South Carolina football: 8 bold predictions for the rest of the season
South Carolina enters the stretch run facing serious questions about the play-calling of offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, a woeful performance on the offensive line and lackluster play from the running backs.
On defense, the Gamecocks came out on fire, and they still are among the nation’s leaders in turnovers. It’s a 4-4 team long on optimism and an energetic and loving culture, but short on production and performance, especially against equal and greater — as in, SEC — opponents.
Here are 8 bold predictions for the rest of the season:
1. Jason Brown wins an SEC Offensive Player of the Week award
The 3rd and latest quarterback to lead the Gamecocks gets some time to settle into the job following the bye week, and Florida preparations. But Brown takes advantage of a shoddy Missouri defense to find Josh Vann, his old St. Francis buddy E.J. Jenkins and others to make Garnet and Black faithful wonder where this was during the August QB competition. Brown already dipped his toe in the water with an 8-for-14 performance for 84 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions at Texas A&M. Similar to the spring game, the Gamecocks seemed to have a different energy about them with Brown in the game.
2. Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare gets double-digit sacks
The Gamecocks’ sack artist will make at least 5.5 sacks in the final 4 games to give him at least 10 for the season. What makes it even sweeter is that it will come against Clemson, which itself is giving up nearly 2 sacks per game. Enagbare would be the 1st South Carolina pass rusher to get double-digit sacks since Jadeveon Clowney in 2012, who had 13. The high-water mark since then has been Kelcy Quarles with 9.5 in 2013.
3. ZaQuandre White rushes for 1,000 yards
White capitalizes on a huge game at Missouri to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the season finale against Clemson. It may sound like a long shot given his 291 yards at the moment, but keep in mind that SEC opponents have seen their leading rusher average 177 yards against Missouri. Put up 200 in that game, and then get some garbage time yards against the Florida and Auburn backups, and 1,000 is well within reach.
4. Jaylan Foster wins Thorpe Award
The interception bandit adds some hardware to his spectacular season and silver screen story from walk-on to national leader in picks, as he picks up the award given to the best defensive back in college football. Foster continues to pace the nation and add 1 pick against Florida, 2 against Missouri and 1 each against Auburn and Clemson to give him 10 on the season. Whatever Foster does down the stretch will be gravy, since he already has the most interceptions in a season for a Gamecock since Ko Simpson made 6 picks in 2004.
5. Vann tops 1,000 receiving yards
The Gamecocks have a long list of past bona fide No. 1 receivers, and after a strong start, Vann has settled into a solid season as he’s still averaging nearly 18 yards per catch. He simply needs more targets. With 431 yards on the season, and only 2 games of 100-plus yards, Vann has the ability to close strong. It will help to develop some chemistry with Brown.
6. Shane Beamer shakes up offensive play-calling
A question that has lingered all season finally gets answered after a lackluster effort against Florida, and the Gamecocks see wide receivers coach Justin Stepp take over for the Missouri game. The move allows Satterfield to have more time to work with the offensive line, and to implement some new techniques to get more production and continuity out of the most underperforming unit on the team.
7. Gamecocks upset Clemson
They snap the 6-game losing streak to the team from the Upstate as Brown becomes a hero in Gamecocks lore and leaves Dabo Swinney stomping on his hat on the sideline. They do it in trademark Beamer Ball fashion, with a kickoff return for a touchdown and a blocked punt for another touchdown as Williams-Brice Stadium begins to sway in the 4th quarter.
8. Gamecocks reach bowl game
It may seem like an improbable feat as the team has stuck to the .500 mark throughout the season. But wins over Missouri and Clemson down the stretch are just enough to punch South Carolina’s ticket to the postseason. It may be the Gasparilla Bowl, but that’s just enough to give Beamer fuel heading into next season.