specific subjects. Each student is required to fill out a form at the beginning of each week outlining the class work they must complete that week. Their advisors monitor their progress and sign off on their work as it is completed. “There is no play time,” Hickman said. “You are not coming in here and just chilling and talking. You are coming here to get your work done.” The system has paid off for every sport and allowed some to reach new heights academically. The football team had its highest GPA ever with a 3.0 last fall and backed it up with a 3.084 in the spring. Of more than 100 players on the team, more than 70 had a 3.5 or higher. Hickman, who began her South Carolina career as an academic advisor for football, credits head coach Will Muschamp and his staff for stressing academics. “That was a big accomplishment,” she said. “For a team that large to have a 3.0, it just shows we have great support from Coach Muschamp and that staff. They get it.” Muschamp has 11 players on his team who have already graduated and 16 more scheduled to get their diplomas in December. As he tours the state meeting with Gamecock fans, he often mentions Hickman and boasts about the academic success of his team.

October 2019

“We have 11 players who have already graduated and 16 more scheduled to graduate in December, and that’s what we’re here for. That’s a credit to Maria Hickman and her staff,” he said. Kevin Epley’s women’s tennis team had one of the most impressive performances of any team last year — on the court and in the classroom. The Gamecocks had the highest GPA in the athletic department at 3.83, all while winning the SEC Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight. And they did it despite a brutal travel schedule, which included a two-week trip to the Australian Open at the start of the semester in January. “For those young ladies to miss class and still be on top of it [says a lot],” Hickman said. “Those young ladies worked really hard and had the highest GPA, which is a testament to what they do.” Though academic success is generally measured by gradepoint average, that’s not the end game and not something Hickman and her staff stress. There’s a bigger goal to achieve.

“We don’t shoot for GPAs in this building,” she said. “A lot of our success comes from that and that’s what we talk about at the end of the semester, but our goal is graduation and making sure they are getting better.”

That’s why graduation day is the most exciting day of the year for Hickman, who is also an executive associate AD and administrator for women’s basketball and beach volleyball. For her and her staff, graduation is their bowl

game, their NCAA Tournament. She goes to every graduation ceremony, sits in the front row and cheers on her students. “That is the best day. It’s the happiest day and makes everything that you do, those long days, those long hours, worthwhile,” she said. “To see the students happy, the parents are happy and to see that they have worked toward a goal that some of them didn’t think would ever come true and to see them walk across the stage, it’s the best day. It’s bittersweet because you know you are not going to see them anymore, but you are so happy for them.” Tanner witnesses the impact Hickman and her staff make every day and boasts about South Carolina’s academic achievements at every opportunity. “It’s real. When I travel around to conference meetings and around the country, our numbers are prevalent and I often get asked, ‘What are you guys doing that really makes such a difference?’” he said. “I tell them, we have great people. Maria has been a leader in that capacity for a long time. She makes a difference.”




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reaching for the stars These players shined for Gamecocks in first half of season By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe, Jenny Dilworth and Travis Bell


ith South Carolina leading Kentucky 10-0 early in the third quarter, the Gamecocks suddenly took control of the game on back-to-back plays that featured a trio of star players. Kentucky faced a thirdand-8 at its own 41-yard line when quarterback Sawyer Smith dropped back to pass. But with South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw taking on two blockers and pushing the pocket backward, Smith had nowhere to go when the Gamecocks brought pressure from the edge. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum sacked him, forcing a fumble that defensive end Aaron Sterling recovered at the Kentucky 30-yard line. On the very next play, running back running Rico Dowdle burst through a big hole on the left side of the line and sprinted 30 yards for a 12


touchdown to give South Carolina a 17-0 lead. With Kinlaw and Wonnum dominating on defense and Dowdle and fellow running back Tavien Feaster each rushing for more than 100 yards, South Carolina man-handled Kentucky

for a 24-7 victory to improve to 2-3. Though South Carolina got off to a disappointing start to the season, it had several stars emerge in the first five games, earning SEC recognition and giving the Gamecocks hope and confidence for the second half of the season. Here’s a look at some of those stars and how they have led South Carolina in 2019.

Javon Kinlaw There are many words used to describe Kinlaw, but there is one that seems to be the consensus among those who have seen him play.

Beast. South Carolina’s 6-6, 310-pound defensive tackle is truly a beast in the middle of the defensive line. After a strong junior season, when he was named co-MVP of the defense, Kinlaw entered this season as an NFL prospect. After his performance in the first five games, many now consider him a potential first-rounder. After five games, Kinlaw led the SEC with four sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and a blocked kick. And he has blown up countless plays that led to positive results for the Gamecock defense. “He has affected the quarterback without touching the quarterback multiple times by being able to push the pocket,” head coach Will Muschamp said.

October 2019

Jim Nagy, an ESPN NFL Draft analyst and executive director of the senior bowl, said Kinlaw is “just scratching the surface” and has “manchild type raw talent.” Nagy compares him to Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and Auburn’s Derrick Brown, who are both projected as first-round picks. After watching Kinlaw play against Alabama, Nagy tweeted, “Scouting @Raekwondavis_99 and @JavonKinlaw on the same field was something I’ll remember for a long time. It’s like they were competing to see who the more dominant player was. Fun to watch.” After South Carolina had four sacks against Kentucky and held the Wildcats to just 212 yards of total offense — 115 rushing — Muschamp credited Kinlaw and senior defensive tackle Kobe Smith with controlling the Kentucky offense. “They were really disruptive,” he said. “The biggest thing we did in the game, and we did as well as we have done in a while, is push the pocket in the middle. There were no escape lanes. We won on the edges at times but there was no area for the quarterback to step up. We did a great job of constricting the pocket.” Those type of plays don’t show up on the stat sheet but have a huge impact on the game and lead to big plays by the defense. “Just having him is a big relief, him and Kobe,” said Wonnum, who had three sacks in the game. “Just having those guys pushing the pocket and making plays as big guys is big for us. Me, Aaron, we appreciate those boys.”

After catching just one pass in the season opener against North Carolina, Edwards had five catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns against Charleston Southern, including a 60-yarder from Hilinski. After catching a career-high nine passes against Alabama, he had another big game at Missouri with six catches for 113 yards, including a spectacular 75-yard touchdown on a short pass from Hilinski. After the North Carolina game, Muschamp demanded that the offense get the ball to its best receiver, and Edwards has made the most of it. “I’m a receiver so I want the ball in my hands,” he said. “Obviosuly I’ve seen a lot of touches. I’m just trying to make the most of those touches and make plays for my team.” Muschamp said that must continue. “We have to continue to find ways to get the ball in his hands,” he said. “He competes his butt off. He’s a guy who made a great decision to return to school and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity sitting in front of him.”

