South Carolina is back in Columbia for the next five games. First up is Texas A&M, as the SEC West opponent comes to town.
Ben Baby, who covers Texas A&M for The Dallas Morning News, was a good sport in answering five questions leading up to kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium at 4 p.m. ET Saturday.
1. Wilson: Let’s start with quarterback. After a handful of starters since 2014, Trevor Knight has brought stability. But he looks like a different player than he did at Oklahoma. What is behind his revival with Texas A&M?
Baby: The biggest difference with Knight is ability to hang on to the ball. He hasn’t thrown an interception in 87 passes, which is a real big deal considering Knight’s knack to throw picks at Oklahoma. When he was the Sooners’ starter in 2014, he threw 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This year, those numbers are 7 and 2, respectively.
2. Wilson: Another revival at A&M clearly is the run defense. Why is John Chavis’ unit so much better this season than it was in 2015?
Baby: The Aggies’ linebackers were a big question mark coming into the season. So far, it looks like they’ve improved a ton. Senior Shaan Washington was second on the team in tackles last season, but he had 45 fewer tackles than safety Armani Watts, which meant too many guys were getting into the secondary. During the SEC conference call, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said the A&M defensive tackles are keeping blockers off the linebackers, freeing them up to make plays.
3. Wilson: Not only are the Aggies stopping the run well, but they are running it far more effectively. Where does the credit fall for the improvement? And could anyone have expected this performance from Trayveon Williams as a true freshman?
Baby: A&M’s young offensive line has played fairly well under assistant coach Jim Turner, who returned to College Station to coach the unit this season following a year in Cincinnati. And Williams and Keith Ford, an Oklahoma transfer, have racked up the yards behind that line. Of all the A&M backs, Williams was the one with the necessary speed to break off a long run. And he’s done that often and impressed in his first four games.
4. Wilson: Do you expect to see Myles Garrett and Ricky Seals-Jones play Saturday or will their injuries keep them out?
Baby: I definitely don’t expect to see Ricky Seals-Jones. He had a walking boot on his left ankle after the Arkansas game, and I highly doubt they’ll bring him back for this week. The chance Garrett sits against South Carolina seems pretty high. The Aggies should be able to contain the Gamecocks without their star defensive end.
5. Wilson: How do you see things unfolding Saturday night?
Baby: South Carolina’s futile offense only managed 10 points against Kentucky, which allowed 44 points to Southern Miss and 42 to New Mexico State. Given S.C.’s recent stretch of play and A&M’s strong defensive start to the season, the No. 9 Aggies could be in for one of their best defensive efforts against a conference opponent since joining the SEC in 2012. A&M 30, South Carolina 7.