With momentum on their side coming into week four against Kentucky, the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-2) suffered a deflating 17-10 loss on the road. True freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain showed his youth in an uneven performance (50 percent completions).
In order to quickly rebound in week five against a stout Texas A&M (4-0) team, South Carolina will have to prepare with gusto in hopes of fending off an explosive Aggie attack. Head coach Will Muschamp is well aware of he’s about to face this weekend.
“Texas A&M coming in this weekend, really a complete football team,” Muschamp said during Tuesday’s press conference. “When you turn the tape on you look at all three phases. Defensively, Kevin [Sumlin] has done a really good job recruiting players there, and they are a good looking bunch when they come out of the locker room.”
Last week, however, Texas A&M showed vulnerability in allowing 491 total yards to Arkansas (3-1). That type of production is the exception to the rule against the Aggies, who are led on the defensive line by former five-star defensive end Myles Garrett, a player widely speculated to be a top-five NFL draft pick in half a year.
“Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett, probably two of the best defensive ends in the country,” Muschamp said. “Amani Watts and Justin Evans are two of the best safeties in the country. They play fast and physical, and they play the way you are supposed to play.”
As Muschamp noted, Garrett is a force to be reckoned with on the Texas A&M defensive line. So far this year, Garrett has logged 11 tackles and three sacks through four games, but the mere presence of the 6-foot-5, 270-pound junior lineman causes opposing teams to reshuffle their blocking strategy.
“I think as much as anything, you have to change it up on them,” Muschamp said.
“You can’t let them get into a rhythm with the snap count. You can’t get them into a rhythm as far as one-on-ones, obviously chipping and sliding the line and doing some different things. The issue is they are on opposite sides, so if you slide the line one way the other one is getting a one-on-one more than likely.”
While slowing down Garrett and Hall will be a paramount concern for the South Carolina staff this week, the Texas A&M offense is a serious challenge in its own right. Senior quarterback Trevor Knight, who transferred from Oklahoma, has been more than competent in his short time with the Aggies, both in the passing game and through his mobility.
“The key has been Trevor Knight,” Muschamp said. “He has really played well for them. He has come in well and adapted to the system. They’ve done a good job of putting him in situations. He’s been in the fire before. He’s played a lot of football.”
Muschamp noted that his team should enter its week five contest fairly healthy, with the aid of a talented defensive back returning for the first time since week two. Chaz Elder, a senior safety, is inching his way back to the playing field to shore up the Gamecocks’ secondary and provide depth. However, but South Carolina will still be without a few impactful players this Saturday.
“Chaz Elder practiced today,” Muschamp said. “Put him in some contact tomorrow and see how he holds up. I expect for him to play. Randrecous Davis will be out for the game. Other than that, I think we are about the same as we were a week before. [Donell] Stanley and [Blake] Camper will be out, probably until after the open week.”
South Carolina’s bye week comes after its October 8 contest with Georgia.
Against A&M, the Gamecocks are 14-point underdogs. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. Eastern at Williams-Brice Stadium.