South Carolina football: 5 areas where Gamecocks are better than Georgia
The home team has won five of the past six meetings in the South Carolina-Georgia series, including 2012 and 2014 in Columbia.
In fact, in 2014, Georgia was a 5.5-point favorite coming to South Carolina following a big win over Clemson. The 2012 meeting featured two top-6 teams, but the Gamecocks ran away with a 35-7 win over the Bulldogs, who later represented the SEC East in Atlanta. That game was also the last time South Carolina hosted a top-5 SEC opponent.
Some concerns for the Gamecocks, namely at linebacker and in the secondary, were answered in Week 1 with the return of Bryson Allen-Williams from a shoulder injury to have a solid game against Coastal Carolina. And the emergence of freshman starter Jaycee Horn at cornerback, one of the bigger surprises of the preseason, was encouraging.
Here are five areas where South Carolina is better than Georgia:
Even without Deebo Samuel, the Gamecocks boast Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and OrTre Smith, who each had at least 300 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2017. And obviously Samuel is back.
Georgia’s Riley Ridley had a banner national championship game, but was tough to find the rest of the season. He didn’t have a catch in seven games, and had fewer than 50 receiving yards in three others.
The Gamecocks return three receivers who had at least 30 catches last season, and that doesn’t include Samuel. Georgia, meanwhile, can only count Terry Godwin in that category. He’s been out with a lingering knee injury but is expected to return this week. Samuel who missed last year’s game, made four catches for 90 yards against the Bulldogs in 2016.
This comes down largely to a comparison of Deebo Samuel and Mecole Hardman because there’s a push at punter and placekicker. Samuel delivered considerably more production on a per game basis in 2017, with two touchdowns in three games. Hardman, though electric in the open field, couldn’t break through for a score all season on kickoff or punt returns. That’s a big reason Samuel was named first-team All-SEC by the coaches this preseason. Samuel is an All-American candidate as a returner, and Georgia fans could relate that his impact is akin to Isaiah McKenzie or even Todd Gurley returning to Georgia.
Jake Bentley had the same completion percentage (62.2) as Jake Fromm despite having considerably more attempts in two fewer games. Bentley was 245-for-394 for 2,794 yards, compared to Fromm’s 181-for-291 for 2,615 yards, putting him ahead in completions, completion percentage, yards and yards per game. After injuries to Samuel and some running backs, Bentley had to do more with less, and that’s one reason he led the team in rushing touchdowns in 2017. Fromm had plenty more help, especially late last season.
Will Muschamp likes to say that Bryan McClendon’s more than a recruiter, but his recruiting haul is tough to top. In his career at Georgia and South Carolina, he’s reeled in some all-time greats, being the primary recruiter for Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, Jamyest Williams and Jaycee Horn. And those Gamecock players hail from the heart of metro Atlanta’s recruiting hotbed. Who was the primary recruiter for star Georgia freshman QB Justin Fields? Not offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, but running backs coach Dell McGee. Of Georgia’s top four assistants, Mel Tucker, Sam Pittman, James Coley and Chaney, it was Chaney who received the lowest bump in salary this past offseason.
Depth at running back
Georgia’s depth at running back took a couple of serious hits the last two weeks with the injury to Zamir White and the first-half suspension to James Cook. All of a sudden a backfield that was expected to have four or five options is down to mainly D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien. South Carolina, meanwhile, is expecting the return of Mon Denson, to go with Rico Dowdle, who didn’t play against Georgia last season, Ty’Son Williams and A.J. Turner.