Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
South Carolina offensive guard Cory Helms (51) has been out with an ankle injury since Week 3.

Gamecocks get healthy, improve during bye week; is South Carolina Georgia’s top threat for SEC East crown?

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Happy healthy homecoming

Hale McGranahan and Mike Chapman of SEC Country look at South Carolina’s upcoming game against Vanderbilt in the latest edition of Zaxby’s Sound Off.

The Gamecocks got plenty of good news coming out of their bye week with offensive linemen Zack Bailey, Cory Helms and Malik Young all cleared to play against the Commodores in the homecoming game Saturday.

The good news doesn’t end there — quarterback Jake Bentley spent his off week working on his footwork in an effort to improve his accuracy.

With the offensive line at full strength, where should offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper start as a play-caller on Saturday? Right where he left off in Knoxville two weekends ago, according to McGranahan and Chapman.

Don’t overlook Chris Lammons

McGranahan is a man of integrity. He’s ready to own up to his mistake in forgetting cornerback Chris Lammons when discussing the NFL draft stock for Gamecocks seniors.

“There are plenty of opportunities for guys who can play nickelback in the NFL,” writes McGranahan. “The careers can be long and very lucrative, especially if they can also play cornerback, safety and return punts — all of the assignments Chris Lammons has handled during his four years at South Carolina.”

The Lauderhill, Fla., native has showcased his versatility in his career with the Gamecocks, lining up at cornerback, nickelback, safety and punt returner.

‘They’re in a good groove’

According to SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears, South Carolina is Georgia’s biggest threat for the SEC East Division crown.

“I think they’re in a good groove and they’re playing well,” Spears said, via The Big Spur. “When you look at Will Muschamp and how he’s been coaching this team, I think he has squeezed blood out of a rock with this South Carolina roster. They don’t necessarily have the top guys, but they have a quarterback and they’re playing to his hand.”

Spears, along with fellow analyst Jordan Rodgers, went on to praise the Gamecocks’ defense and skill position players.

The Bulldogs host the Gamecocks in Athens on Nov. 4. Georgia beat South Carolina 28-14 in Columbia last season.

The flip targets

The number of committed prospects Muschamp could flip to South Carolina continues to grow, according to McGranahan.

Three-star CB Divaad Wilson (Florida), 4-star CB Jaycee Horn (Tennessee), 3-star DE Dorian Gerald (Tennessee) and 4-star CB Asante Samuel Jr. (Florida State) are just some of the names to keep an eye on.

Wilson and Samuel will both take official visits to South Carolina this weekend.

Checking in on LB targets

The Gamecocks’ top two linebacker targets, 4-star prospects Channing Tindall and Dax Hollifield, are still uncommitted and both heading to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Tindall is rated as the No. 121 overall prospect for 2018 by the 247Sports composite, with Hollifield close behind him at No. 125.

Along with South Carolina, Tindall counts Auburn, Georgia, Florida and Florida State as his leaders. Hollifield’s top 5 includes South Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina, Stanford and Virginia Tech.

South Carolina’s defense blossoming under Will Muschamp

According to Brad Crawford of 247Sports, Muschamp and his staff are building an impressive defense at South Carolina.

“Looking deeper at South Carolina’s defense, six starters are having ‘very good’ to ‘elite’ seasons according to Pro Football Focus, the industry leader in individual players evaluations and film study,” writes Crawford. “Linebacker Skai Moore and cornerback Rashad Fenton are the obvious headliners, but Chris Lammons and Dante Sawyer should also be in the All-SEC conversation and arguments could be made for D.J. Wonnum and Taylor Stallworth.”

An in-depth look at the numbers further accentuates the impressive turnaround the Gamecocks defense has made in just 20 games under Muschamp.

South Carolina’s place in the basketball world

Despite coming off of a run to the Final Four, South Carolina basketball is ranked No. 81 in CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander’s annual rankings of every Division 1 team.

“From Final Four to No. 81. Frank Martin, please don’t come after me,” Norlander writes. “But the thing is, Sindarius Thornwell was probably the most valuable, reliable, impressive two-way player in college basketball last season. Gamecocks fans aren’t going to like this ranking, but they know how much Thornwell did. P.J. Dozier, Duane Notice and Just McKie are gone, too.”

Sure, South Carolina has a lot to replace, but three transfer guards (Frank Booker, Kory Holden and Wesley Myers) suiting up for the Gamecocks this season could ease the transition.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.