D.J Wonnum

Bryan Edwards Edwards flirted with the NFL Draft last spring, and having already etched his name in the South Carolina record book, no one would have blamed him if he had skipped his senior year to turn pro. But that’s not Brian Edwards. He’s watched players skip bowl games to protect their draft stock and others transfer to pursue a better opportunity. That’s not Bryan Edwards. “I ain’t that type of guy,” he said. “I’m here to play and I’m trying to go out there and put my best product on the field every day. I’m a football player and I’m here to play.” Never was that more evident than when South Carolina squared off against No. 2 Alabama. On South Carolina’s first play from scrimmage, Edwards took a pitch from quarterback Ryan Hilinski and gained 13 yards on a violent, physical run. Edwards broke two tackles, shoved a defender out of the way with a wicked stiff arm and then bulled his way for a first down. In the second quarter, on a similar play, Edwards lowered his shoulder again, ran over an Alabama defender and carried several more for a first down. “He’s running with violent energy right now, he’s running through contact,” Muschamp said. “Just trying to get the first down for my team, keep moving the ball,” Edwards said. “I knew it was going to be a lot of man-on-man, me versus another guy and I was going to have to make the play. I just have to continue to do that.” But what Edwards does best is catch the football and make big plays. Through five games, he had 27 receptions for 348 yards and three touchdowns. His 190 career receptions are second in school history, while he is third (and climbing) in yards (2,577) and touchdown catches (19). He was tied for the school record with receptions in 43 consecutive games.

October 2019

Wonnum had a big sophomore season in 2017, leading the Gamecocks with six sacks, 13 tackles for loss and earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week twice. He played so well that Muschamp named him a permanent team captain, one of only three sophomores in program history to earn that honor. When he missed all but five games last season, South Carolina missed Wonnum’s leadership off the field and his pass-rushing ability on it. Wonnum was determined to make up for lost time in his senior season and has lived up to expectations. Through five games, he had six tackles for loss, three sacks, two quarterback hurries, an interception and a forced fumble. Against Missouri, Wonnum intercepted a pass deep in Missouri territory to set up South Carolina’s first touchdown. Against Kentucky, he was dominant, collecting three sacks, forcing a fumble and being credited with another quarterback hurry to earn SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. The three sacks were a career-high and the first time a Gamecock had a three-sack game since Darius English in 2016. Wonnum had two-sack games against Tennessee in both 2017 and 2018, but Muschamp said the Kentucky performance was his best game. “He’s played a bunch of good ones in his time here,” he said. “He’s having a really good year.” Wonnum, who has teamed with Sterling and defensive end J.J. Enagbare to give the Gamecocks an improved pass rush, is doing what Muschamp and his teammates expected out of the senior and NFL prospect. Whenever he’s asked about Wonnum, Muschamp gushes about one of his team leaders. “He plays extremely hard, he does things the right way. He represents us in a first-class manner in everything he does," he said. "D.J. just has the right stuff about him. He seems to always be in the right spot, always doing the right thing. He’s a great example for our young players.” Linebacker Ernest Jones, who leads the Gamecocks in tackles, says having Kinlaw and Wonnum up front has made the linebacker corps and defense as a whole better. FIVE STARS • FOOTBALL 13

“That is a dominant duo right there,” Jones said. "They are making a lot of plays. They are doing a great job and they have been playing their hearts out.”

Ernest Jones Jones, a sophomore linebacker from Waycross, Ga., could have taken a redshirt his freshman year. Had he skipped the Belk Bowl against Virginia, he would have played in the minimum of four games last year and retained a year of eligibility. But that’s not Ernest Jones. “[The decision] wasn’t too tough for me. I came to play ball,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit the bench from the jump. “I needed to play and earn the respect from these older guys and just make sure everyone knows I’m here to play ball and to help this team.” His teammates are well aware of that now. With senior linebacker T.J. Brunson nursing a knee injury in spring practice, Jones took over the all-important Mike (middle linebacker) position and never looked back. With Brunson moving back to Will (weak-side), Jones has excelled as the play-caller of the defense. Through five games, he was South Carolina’s most consistent player on defense, leading the Gamecocks with 38 tackles, including two for loss, with an interception and two pass breakups. His biggest play came against Kentucky, when he dropped into pass coverage, raced to the sideline and intercepted a pass intended for running back Asim Rose. The play demonstrated the intelligence and instincts coaches have raved about since spring practice. “That was a good play on his part,” Muschamp said. “He did a nice job of not coming out of coverage and the quarterback thought he could throw it over his head and he made a nice play on the ball.” The Mike linebacker is one of the most important positions on defense because he has to read the offensive alignment, relay signals from coaches and make sure the defense is lined up correctly. South Carolina struggled with communication on defense last year but things have been much smoother this season with Brunson and Jones both on the field and Jones making the calls. It’s a big responsibility for a first-year starter. “We put a lot on Ernest,” Muschamp said. “When you are the Mike linebacker, with what we do, you make a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage. He’s doing a nice job. He’s a calming factor for our front guys of getting them aligned and getting them in the right spots. Ernest continues to handle that role very well and has continued to play well.” Jones relishes the responsibility. “My responsibility is to make sure everything is right. When somehting goes wrong, it falls back on me, whether I’m near the play or not near the play, I take responsibility. That comes with the territory,” he said. “You have to love playing the Mike here. Everything is on you, and I love that.”


Rico and Tavien When Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster arrived on campus, many believed he might take over as South Carolina’s lead running back. The coaches had a different plan in mind. They envisioned Feaster pushing and motivating three-year starter Rico Dowdle, giving the Gamecocks a potent 1-2 punch. That’s exactly what transpired in the first five games, with Dowdle and Feaster both running effectively and combining for 660 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Dowdle started the season running the ball better than he has since his freshman season. After five games, he had 370 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a careerhigh 6.6 yards per carry. He had two 100-yard games, giving him eight for his career. Feaster, meanwhile, provided a nice compliment, rushing for 290 yards and three touchdowns with a 5.8-yard average. He had 107 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky as both backs topped 100 yards, the first time that had happened in an SEC game since 2001. Dowdle, who had battled injuries the past two years, says Feaster has pushed him to stay healthy and be better in his senior season. “He motivates me and pushes me and I push him, and I think it’s working out pretty good,” Dowdle said. “… I think we have a chance to be a really good backfield." “I think we play off each other a lot,” Feaster said. “Everybody wants to start and everybody wants to be the guy, but if we keep pushing each other we can push each other beyond the limitations we think we have.” The Gamecocks rushed for 135 yards against No. 2 Alabama Sept. 14, with Dowdle leading the way with 102 yards. The following week, things got difficult as South Carolina managed only 16 yards rushing in a 34-14 loss at Missouri. Dowdle and Feaster got only 14 carries combined as the Gamecocks struggled offensively. They rebounded in a big way against Kentucky, combining for 209 yards and three touchdowns as South Carolina gained 247 yards on the ground and totalled 387 in the win. After a slow start, Feaster erupted against Kentucky, scoring the Gamecocks’ first touchdown and then putting the game away with a powerful 19-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. In the first five games, he showed patience and perserverance while sharing the workload with Dowdle and waiting for his opportunity. “Hard work and dedication will take you far,” said Feaster, who shared carries with All-American Travis Etienne for three years at Clemson. “Keep pushing and if the results aren’t immediate, just keep pushing, keep fighting and keep working.” Dowdle said the duo will continue producing, helping South Carolina reach one of its biggest goals in establishing a strong running game. “Coach tell us, once your running backs get going and you can run the ball, it opens up the offense,” he said. “I definitley think we are starting to find our identity.”

