Florida enters the final third of a disappointing 2021 campaign with a trip to Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks are in the midst of a transitional year, moving on from the ill-fated Will Muschamp era, and currently sit with a .500 record.
Garnett and Black Attack site manager Kody Timmers was gracious enough to answer a few questions to tell us more about this South Carolina team before Saturday night’s game.
It’s been a bumpy year for the Gamecocks this fall. How would you grade the performance through eight games?
Well, South Carolina is 4-4, which is where I expected them to be at this point. However, the way South Carolina is 4-4 is not exactly what I would have predicted.
Minus the season-opening blowout of an FCS squad, this team struggled and nearly lost against ECU, Troy, and Vanderbilt — which hasn’t exactly inspired confidence, even if they were “sure” wins that the Gamecocks ultimately collected.
On the other hand, USC managed to score a couple offensive touchdowns on Georgia and took a narrow loss to Kentucky in what was a frustratingly winnable game — but then again, was nothing even resembling competitive against Tennessee or Texas A&M. It’s a mixed bag for sure.
Shane Beamer is in year one after the Will Muschamp era. Is Beamer the guy to get the Gamecocks heading in the right direction?
It’s definitely way too early to tell. I’m on record for not loving the hire, but Beamer’s who we got, so I obviously hope he has a plan to turn this thing around. I’ve heard some encouraging things about how he’s improved the locker room culture, but plenty of the players loved Will Muschamp too, so we’re gonna need more evidence on the field of play that he knows what he’s doing.
The tricky part, of course, is that while football coaching changes necessarily require patience, you also don’t want to overcommit to something that isn’t working and thus drive your program even further into the dark ages. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of leash Beamer gets after the Muschamp fiasco.
The quarterback situation is the main story around South Carolina right now, with starter Luke Doty being ruled out for the year, and now graduate transfer Zeb Noland is banged up. What’s going on behind center right now?
Great question! Despite Noland getting some surgical treatment on his knee over the bye week, Beamer is talking him up like he’ll be ready to go play this Saturday. The coaching staff seems really reluctant to turn Jason Brown loose, and there’s been no discussion whatsoever of Colten Gauthier getting involved.
I understand that one of these guys is an FCS transfer (Brown) and the other is a true freshman (Gauthier), but we have eight games of very compelling evidence that this offense is a disaster, and Noland is not the guy to elevate it. Brown very well might not be either — indeed, I suspect that’s the case — but I’m hopeful the staff will at least try to shake things up and see if a spark can be found. Running Noland back out there (especially so soon after a procedure, sheesh) feels like waving a white flag to me.
The offense as a whole has really struggled this season, with the second fewest yards and points per game in the SEC, only above Vanderbilt. What are the biggest struggles for this offense? Are there any playmakers who could challenge Florida’s defense?
It all starts and ends with the offensive line. Pick whichever metaphor for an underperforming line you’d like — Swiss cheese, turnstile, etc. — and they all apply. This is why, relative to the previous question, I don’t actually think who’s at quarterback matters terribly much.
For this offense to resemble something productive, South Carolina would need a slippery and elusive creator, improviser, and scrambler who could reliably make something out of nothing, and that type of player does not appear to be on the roster. It doesn’t help that the receivers have been inconsistent as well, and as talented as the running backs are, it’s hard for them to get going if there aren’t any holes.
Running back Juju McDowell and wide receiver Josh Vann are probably the skill guys to watch, but there’s not really a steady No. 1 threat on this offense.
The strength of this team is probably the defense, who’ve forced an SEC-high 17 turnovers. What are the strengths of this unit who should Florida fans look out for?
This is indeed a very opportunistic defense, led by CB Jaylan Foster, who’s just been having a monster year. This unit has unfortunately gotten a bit exposed in recent games, particularly on the ground, but a lot of that also ties back into how inept the offense is — you could be rolling out an ‘85 Bears defense and still inevitably watch them buckle when they’re on the field constantly.
The defensive coaching staff (along with special teams) is actually a reason for optimism for most fans, but again, the offense is an absolute killer. Look no farther than the Kentucky game, when the defense forced three turnovers — two of which were deep in UK territory — and the Gamecocks came away with ZERO points.
What would have to happen for South Carolina to pull the upset and what do you predict for Saturday?
Well, USC is a 20-point dog, and as much as I’d love to say that seems a little high or unfair, it’s probably right on.
Even with the chance to rest up over a bye week, this offense is too bad and Florida is too talented for this one to be close unless a total clown show breaks out — which, hey, this is the SEC East, after all, I guess it could happen.
The Gamecocks would have to pull off a classic “Drag ‘em into the mud with ya” Muschamp style of game to compete, and I just haven’t seen enough of a pulse after the past two games to feel reasonably confident that could happen. The Gators walk away with this one, sadly.
Thank you to Kody and our friends at Garnet and Black Attack for answering our questions. Give GABA a follow on Twitter (@GABAttack) for the Gamecock slant Saturday night.