South Carolina’s 3-2 start to the season in the first year of the Shane Beamer era has been something of a mixed bag.

What can’t be denied, however, is that the Gamecocks have been highly effective on defense.

South Carolina is allowing just 305 yards per game, which ranks 26th nationally, but that only begins to tell the story.

The Gamecocks also lead the SEC with 9 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries, and they have already scored 3 defensive touchdowns this season.

“Can’t stress enough how huge it is,” said Beamer on Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference of his team’s ability to force turnovers. “It’s bigger than huge. Our defense is doing a great job of creating turnovers … knock on wood. … I think, if not first, we’re near the top of the SEC in turnover margin. Any coach will tell you that’s a key to winning football games. … That’s huge. We hope it continues. … We’ve got to start producing on offense, but really proud of our defense and the way they’re playing.”

The stingy South Carolina defense will get tested this weekend, as the Gamecocks head to Knoxville to take on Tennessee and Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense.

Beamer knows that dealing with Tennessee’s tempo and offensive balance will be a key to the game.

“Sometimes there’s a misnomer about these teams that go fast, that they go fast and throw the football,” Beamer said. “Tennessee wants to run the football. … You have to be able to handle the tempo, get lined up. … There’s a lot of explosive runs when you watch their tape. … It’s certainly a challenge.”