October 2019


October 2019


Boom! Punter Joseph Charlton turning heads as South Carolina’s secret weapon By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Jenny Dilworth


econds earlier South Carolina had creased Missouri for nine yards on a pass from Ryan Hilinski to Chavis Dawkins. But backed up on their own 12-yard line, just three minutes into the game, the Gamecocks were in no place to try for a fourth-down conversion. So Will Muschamp brought on his not-so-secret weapon: Joseph Charlton. The punter boomed a kick 63 yards down field — his longest punt of the season to that point — to the Missouri 25-yard line. “Joe Charlton, I feel, is as good a punter as there is in the country,” Muschamp said before the season. He has been. Charlton had a 49.8-yard punting average entering South Carolina’s game against Georgia, good for second in the country 16 FOOTBALL • JOSEPH CHARLTON

and second in the SEC behind Kentucky’s Max Duffy (51.2). The senior had a 51.2-yard average on nine punts against the Wildcats in a game Duffy averaged 51.1 yards on nine punts. Charlton also crushed a season-long 65-yarder, had four punts over 50 yards and landed what was then a season-high five punts inside the 20-yard line. Due mainly to Charlton, Kentucky’s average starting field position was its own 23-yard line. For the performance Charlton was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. “I just do my job,” the punter said days before the game. “I just go out there and ball.” Entering the team’s game at Georgia, Charlton — who was named to the preseason Ray Guy Award watch list — had a yardsper-punt average that was exactly

five yards more than he finished with in 2018 when he set the school record. Those numbers led to fans on social media calling him the team’s best player and have many believing he has a realistic chance to punt in the NFL. An average 3.9 punters have been chosen in the past 10 NFL Drafts, a number that makes it likely Charlton will get a chance, at least as an undrafted free agent. “I hope so,” he said. “I’m kinda just focusing on the team right now and see where it takes me.” That focus has paid off. The 6-5, 193-pounder from Columbia’s A.C. Flora High School has been sensational this season after he was named to the All-SEC second team last season. “He’s one of my favorite guys on the team. Just a great

personality. Loves fishing, loves hanging out, just a really good guy and an outstanding punter, as good as I’ve ever been around,” Muschamp said in late September. Before the Missouri game, Muschamp shared more about his punter’s personality. “When we first got here, he wasn’t the most charming individual in the world,” the coach said, later mentioning that Charlton may not have bought into the new coaching staff’s way of doing things. “You can ask him, and he’ll agree. “[Now] he’s one of my favorite players on the team. He’s a guy that’s always quick-witted. He and I have a good time at practice when we’re in punt period together. … He works his butt off at his trade. … He could be our kickoff guy. He can kick it into the stands. We just don’t want to put that much pressure on his leg.” Dawkins, who roomed with Charlton the punter’s freshman year, and sixth-year senior Donell Stanley, Charlton’s fishing buddy, loving hanging out with Charlton. “[Living with Joseph] was pretty fun,” Dawkins said. “He wasn’t really there in the room. He was always with girls and stuff. Don’t tell him I said that. “He was a joker around the room when he was there. He’s a good dude to be around.” Stanley’s first memory of Charlton comes from when the punter drove by in his green truck and asked the center if he wanted to go fishing. “He’s a guy of few words,” Stanley said. “But he’s a punter, so you don’t really have to talk on the field.” But Charlton — who often arrives at games wearing a sleek dark blue suit with no tie and black-tinted sunglasses, making him look more spy than punter — doesn’t have to be the most vocal player on the team. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. “He’s a great competitor,” Muschamp said. “He really competes hard at punting and improving himself. He works really hard at his craft. “He’s got a tremendous future.”

October 2019


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October 2019



Hedge fun Gamecocks celebrate biggest win of Muschamp era By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth


THENS, Ga. — When Rodrigo Blankenship’s kick sailed wide, South Carolina players stormed the field at Sanford Stadium, running wildly to the West end zone, where they celebrated with jubilant Gamecock fans and grabbed handfuls of the famous Athens hedges as souvenirs. Will Muschamp, meanwhile, rushed onto the field where he once played, hugging his players and anyone he could find. Moments before being congratulated by Athletics Director Ray Tanner and University President Bob Caslen, he told SEC Network, “It’s a helluva day to be a Gamecock. Isn’t it awesome?” The scene after South Carolina’s thrilling upset over No. 3 Georgia was so wild most players were at a loss for words to describe it. 18


“It was lit,” defensive lineman Kobe Smith said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something like that, the No. 3 team in the country,” senior running back Rico Dowdle said. “I think I hugged everybody,” senior linebacker T.J. Brunson said. Javon Kinlaw, who had a sack and wreaked havoc on Georgia’s vaunted offensive line, said it was the second-best feeling he’s had this year, after the birth of his daughter six months ago. “It was a great feeling. I’ve never felt that before,” he said. Dakereon Joyner, who took over the offense after starter Ryan Hilinski went down with a knee injury, said the Gamecocks were “truly blessed.”

“It brings tears to my eyes, not just me but my teammates as well,” he said. The win, which came on Parker White’s field goal in double overtime, was the biggest of the Muschamp era and the first win over a top-five team since 2013. “It’s huuuge,” Smith said. “This was our signature win.” It wasn’t pretty. Nor easy. The Gamecocks managed only 297 yards of total offense. The only highlight offensively was Hilinski’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards in the first quarter. White missed two field goals that could have won it, one at the end of regulation and another in the first overtime. But the defense was dominant. Though Georgia had 468 yards, South Carolina forced four turnovers, including three

October 2019

NUMBERS THAT MATTER The win was the second double-overtime victory in school history. South Carolina beat Missouri 27-24 in two overtimes in 2013. The win over No. 3 Georgia was South Carolina’s first win over a top-five team since it beat No. 5 Missouri in 2013. It also beat No. 5 Georgia in 2012. DT Javon Kinlaw had his fifth sack of the season, one of three in the game for South Carolina. The South Carolina defense came up with four turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble recovery. LB T.J. Brunson had his fourth career fumble recovery.

P L AY E R O F T H E G A M E Israel Mukuamu

WR Bryan Edwards caught a pass for the 44th consecutive game, passing Kenny McKinley for the school record. Edwards also had a 46-yard touchdown reception, the 20th of his career. interceptions by defensive back Israel Mukuamu. He returned the first one 53 yards for a touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 17-10 halftime lead. “He was fantastic,” Muschamp said. The defense had three sacks and pressured Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm all day, repeatedly turning away a Bulldog offense that entered the game averaging 43 points a game. “We made a statement,” said defensive end D.J. Wonnum, who had a sack and a blocked a kick. “We were slept on, but we put in the work on the field and we showed up.” It was not only a monumental victory for Muschamp’s program, but might have been a turning point in a season that got off to a disappointing 2-3 start.

October 2019

Mukuamu had a career-high three interceptions, the first South Carolina player with three picks since Patrick Hinton in 1988. Mukuamu returned the first interception 53 yards for a touchdown. He also had key interceptions in the fourth quarter and the first overtime. He also had 11 tackles to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week and FBS national Defensive Player of the Week. “He was fantastic,” head coach Will Muschamp said.

