A fullback in 2020? South Carolina's vintage offense already paying dividends
Will Muschamp laughs a little easier when his team has won 2 straight games, especially when one of them is against a ranked SEC West team in Auburn. But the old-school coach let out a full-fledged belly laugh at a press conference when he was asked a question that’s framed this way:
Will, how well does a fullback have to play to be named Offensive Player of the Week in 2020?
“We’re probably one of the few places in the country that that happens,” Muschamp said.
It did, in fact, happen last week as the Gamecocks honored Adam Prentice, the less-heralded Colorado State transfer than quarterback Collin Hill.
“You’ve got to be 100 percent on your blocks, you’ve got to be able to finish, I think Adam missed one block, and didn’t miss it, he just didn’t clean it up as well as he could have,” Muschamp said. “Very dependable, catches the ball out of the backfield, huge factor for us on special teams, is in our punt shield … he’s covering kicks for us, really has brought a lot to our football team. Tremendous work ethic as far as how he practices and how he goes about his business the right way. But a great example for our young players, especially the young running backs in that room of how to work.”
Before Prentice officially arrived at South Carolina, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo explained the role of the fullback in his offense.
FB Adam Prentice announces via IG that he’ll be transferring to USC. This is the 2nd Colorado State player to transfer to USC to join their former coach Mike Bobo in 3 days. Ironically, @BreinerTheState asked Bobo about finding a player like Prentice here; now he has him @wachfox pic.twitter.com/mmn1hDMt32
— Mike Uva (@Mike_Uva) December 30, 2019
Muschamp added that Prentice’s role was expected to be very important against Auburn to create edges in the running game.
“Dirty work things, that I don’t know that a lot of guys like to do,” the coach said. “Very proud of his performance and his role will continue to increase on our team.”
Speaking of the other running backs, they don’t so much as see Prentice, as they do hear him.
“All I hear is, ‘Boom!,'” Deshaun Fenwick said of a catch and run Prentice made against Auburn. “I thought, ‘Geez, Adam just ran through that man.’ I even commented on his Instagram post, ‘Boom,’ that was it.’ I consider Adam is like a semi-truck. If they try to come with it, I know he’s going to get the best of them.”
Prentice earned a civil engineer Bachelor’s degree at Colorado State, and is working on a master’s degree in the same field at South Carolina. Muschamp said his former Georgia teammate Mack Strong, who had a 14-year NFL career, is the best fullback he’s seen, though he sees similarities with Prentice and Strong in terms of toughness and intellect.
Fenwick said Prentice knows the playbook inside and out, and even tells Fenwick what to do even though they don’t play the same position.
Prentice is an often overlooked aspect of the South Carolina offense, which ranks No. 6 in the SEC in rushing yards per game at 162, and second to Alabama in rushing touchdowns with 11.
Fenwick and starting RB Kevin Harris have developed into a one-two punch that is 3rd in the SEC behind duos at Alabama and Kentucky among SEC teams with multiple players in the top 20 of rushing leaders in the league. Harris is No. 3 in the SEC in rushing yards (409), and 2nd in rushing touchdowns with 6 behind Alabama’s Najee Harris with 11.
“I do think that both runners are similar from the standpoint of the way they’re running right now,” Muschamp said. “They’re getting behind their pads, they’re creating a lot of yards after contact, they’re running through contact right now. So I think our staff feels very comfortable with where they are.”
Add Prentice to a revamped offensive line that hit its stride against Auburn after a slow start, and those numbers among SEC leaders are easy to understand. South Carolina moved Dylan Wonnum from left tackle to right tackle, his most natural position, and Jazston Turnetine has come up to speed at left tackle.
Muschamp has maintained that the pandemic layoff hit the big guys hardest, and some of them lost 12 to 16 pounds of muscle. Now that they are well into the season, these offensive linemen have hit their stride.
“I think Sadarius Hutcherson is playing at a high level, Jovaughn Gwyn is athletic and is getting more power back in his body,” Muschamp said. “Jovaughn to me is just now getting back to where his power was. Eric Douglas directs our offense extremely well, he’s extremely bright, he handles all the calls, and Jazston in his first start did some really good things. I think we’ve got our best five out there now.”