OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss hosts South Carolina Saturday morning in an important SEC contest for each team. The Gamecocks come into the Vaught with a 4-3 (3-3 SEC) mark on the season and bring with them junior quarterback Jake Bentley and a consistent Gamecocks’ offense.
Rebels’ defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff spoke about Bentley in this week’s football press conference.
“The quarterback is the one that makes them go,” McGriff said. “You watch Bentley, he’s very competitive, he’s really smart. You can tell he does a tremendous job of looking at coverages,” he noted.
“The kid plays with a lot of energy. I think his presence on the field sparks the other guys around him. He does a good job of throwing the vertical ball. He gives his guys a chance at the top of the route to come down with the 50-50 ball,” McGriff concluded.
A look at the South Carolina offense
Bentley’s offensive teammates are talented as well. At running back, the Gamecocks will bring two players who are great at fighting for the extra yard and finding open grass. Junior running backs Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams both have carried the rock well thus far in the season, and Carolina’s run-heavy offense will try to continue its success against Ole Miss’ front seven.
Dowdle has rushed for a solid 491 yards, with Williams close behind at 289 yards. The two RBs have accounted for 3 touchdowns apiece. Through seven games, the Gamecocks are averaging 163.7 rushing yards per game, placing them 12th in the SEC.
Senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel and junior WR Bryan Edwards have combined to be one of the best pass-catching duos in the SEC this year, notching 10 touchdowns in 2018. Expect the Gamecocks to try and establish a deep passing game early. South Carolina is 5th-best in the SEC when it comes to throwing the ball, averaging 236.3 yards per game.
Scouting the Carolina defense
Carolina’s front seven includes some very solid players–including two linebackers who have truly made a name for themselves in Columbia. Senior Bryson Allen-Williams (34 tackles, 9.5 TFL) and junior T.J. Brunson (49 tackles, 3.5 TFL) have both made huge impacts on what is already an extremely physical and fast defense.
The high-energy front seven for the Gamecock defense will look to slow down the Ole Miss run game of Scottie Phillips and Isaiah Woullard and try to pressure Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
Rebels’ offensive coordinator Phil Longo was asked what stands out about the South Carolina defense.
“Tremendous effort. They are not quite as big as some of the fronts we have seen, but they move exceptionally well and they are relentless,” Longo said.
They are a high-energy, high-effort, play-through-the-whistle defense, as good as anyone we have faced from effort (standpoint). We will have to finish blocks and stay on blocks because they are really good after engagement. You hear a lot of rhetoric about a defense swarming the ball; South Carolina actually does it. As Crime (McGriff) says, they will populate the football.
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo
A look at the Ole Miss offense
Ole Miss is sitting at 5-3 to begin the all-important month of November. Ta’amu is currently leading the SEC and ranked in the top 5 nationally in passing yards per game with an impressive 327.8 ypg.
Wide receivers–here’s your weekly Nasty Wide Out (NWO) update:
- A.J. Brown (805 Yards and 5 Touchdowns)
- Braylon Sanders (265 Yards and 1 Touchdown)
- DaMarkus Lodge (550 Yard and 2 touchdowns)
- Elijah Moore (166 Yards and 2 Touchdowns)
Though the Rebels lost redshirt sophomore D.K. Metcalf to a season-ending neck injury, the talented wide receiver has been an integral part of helping the young Rebel receivers prepare for the Gamecocks.
Tight ends: The Gamecock secondary better be well-prepared because the NWO, plus tight end Dawson Knox, are ready to go this weekend. Knox talked to reporters following Wednesday’s practice and spoke about the tight ends.
“In practice, we’ve been incorporating a lot of different tight end looks, and we’ve been working with two tights a lot, including looks with Michael Howard and Royce Newman in our heavy sets,” Knox said.
“We’re just brushing up on those things, just in case. We are going to mix things up and keep South Carolina off balance. We have a lot of faith in our wideouts, but without D.K., we are looking at some sets with some bigger receivers in there, as well. Maybe that will mean more chances for the tight ends, depending on what South Carolina does on defense.”
The Junior tight end went on to say, “Our next game is always the biggest of the year, and nothing will change with our preparation and mindset, but everyone is aware this one could set the tone for the rest of the year and is a big contest for the season.”
Tight end Dawson Knox talks after practice Wednesday. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)
Running back: While talking about the season for the Ole Miss offense, one must mention the outstanding performance of running back Scottie Phillips. In eight games, the JUCO transfer has amassed 782 yards on the ground, scoring nine rushing touchdowns and two receiving TDs. He is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and is looking forward to the challenge he will face against the Carolina front seven. Phillips currently sits at second in the SEC in rushing touchdowns (9) and 3rd in the SEC in rushing yards (782).
Offensive line: The Rebels OL will, as always, be anchored in the middle veteran center Sean Rawlings. He, along with LT Greg Little, RG Ben Brown, RT Alex Givens, and LG Javon Patterson, will look to continue protecting their native Hawaiian quarterback, as well as open running lanes for Phillips against a stingy Gamecock D.
Scouting the Ole Miss defense
Moving on to the Landshark D, members of the defensive line, which includes NT Benito Jones (19 Tackles, 5 TFL) , DT Josiah Coatney (35 tackles, 3 TFL) and DE Qaadir Sheppard (32 tackles, 7.5 TFL), are all coming off of solid performances in SEC play and are looking to make a stand this coming weekend against a solid Carolina offense.
At linebacker, Mohamed Sanogo (65 tackles,2.5 TFL) and Willie Hibbler (30 tackles, 3.5 TFL) will look to build on their solid season and help young freshman Kevontae’ Ruggs (15 tackles, 0.5 TFL) find his footing. The secondary includes Myles Hartfield and Zedrick Woods, who will be rejoined by previously injured DB C.J. Miller who makes his return in the South Carolina game.
C.J. Miller is slated to come back this weekend, along with DE Victor Evans who has been sidelined recently with a “chronic” knee injury. Also, DL Austrian Robinson and TE Dawson Knox were able to heal their minor bumps and bruises during the off week and both are expected to play in Saturdays game.
Unfortunately, however, DE Markell Winters will not be able to compete this weekend–or possibly the next–as he is currently receiving treatment for a nagging knee injury.
To put it simply, this is a must-win for both squads. The momentum from this game could carry the winner through the rest of the season. The Rebels will look to jump on top quickly and take care of business at home against the feisty Gamecocks.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said it best this past Monday: “They remember what you do in November,” referring to the toughness and importance of this portion of the schedule.
Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. (CT) in the Vaught and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.