“It says a lot about the type of young men you are recruiting, it says a lot about the character and a lot about belief,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes the results don’t always equal where you are and I always try to tell the players, it’s not about the distance, it’s about the direction you are headed. I always felt like we were headed down the right path and we had the right people in the building to be successful.” It was only Muschamp’s second win against a ranked team at South Carolina and the program’s first victory over a top10 team since 2014. Muschamp downplayed the significance for him, saying “it’s never about me.” But his players knew what it meant for their head coach and the future of the program.

“We did it for Champ,” Kinlaw said. "Having so much backlash and so much going on, it felt good to get him that one." “I feel so good for him,” Edwards said. “We’ve been fighting to get that big win for a while now.” “It’s been a long time coming,” said Brunson, Muschamp’s first South Carolina recruit. “Coaches talk about making memories all the time and just enjoying the process. This is something that you won’t ever forget. It’s huge for us.”



October 2019


October 2019



Losers No More Gamecocks snap ugly streak with dominating win over Kentucky By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Travis Bell


ill Muschamp peered over the top of the reading glasses perched on the end of his nose and chuckled at the question in his postgame press conference. What was up with his new studious look? “You know what, I’m getting old,” he laughed. “I can’t read anymore, especially at night.” Then he got down to brass tacks. “It’s been a sh---- fall,” Muschamp quipped. “I’ve got more gray hair than I’ve ever had. My wife doesn’t like hanging around losers and I’ve been losing. It ain’t been good.” That pretty much summed up South Carolina’s miserable 1-3 start, which featured disappointing losses to North Carolina and Missouri sandwiched around a 24-point loss to No. 2 Alabama. The only highlight was a 72-10 win over FCS school Charleston Southern. After losing six straight games to Power-5 opponents, Muschamp 22 FOOTBALL • KENTUCKY RECAP

and the Gamecocks desperately needed a win and an encouraging performance. After a dominating 24-7 win over Kentucky relieved a bit of pressure, Muschamp could finally relax and laugh a little. “That was a commanding win, and that’s what we needed,” he said. A week after an ugly 20-point loss at Missouri, the Gamecocks delivered a beatdown to a Kentucky team that had won five straight games against South Carolina. They had 387 yards of total offense, including 247 rushing. And they thoroughly dominated on defense, holding Kentucky to 212 yards, the fewest surrendered by South Carolina under Muschamp. Kentucky had just nine first downs, the fewest Carolina had allowed since 2013, and the Wildcats didn’t score until 2:32 remaining in the game. “We showed up to play tonight. Going out and dominating like that was a great feeling,” said senior defensive end D.J. Wonnum,

who had three of South Carolina’s four sacks. While the defense had shown progress against Missouri, the offense was reeling after its worst performance of the season. With freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski battling a sore elbow and coming off a humbling experience in his first SEC road game, the Gamecocks were determined to establish the run against Kentucky. They did, with Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle both rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring all three touchdowns. Feaster had 107 yards on 15 carries and two scores, including a punishing 19yard TD run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Dowdle had 102 yards on 15 carries, including a nifty 30-yard touchdown run to give Carolina a 17-0 lead early in the third quarter. “We went out there and imposed our will and made it happen,” Feaster said. “They did to us what we did to them last time we were here. They

controlled the game,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “Their backs were against the wall, and they came in here and played a very good game, very tough, very physical.” Aside from the rout of Charleston Southern, the win was South Carolina’s most complete game of the season, an encouraging sign heading into the second half of a brutal schedule. “This team has been very inconsistent. We haven’t complimented each other at times offensively, defensively and on special teams. That is very frustrating,” Muschamp said.  “But we will get it corrected and we are going to work our asses off to get it done.” More than anything, the much-needed win gave his players a big boost of confidence. They even liked their coach’s new look. “It made him look experienced,” senior center Donell Stanley said. “Like he knows what he’s doing.”

October 2019

NUMBERS THAT MATTER Kentucky’s winning streak against South Carolina, which was smashed with Carolina’s 24-7 win. Kentucky had won the last five games in the series and now trails the Gamecocks 18-12-1. South Carolina is 9-5-1 against the Wildcats in Columbia.

Rico Dowdle moved into 16th on the all-time rushing list with 2,039 yards. He became the 17th rusher in program history to top 2,000 yards.

Joseph Charlton had a career-high nine punts, including a season-high 65-yarder. He averaged 51.2 yards per kick and pinned five of them inside the 20-yard line. He increased his program-record punting average to 45.2.


The senior defensive end had three sacks, the first three-sack game of his career. He was the first player to collect three sacks in one game since Darius English in 2016. Wonnum also forced a fumble and had a quarterback hurry.

LB Ernest Jones had his first career interception. Freshman LB Jahmar Brown had his first career forced fumble and first tackle for loss.

Dowdle and Tavien Feaster both rushed for more than 100 yards, the second time this season two backs topped 100 yards in the same game (Mon Denson and Kevin Harris vs. Charleston Southern). It was the first time two Gamecocks rushed for more than 100 yards in an SEC game since Andrew Pinnock and Derek Watson did it against Vanderbilt in 2001. It was Dowdle’s eighth career 100-yard game and Feaster’s third, his first with South Carolina.

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October 2019



Missouri Mayhem Bizarre plays, costly mistakes hinder Gamecocks in road loss By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by SC Athletics


OLUMBIA, Mo. — South Carolina should have known its game against Missouri would not be a normal contest that goes according to script. It never is when the two teams from Columbia get together. Almost every time the Gamecocks meet the Tigers from Columbia, Mo., something weird happens. From Connor Shaw’s double-overtime win in 2013 to Deebo Samuel’s momentum-changing kickoff return in 2017 to Michael Scarnecchia’s game-winning drive in a game played in a driving rain in 2018, the series often turns on bizarre circumstances or strange plays. “There have been some unusual games,” head coach Will Muschamp said prior to the game. It happened again in 2019, and this time things did not go South Carolina’s way. The Gamecocks lost 34-14 in a game decided largely on two unprecedented plays. In the first quarter, Missouri took a 7-0 lead when linebacker Cale Garrett recovered a fumble in the end zone. But was it really a fumble? South Carolina had the ball at its own 10-yard line when quarterback Ryan Hilin26 FOOTBALL • MISSOURI RECAP

ski dropped back to pass. When Hilinski’s pass was deflected back to him, he appeared to bat it down, which would have been an incomplete pass. But upon review, officials ruled that Hilinski had caught the ball and thrown a backward pass, which was therefore a fumble. The costly turnover put the Gamecocks in a hole early. The bizarre play had Hilinski and Muschamp shaking their heads. Asked if he had ever seen that kind of play or call, Muschamp said, “No, I have not.” In the third quarter, disaster struck again for the Gamecocks. Trailing 24-14, Hilinski put together an impressive 72-yard drive to the Missouri 3-yard line. But on third down, his pass into the end zone was intercepted by defensive back Ronnell Perkins, who returned it a school-record 100 yards for a touchdown. “We gave up 14 points and your defense isn’t even on the field. It’s hard to win on the road when your offense gives up 14 points,” Muschamp said. The two plays were part of a miserable day for the South Carolina offense, which had just 30 total yards in the first half and

finished the game with only 271. The Gamecocks managed only 16 yards rushing, their lowest total since 2003. They were 3-of-16 on third down and Missouri dominated time of possession 37:50 to 22:10. “Field position was horrible, we couldn’t get anything going in the run game to take pressue off Ryan. … We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Muschamp said. After two strong starts, Hilinski struggled at Missouri. Battling a sore elbow that kept him out of practice for part of the week, he completed just 13 of 30 passes for 166 yards. He was sacked four times and under pressure all day. The lone highlight was a 75-yard touchdown pass on a spectacular catch-and-run by Bryan Edwards to start the second half. South Carolina even had an unusual play of its own when defensive end D.J. Wonnum intercepted a short Kelly Bryant pass and returned it to the Missouri 1-yard line, where Rico Dowdle scored the Gamecocks’ first touchdown. It was not enough, however, in another bizarre game in what has developed into a strange series between the two teams.

