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South Carolina Gamecocks Grades at the Midseason Mark

Gamecocks grades

South Carolina gave its fans one of the best midseason gifts available, heading into the bye week on the back of a big win. The Gamecocks defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington last Saturday by a 24-14 score. It was Shane Beamer’s first win over a ranked opponent, and the first SEC road win during his tenure. While it was a huge win in the moment, moving the team to 4-2 overall, the real significance is how this team builds off their first signature win of the season. Sitting at the halfway point of the campaign, heading into a bye is the best time to look back at the Gamecocks’ grades through the first six games.

Gamecocks Grades at the Midseason Mark

South Carolina is two wins away from bowl eligibility, and next portion of the schedule sets up well for success. After the bye, Texas A&M and Missouri come to town before road trips to Vanderbilt and Florida. None of those opponents are ranked, so it will be a good opportunity for Beamer’s program to pick up some wins before ending the season with two top 10 teams. As for the games that have already been played, the Gamecocks grades so far are buoyed by the big win at Kentucky.

Offense:  B-

All the off-season talk was about how much Spencer Rattler could improve this offense. However, it’s been the play of Marshawn Lloyd that’s grabbed most of the attention. The sophomore tailback leads the SEC in total touchdowns. He has the explosiveness that made him such a high values prospect, but he has also shown a greater level of physicality in the last few weeks. The rushing attack has improved a great deal over the first six contests. It will need to be a staple as the season rolls on. The offensive line has also shown growth after a sluggish start.

The Gamecocks have shown they have the playmakers to attack opposing defenses, but the next step is finding a consistency and flow with their execution. The big plays are there, the fluidity is not. Some of that is on the players doing the right things and being in the right spots. While some of that is squarely on the shoulders of coordinator Marcus Satterfield. His playcalling can leave a lot to be desired. At times there seems to be no reason or flow to how the game is called. If South Carolina can find a balance between execution and game planning, this team has shown it has the talent to put up some solid numbers. The most common theme when breaking down the offense is that the coaches must find a way to get Jaheim Bell and Josh Vann more involved.

Defense:  B-

Much like the other side of the ball, the defense had an uneven start to 2022. Injuries to multiple starters have played a part, but they don’t account for all the issues. The run defense was especially shaky early on. Arkansas and Georgia faced minimal resistance during the 0-2 start to SEC play. Clayton White seems to have ratcheted up the aggressiveness since, with a more attacking mindset on that side of the ball. The defensive line was dominant against Kentucky, with multiple guys making plays in the backfield. Zacch Pickens has been a monster on the interior of the line all season and was terrorizing the Wildcat line. Freshman Nick Emmanwori has also stood out early in the season. He has the making of a star at the safety position.

The biggest reason why the defense has performed better of late is turnovers. This team doesn’t yet have the overall talent or depth to be a suffocating and dominant defense that overwhelms opponents. That makes takeaways such a crucial piece to their success. The Gamecocks have eight interceptions on the season, tied for first in the SEC. They must continue to force turnovers as a way to negate the impact of injuries on their depth. The bye week comes at a great time for this unit, as hopefully a handful of the injured players can get healthy and be ready for the second half of the campaign.

Special Teams: A

It’s hard to give any other grade when you lead the nation in blocked punts with five in six games. It’s not surprising the best of the Gamecocks’ grades goes to Pete Lembo‘s unit.  Debo Williams has become such a problem for opponents that he is being game planned for. Kentucky had all three of their punt protectors slide towards Williams, who has two of the blocks this year, and that left the door open for a teammate to block one. The return game has been solid if not spectacular. Mitch Jeter is 6-6 on field goals with two of those from beyond 50 yards. Kai Kroeger continues to be a top performer at punter. South Carolina has also shown creativity with multiple two-point conversions, a fake punt, and a fake field goal that both earned first downs.

 Garnet Standouts

While Rattler and Lloyd have garnered the headlines on offense both good and bad, they aren’t the only ones getting noticed. Antwane Wells Jr. and Jalen Brooks have both stepped up at the receiver position. They are the two leaders in catches and yards. Both wideouts have had their share of big plays with the ball in their hands.

David Spaulding saw his first action on Sat after returning from injury. He wasted no time in making an impact by forcing a fumble on the game’s first play. He also got the game-sealing interception in the fourth. Gilber Edmond has seen his role increase after Jordan Strachan got injured. He is second on the team in sacks and is the leader in tackles for a loss.

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