South Carolina football: 5 things I want to see Saturday against Appalachian State
South Carolina faces a tough nonconference opponent late ahead of Texas A&M and Clemson when it welcomes Appalachian State to Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks will have an added boost with Senior Night festivities set to take place for 25 players, including 5 who have eligibility remaining.
South Carolina is 4-5. This is a classic take-care-of-business game as a loss would virtually wreck the season, and make it very difficult to bounce back on the road in College Station next week and against a Clemson team that is seemingly motivated by the disrespect card.
The Mountaineers have been ranked this year, but were upset last week against rival Georgia Southern. They have an experienced team, and are known for their high-powered offense.
Here are 5 things I want to see Saturday:
How will the running back rotation go?
This is a position that seems to have a new rotation every week as last week saw Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick make a splash. Tavien Feaster is questionable to play with a groin injury, but Rico Dowdle is expected back from a knee injury that has kept him out since the Florida game.
The interesting thing is it doesn’t seem to matter who carries the ball, they have the capability of rushing for 100 yards. Fenwick last week became the 5th Gamecock to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, joining Dowdle, Feaster, Mon Denson and Harris.
Bye week opponents
Since the Mountaineers last played Thursday Oct. 31, two days before the Vanderbilt-South Carolina game, they will have extra time, which is a trend to close the season.
Each of South Carolina’s final 4 opponents have extra time to prepare for the Gamecocks. Vanderbilt came off a bye week before last week’s game. App State has 9 days to prepare for South Carolina. Texas A&M and Clemson, also have a bye week before meeting the Gamecocks, giving them 2 weeks to prepare. South Carolina will also have an off week before Clemson.
Will this make a difference? After all, the Gamecocks’ biggest win this season came after their first bye week ahead of the Georgia game.
Have the defensive line set the tone
While there have been flashes of great games, the Gamecocks haven’t had a superstar performance from one player on the defensive line. However, South Carolina is the only SEC team with 3 players who have at least 4.5 sacks each. Muschamp said they haven’t minded double teams to free up a teammate.
“I think that this has been a very unselfish group as far as those things are concerned ’cause sometimes in order to eat the double team which Javon’s (Kinlaw) had to do and never complained and created 1-on-1 for somebody else and he understands that and anybody that knows ball watching the film understands that,” Muschamp said.
A contribution from Keir Thomas
This is understandably a long shot, but Thomas, a defensive lineman, is expected to get 10-18 snaps in this game, his first action after an ankle infection kept him out for some 2 months.
The defensive line has been a bright spot for the team this year, and his contributions should not be vital, but a bonus. While he’s battled this injury, he’s still a veteran. He was expected to be a starter in the preseason, and in his career has appeared in 38 games over the past three seasons, making 25 starts. He has 106 career tackles with 12.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries.
He could play the remainder of season and still count this year as a redshirt season.
Will another freshman emerge?
The Gamecocks started true freshmen wide receiver Xavier Legette and right tackle Jakai Moore for the first time against Vanderbilt. And Legette made a big contribution with an early touchdown. Legette and Moore joined Ryan Hilinski, Jaylen Nichols, Jammie Robinson and John Dixon as true freshmen who have cracked the starting lineup this season.
This is an area that Muschamp has boasted that South Carolina has led the country in recent years.