October 2019

DE Aaron Sterling forced his first career fumble and DE D.J. Wonnum had his first career interception.

Bryan Edwards caught a pass for the 42nd consecutive game. Edwards had six receptions for 113 yards to pass Alshon Jeffery on the all-time list with 184 career catches. Edwards had a 75-yard touchdown reception, matching a career-long and moving into third on the all-time list for receiving yards RB Rico Dowdle with 2,540 yards. He scored his 18th career moved into a tie for touchdown and third in touchdown 15th career rushing receptions with 19. touchdown with a 1-yard run.

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Charlton had one of the best days of his career at Missouri, booming eight punts for an average of 53.4 yards per kick, including a 63-yarder. He also had three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

October 2019

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South Carolina and Missouri are now tied 5-5 in the series, which includes two bowl victories by Missouri. SC leads the series 5-3 in SEC play.

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What might have been South Carolina had plenty to be proud of against No. 2 Crimson Tide By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe & Jenny Dilworth


t was not the miracle or result they hoped for, but the Gamecocks had a lot to be proud of and encouraged by following their 47-23 loss to Alabama. Though Alabama and All-American quarterback Tua Tagovailoa overwhelmed South Carolina with 444 yards passing and 571 yards of total offense, the Gamecocks took several positives from the loss to the No. 2 Crimson Tide. • They compiled 459 yards of total offense against one of the best defenses in the country. • Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski had a second straight strong game, completing 36 of 57 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. • South Carolina held Alabama to just 76 yards rushing, the first time since 2014 any team had held the Tide to less than 100 yards on the ground. • The Gamecocks were more aggressive in their playing-calling, attempting a fake


field goal, a fake punt and going 2-for-4 on fourth down. It was all part of an effort to upset a team that has won five national championships under Nick Saban, Will Muschamp’s mentor and former boss. “I felt like we needed to steal some possessions in the game to stay on the field offensivley because of their offense,” Muschamp said of the gambles on offense and special teams. “They are a completely different animal that you face.” Had they gotten some breaks or converted on some big plays, the Gamecocks could have tied the game and produced a different outcome in a game that was closer than the final score indicates. They had a touchdown called back due to a holding penalty on the fake field-goal attempt. Another touchdown was wiped out when Rico Dowdle was ruled down at the 1-yard line on a controversial play at the end of the first half. And they scored just one touchdown on three trips inside the red zone.

“We squandered some opportunities,” Muschamp said. “When you get in the red zone against that team you have to score touchdowns.” Hilinski was particulary impressive. In just his second career start, he threw the second-most passes in school history and had the third-most completions. He threw a 31-yard touchdown to Shi Smith in the first half and an 11-yarder to tight end Kyle Markway in the fourth quarter. “From the standpoint of taking some shots in the pocket against some really good players, going against a really good secondary … he hung in there and did a nice job,” Muschamp said. “I was really proud of his effort.” Instead of getting blown out or humiliated, South Carolina walked away from the game lamenting what might have been. “We left some plays on the field,” Muschamp said. “I thought we made some nice drives [but] we didn’t get what we wanted, which was to win the game.”

October 2019

NUMBERS THAT MATTER WR Shi Smith scored his first touchdown of the season, while S R.J. Roderick had his first sack and DB John Dixon had his first tackle for loss. LB Ernest Jones led the Gamecocks with nine tackles, including his first two tackles for loss. RB Rico Dowdle rushed for 102 yards, the seventh 100-yard game of his career, the 12thmost in program history.

South Carolina held Alabama to 76 yards rushing, the first time an opponent had held Alabama under 100 yards rushing since 2014.

QB Ryan Hilinski threw 57 passes in the game, the second-most in program history. His 36 completions were the third-most.

P L AY E R O F T H E G A M E Shi Smith

Smith had six receptions for 90 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown for his first score of the season. Smith caught a pass in the end zone between two defenders for South Carolina’s first touchdown of the game.

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Fast And Furious Frank Martin excited about his deepest, most athletic Gamecock team By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photo by Jenny Dilworth


outh Carolina has the most athletic team it has had during the Frank Martin era and has potential to be the quickest and most up-tempo. The Gamecock head coach, entering his eighth season at the helm of the program, said so himself as training camp began in early October. “There’s an unbelievable competition to get on the floor, so everyone’s got their pedal to the metal,” Martin said. “And we’re older, so we’ve got guys who understand what we’re doing and they’re playing more aggressively. “… The athleticism on this team, it’s unique to any team I’ve been around in college basketball. I’ve had teams that are deep. I’ve had teams that are fast. I don’t know if I’ve had as many athletic players on one team as we have right now.” The Gamecocks feature returners A.J. Lawson, Keyshawn Bryant, Alanzo Frink, Justin Minaya, Maik Kotsar and T.J. Moss as well as newcomers — in terms of game action — Jair Bolden, Micaiah Henry, Jermaine Couisnard, Trae Hannibal, Wildens Leveque and Jalyn McCreary. “I think we’ve got a lot of great pieces,” Minaya said. “ … We’ve got a bunch of guys who are just dogs. … I don’t know, were we the fastest team in the SEC last year? Close to it? We’ve still got the same type of guys, so it’s going to be exciting.” “Last year we were down to seven guys. They could have done backflips as they dribbled and I couldn’t take them out,” Martin joked. “But they didn’t. They 34 BASKETBALL • TRAINING CAMP

handled it like champs. … This year we’ve got a bunch of guys.” Martin has been impressed by the group’s work ethic. Led by strength and conditioning coach Scott Greenwalt, the team had an encouraging offseason. “It’s by far the most productive summer we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Martin said. “Our roster was in place. The camaraderie amongst our players, because the majority of them were on the team last year, there’s a respect and a unity there to help the first-year guys. “But they did it in the weight room. The work ethic of this team is really good. There’s an enthusiasm for work with this team. … They push each other. They’re competitive.” Martin added that it’s the first time in a while he has had a “pretty good feel” for every player on his roster heading into preseason practices. “I’ve been excited about this team since last year,” he said. “I saw the possibilities, because we had a bunch of these guys in practice, even though they didn’t play in games last year. … This might have been the first summer where our roster was intact, and I wasn’t running around trying to recruit somebody.” On the topic of athleticism, the coach pointed specifically to how impressed he has been with the team’s interior defense. “There are some [basketballs] getting beat up when people go to the rim,” Martin said. “We haven’t had that around here. We’ve been a one-man blocking crew with Chris Silva. … [Now] we’ve got guards

blocking shots. We’ve got bigs playing over the rim. “… There’s a competitive fight at the rim every play this year that we haven’t had since I’ve been here. … Chris [Silva] had it, but no one

else has had it. [Michael] Carrera had it. … Now we’ve got guys who are 240 pounds who are playing with physicality. It’s fun.” “We’re playing really aggressive and really good and I feel like the team chemistry is there,” said Kotsar, who just two days into practice lost count of how many blocks he had. “ … Even when it’s a simple two-on-two or three-onthree drill, everyone’s competing their hardest. Everyone has gotten blocked at least once. It’s a block party.” The Gamecocks begin its regular season on Nov. 6 with a game against North Alabama. Said Martin, “I’m revved up and ready to go.” Keyshawn Bryant

