South Carolina 70-10 in 2013
Strength: Wide receiver, running back
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Weakness: Youth and inexperience
Strength: Offensive skill positions
Weakness: A new offense
South Carolina’s offensive pace vs. Coastal Carolina’s defense: Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp hired a new offensive coordinator, Bryan McClendon, who has promised a faster tempo after South Carolina finished 110th in the nation in offensive plays last year under fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Quarterback Jake Bentley said the more comfortable the players get in the offense, the faster they go, so they’ll see how comfortable they can get in the season opener. Coastal head coach Joe Moglia said the Chants practiced with two offenses coming at the defense to minimize time between plays and prepare for a fast pace, and the Chants will need to be “reasonably simple and thoughtful” with the defensive calls.
“No matter what you try to get during the week from your scout teams, that’s not going to be the same tempo as what we’re actually going to see from South Carolina on Saturday, so we know that,” Moglia said. “. . . If we’re not set and ready to play when they line up then that’s on us. We’ve got to make sure we take care of that. It’s really more a matter of simplification and organization.” CCU senior cornerback Anthony Chessley said, “They do have a fast, up-tempo style but as long as we communicate and focus then we’ll be good.”
Players to watch
Senior quarterback Kilton Anderson: He started the final three games of 2017 and completed 33 of 65 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, helping CCU go 2-1 to close the season.
Senior receiver Malcolm Williams: Had 43 receptions for 793 yards and seven touchdowns last season to lead the team in all three categories, and set a school record with 266 receiving yards against Louisiana-Monroe.
Sophomore linebacker Silas Kelly: The 6-4 linebacker from Mount Airy, Md., was the only CCU player selected to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference first or second teams after finishing third on the team in tackles with 75 as a freshman.
Senior receiver Deebo Samuel: He was among the best players in the country through three games before a leg injury cost him the rest of the season. He had 250 receiving yards, two kick return scores and six total touchdowns before the injury.
Junior receiver Bryan Edwards: The Conway High product is coming off team highs in 2017 with 64 receptions for 793 yards and five receiving TDs, and he is expected to return punts.
Junior quarterback Jake Bentley: With a bevy of weapons at his disposal in an offense that should be playing fast, he’ll look to improve on his 2017 totals of 2,794 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 62.2 completion percentage.
He said it
“At the end of the day we’re all people who have been playing football since we were 5 years old, we just go to two different schools. So we’re just going to go out there and do what we’ve been doing our entire lives.” – CCU quarterback Kilton Anderson
“I have been told that coach Muschamp said that this could very well be the best team he’s had since he’s been coaching in college, and he’s had some pretty good teams. . . . They have a lot of guys coming back, they’re very, very good, they’re very, very talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished the season in the top 10 in the country. So we have a very good opponent.” – CCU head coach Joe Moglia
“Everybody’s excited. For us, we’re going into South Carolina. There are going to be 91,000 people. That’s going to be a fun thing for our guys to be a part of, it’ll be a fun thing for the coaches to be a part of, but then once the whistle blows we’ve just got to focus on what’s going on in the game. . . . It should be a fun opportunity for us to kick off the season and I want our guys to be able to enjoy that.” – Moglia
Muschamp has been preaching to his team to take one week at a time with a motto of “Every Week’s A Season,” and it will be put to the test against Coastal with Georgia coming to Williams-Brice next Saturday for perhaps the Gamecocks’ biggest game of the season. The Bulldogs played for the national title last season, are the favorite to win the SEC East and are the No. 3 team in the AP Top 25 Poll.
“Let’s focus and be dialed in to what we can control this week, and that’s playing Coastal. End of sentence,” Muschamp said. “Whether it’s in the meeting room, whether it’s on the practice field, all of our concentration needs to be there. Everybody else can talk about all the other stuff.”
In addition to being a team from a Group of Five conference traveling to a team from a Power Five conference, the Chants have some other perceived disadvantages. Coastal is very young with just 11 seniors compared to 39 true freshmen and 28 redshirt freshmen, and it is playing this season with just 70 scholarships as it completes its move up from FCS to FBS, which allows its programs to have 85 scholarships.
The Chants take a two-game winning streak into the game, having won their final two games of 2017 over Idaho and Georgia Southern. The Gamecocks won six of their final eight games including a 26-19 win over Michigan on New Year’s Day.
Coastal showed it could play with an SEC program last year when it held a 13-point lead over Arkansas with 10 minutes to play but gave up two touchdowns, including one with less than two minutes to play, to lose 39-38.
“Last year we should have beaten Arkansas. Shame on us that we didn’t beat Arkansas because we had them, up by 13 points with 10 minutes to go in the game,” Moglia said. “They’re a Power Five team, an SEC team, but that’s irrelevant to me. They are not South Carolina, and South Carolina is not Arkansas. If we beat Arkansas last year, which we should have, that would have nothing to do with this game.”
▪ Coastal was a regional campus of the University of South Carolina system from 1960 to 1993, when the S.C. legislature established CCU as an independent public college. Coastal played its first season of football in 2003.
▪ South Carolina’s 60-point win in 2013 came in CCU’’s final regular season game that season. The Chants went on to defeat Bethune-Cookman and Montana to reach the FCS quarterfinals.
▪ CCU is 10-5 in season openers and has won seven straight, including four in a row on the road from 2013-16 over S.C. State, Citadel, Furman and Lamar.
▪ South Carolina placed three players on the preseason All-SEC squads as selected by the 14 league coaches, as Deebo Samuel was named first team at three positions, junior punter Joseph Charlton is on the second team and senior offensive lineman Zack Bailey is on the third team.
South Carolina -29.5
South Carolina 41, Coastal Carolina 10: The Chants should be an improved team by the end of the season, but they have too much youth to stay close to the Gamecocks.