The South Carolina Gamecocks. They’re a football team, and we have to play them.
We know a little about the Garnet and Black, but not as much as we probably should. Just like waterproofing your basement, previewing the South Carolina game is probably one of those tasks where you need to at least consult a professional.
That’s why we’ve called on Sawyer Evans of Garnet and Black Attack, SB Nation’s home for all things Gamecock, to give us the inside scoop. Sawyer’s a pretty fair knife thrower*, an above-average hibachi chef**, and a world-renowned expert on gas station tater logs of the PeeDee region***. Sawyer also knows a thing or twenty about our visitors from Columbia, and generously agreed to answer a few questions about today’s matchup.
MD: Given the opponents it was not unreasonable coming into the year to expect Shane Beamer to begin his tenure at 2-0. That being said, it was dicier last week then perhaps Gamecock fans would have preferred. Are Gamecock fans excited for Beamer Ball? Are they withholding judgment until the thick of SEC play?
Sawyer: I think Gamecock fans are very excited for Beamer Ball. Yes, the first two opponents weren’t powerhouse programs, but with Muschamp we always seemed to struggle even with opponents like EIU. The ECU game was just a first half where everything that could have gone wrong did. We honestly dominated that game besides one trick play and some dumb turnovers. We will really see where we are once conference play starts. I don’t think Gamecock fans should expect to go 6-2 in conference play, but Gamecock fans should look for improvement and more fight. We are definitely trending up.
MD: I think Kevin Harris, when healthy, may be the best back in the SEC. But who’s a potential playmaker I don’t know about on the South Carolina offense?
Sawyer: A player you should look out for on offense besides Harris and our other backs is WR Josh Vann. Vann has always had issues with drops and route running but this season he just looks like a new player. He is bigger, faster, and he seems to have a better head on his shoulders. Look for him to make a few plays Saturday.
MD: Will Luke Doty get his first start of the season this Saturday? And if so, how worried are you about him being a bit rusty facing a UGA defense that’s surrendered 3 points through 2 games?
Sawyer: I am honestly not sure what the Gamecocks plan at QB is for Saturday. I think that if Doty is 100% you have to start him. He is younger and way more athletic than Noland and he can expand the offense more. With our offensive line having a shaky start, we need to have a QB who can avoid sacks, especially against UGA. Even if he is rusty, Doty gives us a better chance to compete Saturday night.
MD: Long term, what are reasonable expectations for Shane Beamer at South Carolina?
Sawyer: I don’t think Gamecock fans need to expect to be winning 10 or 11 games with Beamer for a while. This is a program that is not currently in a great place and it takes time to turn things around. Beamer will only get better as a HC and he is already recruiting really well. I think down the road once Beamer gets his guys in, you can expect the Gamecocks to make some noise in the East, just like Spurrier did. Gamecock fans need to be patient with Beamer however.
MD: Georgia scored 56 points against what we thought was a pretty solid UAB defense. What do the Gamecocks have to do to prevent a repeat of that kind of number, and who on the Garnet and Black defense has to have a big game to make it happen?
Sawyer: I think that the Gamecock defense has been outstanding this season. It is a very athletic group with a lot of speed. The defensive line is elite with 4 and 5 star talent and they get after the QB, which is exactly how the defense can stop the UGA offense. EDGE Jordan Burch is a player to look out for, he is super athletic and can run over a tackle. Look for him to make an impact Saturday.
MD: Because we must: What’s your score prediction?
Sawyer: As much as I would like to say 20-17 Gamecocks, my realistic score prediction is 41-17 UGA.
Thanks again to Sawyer for his thorough and insightful answers. And...
*I have no evidence to support this.
**I don’t explicitly know that this isn’t the case.
***Oops. Sorry, that’s actually me, not Sawyer.