October 2019

TRACK & FIELD Wadeline Jonathas breaks NCAA record, wins gold at world championships By Josh Hyber | Staff writer Photo by Allen Sharpe

Curtis Frye said while shaking his head. “In the 400 meters, it takes a committed athlete to run that fast.” The records capped a banner year for Jonathas, who won the NCAA national championship in the 400m in June and was on South Carolina’s 4x400 relay national championship team last fall. During the world championships, as she has all year, she continued to make strides. She posted two personal records during her three races. “To exceed that twice, it’s extraordinary,” Frye said. “We go

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many years back with athletes who were phenomenal. Nobody has done what she’s done on this kind of level.” Said Delethea Quarles, South Carolina’s assistant head coach and an assistant for the U.S. program, “She’s very, very focused. I’ve been on several teams [with her], and she did not let the stage intimidate her. “She’s very special.” Added fellow Gamecock Aliyah Abrams, who finished 12th in the 400m competing for Guyana, “She did amazing. I’m so proud of her. She did great.”


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adeline Jonathas made history Oct. 3 when she broke both the South Carolina and all-time collegiate record in the 400m. At the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, the Gamecock senior finished fourth with a time of 49.60 while also winning a gold medal in the 4x400m relay. “I haven’t wrapped by head around it yet,” Jonathas said days after the competition. “It’s a result, and it’s a good result. I’m very excited about that. … I really think it’s a blessing. It was a performance that deserved me to be proud of it. “It was a lifetime experience.” “As I go into my 24th year here at Carolina, to have this kind of athlete … , ” Gamecock head coach

Jonathas’ 49.60 broke the record time (49.71) set by Courtney Okolo of Texas in 2016. In 2019, Jonathas’ outdoor 400m time dropped from just over 52 seconds to the all-time record. The previous fastest time in program history was held by Natasha Hastings (49.84). Jonathas, who made her first USA team this year, was seeded sixth in the world in the 400m entering the meet. She won gold by running the final leg of the 4x400m relay with teammates Phyllis Francis, Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad. “I had a pretty great lead. There were a lot of amazing 400 runners on the team, and I’m just blessed and glad to have been one of the ones they chose to run on that team,” Jonathas said. Said Quarles, “To bring back a gold medal and to have athletes that are fourth and twelfth in the world, it’s just an incredible feeling. It’s an exciting time for us.”




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A Perfect Fit Grad transfers, elite recruiting class has Kingston optimistic for 2020 By Jeff Owens | Executive Editor • Photos by Allen Sharpe


ooking to bounce back from a disappointing 28-28 season, Mark Kingston looked at every avenue possible for new players to help rejuvenate his program. That included checking the new, infamous transfer portal. “Obviously when you are in our situation and you are working on getting where you want to be, finding good players is always a premium. It is always on your mind,” he said. Kingston and his staff checked the transfer portal frequently, sifting through more than a thousand 38 BASEBALL • FALL SEASON

players, looking for one or two they believed could make an immediate impact. With spots open on the roster and an immediate need for offense, they quickly identified two grad transfers they believed could help right away. Dallas Beaver, a catcher and infielder from Central Florida, hit .316 last year with 12 home runs and 56 RBI. Bryant Bowen, another catcher and infielder from Southern Miss, hit .341 with 11 home runs and 51 RBI. To Kingston, they seemed like perfect fits.

“Those are two names we were very familiar with and as soon as they did become available through that transfer portal, we got to work researching them, seeing if they would be a fit for us,” he said. “It turned out they were so we worked really hard on trying to sell them on our program and they both made the decision that this is where they wanted their last year of college baseball to be. “I think those guys will both have a pretty significant impact on our lineup.” Beaver and Bowen are two of 17 new players in a recruiting class that Collegiate Baseball ranked No. 3 in the nation. Their mission is to help power an offense that hit just .236 as a team last year as South Carolina had its first non-winning season in 23 years. They both proved right away that they can boost the South Carolina offense, each hitting home runs in the first fall scrimmage. They both hit well during the fall season and are projected to hit at the top or middle of the lineup.

“They are both guys who are proven. To me that’s what was the most important thing, they have proven at this level that they can get it done,” Kingston said. After finishing near the bottom of the SEC in most offensive categories last year, Kingston and his staff refined their offseason approach during the fall, focusing less on power and more on getting on base and moving runners. The Gamecocks were fourth in the SEC last year with 75 home runs, but struggled to score and hit just .208 in league play. Kingston believes this year’s team will be more consistent at the plate and be able to manufacture runs, using what he calls an “oldschool” approach. “I think we have guys who are hit first, power second. You look at last year’s team and it was a lot of guys who were power first and hit second, and they could be pitched to and we would struggle sometimes,” he said. “When we were able to use our power and hit home runs, we won. When we didn’t hit home runs, then we were a lot easier to pitch to and it was harder for us to score runs.” After South Carolina’s seventh fall scrimmage, which featured 10 runs on 16 hits, Kingston liked the progress of his hitters. “We’ve got veteran hitters who have been through the wars,” he said. “I just feel like we take more professional at-bats, we’re tougher outs. If we get to two strikes, I think so far we are seeing the kind of offense that can do some things.” Beaver and Bowen likely will hit in the middle of the order with outfielder Andrew Eyster, who led the Gamecocks last year with a .309 average while hitting 10 home runs and driving in 32. The two grad transfers also give Kingston plenty of position flexibility on a team that is expected to be much deeper than last year. South Carolina returns four starters and has 10 new position players competing for a spot in the lineup. Beaver and Bowen can both catch or play the two corner infield spots, while Bowen has also played some outfield. They both will likley get some time at first base along with sophomore Wes Clarke, who came on strong late last season and had a big summer. Kingston says

October 2019

Clarke “is going to be big part of the puzzle for us as well.” Junior Noah Campbell returns at second base but hit just .239 last year and could be pushed at second by junior-college transfer Jeff Heinrich, who missed the fall season after having shoulder surgery. Three players were battling at shortstop, including incumbent George Callil, who emerged as one of the best defensive shortstops in the country last year. Freshman Braylen Wimmer has shown promise, while junior-college transfer Shane Shifflett has shown some pop with the bat. Highly recruited freshman Brennan Milone, who was drafted by the Dodgers, is expected to start at third and has looked good at the plate and in the field during fall competition. Kingston calls Milone a mature player who “has all the makings of a guy who should be able to play right away.” The outfield likely will feature Eyster and Brady Allen, who looked better in the fall after hitting just .210 as a freshman. The center fielder (and likley leadoff hitter) will be junior-college transfer Noah Myers, who stole 77 bases last year and also has some pop. Anthony Amicangelo, another junior-college transfer, and Bowen are also in the outfield mix.

