Across the (By)Line: The Daily Gamecock


Kentucky Wildcats linebacker DeAndre Square fights for the ball during the game against South Carolina at Kroger Field on Saturday September 29, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 24-10. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Braden Ramsey

As we get ready for the final Kentucky regular season football game, the Kernel wanted to provide Wildcat fans an in-depth look at this week’s opponent: South Carolina.

In addition to the Kernel’s preview, Braden Ramsey turned to Michael Sauls, co-sports editor of South Carolina’s student newspaper – The Daily Gamecock – for a first-hand account on some of the more pressing questions regarding South Carolina’s season, future and matchup with the Wildcats.

Both of these teams haven’t quite had the season they expected. What is South Carolina playing for on Saturday?

Michael – ‘“I think it’s just to end the season on a high note. They snapped the losing streak to Kentucky last year, so it’s kind of a ‘Hey, come on, let’s go start another streak. Take it one game at a time.’ [Mike] Bobo said in his press conference after the Georgia game that whoever’s on the plane to Lexington is going to be there to fight for the team. This is kind of a big morale game really. Obviously they’ve had a subpar season, going 2-7, but this gives them the chance to end the season on a positive note.”

Have there been any opt outs or bowl game discussion?

Michael – “Opt-out wise, we had two major ones soon after Will Muschamp was fired in [starting cornerbacks] Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn. They’ll both probably be selected in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft and are major hits to the defense. Since then, a few more role players opted out, but overall, that area is fine since the first couple. It’s a matter of who’s gonna come out and show some heart.”

‘“In terms of bowl games, I honestly don’t know. With the rule changes for this season, they could play in one, it’s just a matter of ‘will they?’ ESPN earlier this week had them projected to play in the Gasparilla Bowl. It’s a possibility, but I don’t really know the answer.”

What do you think happens with Mike Bobo when this season is over? Does he stay if he’s not named Head Coach? Who are some candidates for the job?

Michael – “I’ve talked with other journalists about it, and we don’t really know what’s going to happen. Candidate-wise, Shane Beamer from Oklahoma – who was here while [Steve] Spurrier was head coach – is getting a lot of traction and is kind of seen as the frontrunner. Him, Billy Napier (Louisiana-Lafayette), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), and other names have been brought up. It’s going to be interesting to see; I’m sure Mike Bobo is going to be an option for the job full-time. He’ll at least get an interview.”

“It’ll be interesting to see if he doesn’t get the job if he’ll be on staff next year as a coordinator. Personally, I think he’s a great coach and coordinator, and wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him back. But I don’t make those decisions.”

“If Shane Beamer is hired, I think he will stay as offensive coordinator. Any other coach gets hired, I’m not sure what his future at South Carolina looks like.”

The Gamecocks are near the middle of the pack of SEC offenses, but just 12th in passing. What do you see their attack on Saturday consisting of, and who are some players to know?

Michael – “First guy you’ve got to know is Kevin Harris. He’s close to being a 1,000-yard rusher, and would be the first Gamecock to reach that mark since Mike Davis is 2013. He has been a huge part of the offense all season, he’s the top rusher in the SEC (928 yards to Najee Harris’s 893). They couldn’t really get him going against Georgia, but if the offensive line can step up to get him going, he’ll get the 1,000 yards and the team will have a shot to win.”

“As far as other players, Luke Doty, a true freshman quarterback, will make his second start and third appearance. He has come in and given life to Carolina and their fans. He’s a great athlete, dual threat. He completed 82% of his passes against Georgia. Between Doty and Harris, the offense should be able to get something going. If top wide receiver Shi Smith is back, then Doty will have another weapon to throw the ball to. And Nick Muse, the tight end, has seen his targets go up since Doty took the gig and had over 100 yards receiving in the Georgia game. If those things can happen again, the offense can play pretty well.”

How do you see South Carolina handling the Kentucky run game? Who are some players to know on that side of the ball?

Michael – “The defense is banged up right now. Last game, the team was far into the depth chart. If a guy like Ernest Jones – who’s the captain and number three in the SEC in tackles – is healthy, he’ll be the anchor. Having him on the field would definitely help stop the run game. As far as the defense in general, there are going to be a lot of guys that South Carolina fans haven’t even heard of. Freshman Joey Hunter has stepped up, John Dixon has been a consistent starter all season, but he has also had to step up in the secondary. It’ll be a challenge, but with the product they put out against Georgia, they may be able to settle in and make some noise.”

Score Prediction? Who comes out with a win late Saturday night?

Michael –Kentucky 28-21. Carolina’s defense is banged up and has people opting out, and will hold up well, but it won’t be enough against Kentucky’s more experienced offense.”

Michael Sauls is the co-sports editor for South Carolina’s student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock.

To see the Daily Gamecock’s interview with Kernel Sports Editor Braden Ramsey on the South Carolina-Kentucky matchup, click here.