It’s back. It’s finally back. There were questions about how or if we would ever reach this point. But we did it.
Tennessee finally kicks off their college football season this Saturday against USCJr. And not a day too soon.
Here are five Gamecocks to watch this Saturday.
MIKE BOBO?? Sorry, I had to get that one out of the way.
Hill beat out the incumbent Ryan Hillinski, presumably because he followed Bobo to South Carolina from Colorado State. Hill also suffered an ACL injury three games into last season, so there’s no telling what he’ll look like in his first game action since.
However, we do know that he won’t be learning a completely new offense (remember when I told you he followed Mike Bobo from Colorado State?), which will be an advantage.
Hill had four touchdowns, two interceptions, and 473 passing yards against P5 opponents Colorado and Arkansas before getting injured last year.
Wide Receiver #13
Smith is the only returning skill position player of note from a not great offense last season. And at 5′ 10″, 190 pounds, he isn’t the traditional big, strong receiving target that you can build your offense around by giving him the ball ten times a game. In fact, during his career, he has only averaged about 3.5 touches per game.
But when he gets the ball in his hands, he can be dangerous. He showed as much against Tennessee last season when he went for 156 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. On the other hand, that was about a quarter of his production for all of last season.
Tennessee will have to keep tabs on him every play if they don’t want that to happen again.
Mike Linebacker #53
In typical Will Muschamp fashion, there are a ton of question marks around his offense. But, barring injuries, his defense will be good.
Jones is the leader of this defense. He is vocal, smart, and always seems to be around the ball.
Athlon named him to their preseason third-team All-SEC team after he was first on the team and fifth in the SEC in tackles with 97 as a sophomore last season. For all the talk of Tennessee being able to fall back on their run game this weekend, Jones will probably be racking up some big tackle numbers.
Defensive End #15
Senior defensive end Aaron Sterling could find himself in next season’s NFL draft if he continues to improve from last year. Through 12 games last season, he produced 40 tackles, 10 TFL, and six sacks. Athlon named him to their preseason All-SEC second-team, and he’ll probably be one of the best defensive ends in the SEC again this season.
Sterling is going to test this new look Tennessee offensive line. It’ll be surprising if he doesn’t get into the Tennessee backfield a couple of times on Saturday.
Marshawn Lloyd Kevin Harris/Deshaun Fenwick
Running Backs #20 and #14
Marshawn Lloyd being out for the season, is a bit of a shame. Especially with all the hype around him being one of the best freshmen in the country this year.
Which leaves Harris and Fenwick to fill in at running back. Fenwick has only played in four games through two years at South Carolina, but he’s averaging about five yards a carry on 40+ touches. He doesn’t have any receptions, so far, so look for him to be more of an early down back.
Harris, on the other hand, is a little more versatile. He only played in five games last year and got 24 touches as a freshman. But he scored four times and averaged 8.5 yards when he touched the ball.
Obviously, those numbers will regress to the mean as his volume increases. It’s hard (impossible) to keep up 8.5 yards per touch in the SEC. But if last year was any indicator, it looks like Harris will probably wind up getting more touches than Fenwick as the season goes on.