The deepest position on the team is catcher, where MLB Draft pick Luke Berryhill caught all but one game last year. Beaver, the likely starter, and Bowen could be pushed by talented freshmen Colin Burgess and Jax Cash. Burgess shined defensively in the fall and impressed Kingston, who called him “a ballplayer” who is “going to be a factor.” Cash was not able to throw during the fall due to an arm injury but showed some pop with the bat, going 3-for-3 with four RBI in one scrimmage. Clarke can also catch. “We’ve got some good options there. Whoever is the best man will win the job,” Kingston said.

Arms Race Kingston is also optimistic about a much deeper pitching staff than last year’s group, which suffered some key injuries and was last in the SEC with a 5.51 team ERA. The staff includes seven new hurlers, including three highlyregarded junior-college transfers, and 11 returners from last season, including ace Brett Kerry. The Gamecocks also get a big boost from the return of weekend starter Carmen Mlodzinski, who made just three starts last year before missing

the rest of the season with a broken foot, and senior reliever Graham Lawson, who returns from Tommy John surgery. “That’s two pretty good bookends to start the rebuild of that pitching staff,” Kingston said. “I’m very excited about that group. I think it should be a significant upgrade.” Mlodzinski was impressive last summer in the elite Cape Cod League and Kingston says he’s a potential first-round draft pick next summer. “He’s a bigger, stronger guy physically. He’s a more confident guy mentally. His pitches have all taken an uptick in terms of velocity and command and sharpness of the breaking ball,” he said. “He’s really developing and he’s what you want a guy to look like by his junior year, in his draft year. That’s a real nice piece to put back into your rotation.” Mlodzinski is expected to be joined in the weekend rotation by Kerry, who was dominant out of the bullpen last year, going 4-1 with a 2.62 ERA with seven saves. Kerry made just two starts, but shut down No. 3 Mississippi State on the last day of the regular season to earn South Carolina a spot in the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks return seven other pitchers who made starts last

year, including Cam Tringali, TJ Shook, Wesley Sweatt, Daniel Lloyd, Dylan Harley and John Gilreath. Tringali, Shook and Gilreath had good summers and looked solid in the fall, while Lloyd increased his velocity to 94 mph and was one of South Carolina’s most impressive pitchers in fall scrimmages. The group will be boosted by three junior-college pitchers in Andrew Peters, Thomas Farr and Brannon Jordan, who could contend for rotation spots or be key pieces in the bullpen. The staff also includes four freshmen who could contribute. Kingston says Brett Thomas, a 6-5 right-hander, has an “electric” fastball and the best breaking ball on the team. With the return of Lawson as the potential closer, there also should be plenty of options at the back end of the bullpen. “I think you are going to see a lot of guys fighting for time. Innings are going to be hard to get,” he said. “There are a lot of guys here with a lot of great stuff. Now it’s a matter of who can get it done when the lights turn on.”

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Shark attack Elexa Bahr becoming a dangerous threat again for South Carolina By Josh Hyber | Staff writer • Photos by Allen Sharpe


hirty-four minutes into South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament opening-round victory over UNC Greensboro last season, Elexa Bahr beat a defender on the right side of the 18-yard box and, with her non-dominant left foot, sent a shot into the bottom left corner of the net. It was vintage Bahr — a goal created with speed, creativity and ferocity. But it was more than just a goal. One of South Carolina’s leading offensive threats, who was second of the team in points 40 WOMEN'S SOCCER • ELEXA BAHR

as a sophomore in 2017, Bahr hadn’t scored a goal in the team’s previous 11 games. Exuberant, the energized forward wrapped herself in a bearhug with teammate Sutton Jones. “I’m me again,” Bahr thought to herself. Bahr has continued to be herself this season and was a catalyst behind South Carolina’s 10-1 start. Now a senior, she led the Gamecocks in points (13), assists (five) and shared the team lead in goals (four) with Lauren Chang through the first 11 games.

“She has been our most consistent and dangerous attacker,” Gamecock head coach Shelley Smith said in early October. “We’ve kept her on the field quite a bit just because she’s been versatile up top. … She’s produced. When she’s in the game she’s set up other players and run off the ball well. She’s also done work to set the press for us. “As a senior she’s using the experiences she’s had to be able to lead up there.” In just the first three games of the season Bahr equaled her goal

total (three) and eclipsed her point total (seven) from last season. The production has been a welcomed rejuvenation for the Buford, Ga. product. Bahr started all 23 of South Carolina’s games during its 2017 Final Four season alongside program legend Savannah McCaskill and tied for first on the team with eight goals. That includes four game-winners, three of which came against ranked opponents. She scored a goal in the 80th minute against No. 17 Florida that secured South Carolina’s SEC regular-season title and scored the decisive goal in the team’s 1-0 victory over No. 4 Clemson. But those numbers were absent in 2018. Bahr strained a muscle in her right foot the summer before the season — an injury that took a month and a half to recover. She made just 13 starts in the 19 matches she appeared and finished the season with just seven points (three goals, one assist). As the streak of games without a point spiraled, Bahr admits she got a bit down on herself and wondered if she’d ever be the same. “It was very frustrating, and I think missing a couple of games and not playing as much as I wanted to [all factored in]. And coming back from an injury, it’s hard on anybody,” she said. “I think what also really got me is that, ‘Ah, this is my junior year, I need to do good too because I did good last year.’ I think I didn’t trust the process as much as I needed to.” Smith mentioned those factors, as well as the obvious one that defenses keyed in on Bahr with McCaskill lost to graduation. Goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski said 2018 was “a little bit of a rebuilding” year and that, with an almost entirely new midfield, the team’s offense as a whole did not create as many chances as it did in 2017. But Bahr did not come to Columbia to be a non-factor. She came to be the best soccer player she could be. “How bad do I want it?” Bahr asked herself. “Am I willing to put in the effort to get healthy?” The answer to the second question was yes.

October 2019

Over the summer, Bahr played with the semipro team Peachtree MOBA FC in Atlanta, something she did after her freshman season that propelled the stellar sophomore campaign. It helped her stay fit and, because she played with some players she had never played with before, diversified her skillset. She also had time to fully recover from the foot injury and had a full preseason of training and working with her teammates. “She had a fitness about her that was better,” Smith said. “She was that much more explosive. And that allowed her to free herself from players. And her work rate, to get the ball back if she lost it or to make a great pass instead of a good pass, it’s those little things that were better. “That work is paying off. She’s seeing goals because of it.” Bahr calls it a “shark” mentality — something she learned from McCaskill. She wants to be a player opposing teams know they have to mark in the box. “It’s my senior year. Where do I want to go from here?” Bahr said. “Do I want to continue playing?

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And if I do, this is what I have to do. “I have to be a shark.” “Last year she had a solid start and that’s kind of when it went downhill,” Krzeczowski said. “But I don’t see that happening this year. She has continued to work hard.” South Carolina coaches have also moved Bahr from an outside wing position to striker in front of wings Ryan Gareis (who Bahr called “one of the fastest players in the SEC”) and Luciana Zullo (who Bahr called one of the team’s fastest players and someone who can break down defenders). “And I’m able to hold up the ball, link play, kind of be a playmaker,” Bahr said. “Everything’s falling into place for her,” Krzeczowski said. Both Krzeczowski, who has been Bahr’s roommate the past three years, and Smith mentioned Bahr’s dogged work ethic. “Her speed, her explosiveness and her strength overall, she’s not the biggest kid out there, but she’s as strong as anybody, in the weight room and on the field,” Smith said.

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“She’s not getting pushed off the ball. She’s exploding by players. “It’s hard to score goals and I think she’s showing she’s capable. Not everyone can do that.” “I’ve [still] got it,” Bahr said. “Of course it took me a long time to get back, but hey, that’s how it is sometimes.” In a 10-minute conversation with Spurs & Feathers in early October, Bahr kept coming back to the theme of how hungry she and the South Carolina team are. She said losing to Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season left a sour taste in the team’s mouth. “We have a lot of potential,” she said. “We have a lot of tricks up our sleeve, so never get too comfortable. With this team, and I guess you can say me too, we’re so much more driven than before. Some of us know what the Final Four feels like and we want to get past that. We already know what an SEC ring feels like. We want another one. “I want to finish with a bang. This is my senior year. Why not go to the Final Four again? Why not win a national championship?”

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How Gamecocks can salvage what has been a strange season By Bill Gunter | Contributing writer


n my 20 years following Gamecock football, I have seen some strange starts to a season. This one, however, ranks right up there. But there are goals that can still be accomplished and a path to what can still be a successful season. First off, if you predicted that by the end September the Gamecocks would be 2-3 and Ryan Hilinski would be the starting quarterback, I urge you to stop what you are doing and head to the nearest convenience store and buy a lottery ticket. The developments in those first five games are definitely not something I saw coming. The opening game was a surprise for so many different reasons and then to learn that Jake Bentley would be out for the season with an injury made it even more surreal. Like many Gamecock fans, I had chalked up a victory over North Carolina. Obviously, it did not go as expected and it was a stunning start to the season. The next two weeks basically went as I would have scripted — a

blowout win over Charleston Southern followed by a 24-point loss to Alabama that highlighted the differences between those two programs. But the Missouri game was another head-scratching performance that confused me even more. The Gamecocks had shown signs of life offensively but the offense went stagnant in Columbia, Mo. and the end result was a bad loss on the road. The final weekend of September featured a solid win over Kentucky and showed me the Gamecock team I was expecting, which leads me to what I am hoping to see moving forward. The game against the Wildcats showcased a dedicated running attack paired with an aggressive defense, both staples of a Will Muschamp team. It was the type of team I expected to see against North Carolina and Missouri, but the Gamecocks struggled to find their identity in those games. That cannot be the case as we move forward with very winnable games and a team that has the talent to

compete with just about every team remaining on the schedule. Running back Rico Dowdle is having an impressive senior season and Tavian Feaster has been a nice compliment who can make big plays at times. Hilinski is a capable quarterback that will be the face of the program moving forward but he still needs time to develop, and some of that comes with a capable running game. If the Gamecocks can combine that with the defensive effort that was on display against Kentucky, it is a recipe for success. This is still a talented football team with multiple players that will get a chance to showcase their talents in the NFL in the years to come. What was lacking was confidence that the victory over Kentucky hopefully provided. One area that needs to improve is the confidence to make big plays against good competition. That type of swagger gives good teams the sense that they will find a way to win with the game on the line.

The Gamecocks did not display that type of mentality against North Carolina or when they trailed on the road at Missouri. But with big games remaining against marquee opponents like Texas A&M and Clemson, the opportunity is there for a confidence-building win that can change the course of the program. It has been a strange season and it’s fair to say South Carolina has “underachieved.� But there is time to turn things around over the final two months and with the formula used against Kentucky, I think the Gamecocks may just have a few surprises up their sleeves.

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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October 2019

History shows where this year’s 2-3 start might lead By Ed Girardeau | Contributing writer


t the halfway point of the season, I went back and looked at the history of Gamecock football teams that started the season 2-3 to see how they finished. Surprisingly, there are not that many. But there’s enough to get an idea of where we’re going if history is any indication. The last time was 2016, Will Muschamp’s first year. That team finished with six wins and played in the Birmingham Bowl, losing in overtime to South Florida. On the way, Carolina beat No. 18 Tennessee in its biggest win of the year and Muschamp’s only victory over a ranked opponent entering this season. The previous year, 2015, was Steve Spurrier’s last and one of the more forgettable seasons in the history Gamecock sports. That team started 2-3 only to finish with just one more win and a 3-9 record. The teams from 1997, ‘96, ‘95 (they also had a tie), ‘93, ‘85, ‘81, ‘72, ‘55, ‘48, ‘45 (3 ties), ‘35, and 1923 (I figured that was far enough) all

started 2-3. The total wins in those seasons ranged from two to six. The best finish after a 2-3 start was 2005, Spurrier’s first year. That team finished with seven wins, beating No. 23 Tennessee in Knoxville and No. 12 Florida in Columbia before losing to Missouri in the Independence Bowl. Though the 2005 and 2016 teams provide a glimmer of hope, the average win total for all 15 seasons with a 2-3 start is 4.33, an ominous sign for the rest of the season. If South Carolina is going to win six games (much less seven), some ranked teams must fall. Winning five is no gimme. As of this writing, South Carolina was 2-3 heading to No. 3 Georgia and with a home game against No. 7 Florida up next. After that, the Gamecocks face Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Appalachian State, Texas A&M and No. 2 Clemson with three of the remaining games at home. That is a tough row to hoe. The 24-7 win over Kentucky was a good one. After losing five years in a row, which is still hard to write,

much less believe, getting that win in convincing fashion was an indication that this team is getting better and finding its identity. Head coach Jim Carlen used to say that if you run the ball and average three yards per carry, you’ll keep moving the chains. It may not be pretty and it’s not as exciting as throwing the ball around, but it’s effective. The coaching staff took the P out of RPO and just ran it down the Wildcats’ throats. Rico Dowdle, playing his best football of his career, and Tavian Feaster have shown signs of brilliance. Both had 15 rushes and exceeded 100 yards rushing against Kentucky. A winning formula is to get these guys that many touches each game. Throw in a few rushes from Ryan Hilinski on the option (to keep the defense honest) and get the ball in the hands of Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and Dakereon Joyner 10-15 times a game combined, some big plays will be the result. In the meantime, the defense showed signs of improvement. The

offense has to stay on the field and not let the defense wear down like it did against Missouri. The schedule offers an opportunity to create some memories that will last forever, like the 2005 team that beat a ranked Tennessee team in Knoxville for the first time in South Carolina history and upset Florida for only the fourth win against the Gators in school history. Reaching the high end of our range might be difficult, but history indicates that anything is possible. 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

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