Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 301 yards on Saturday.

Report Card: South Carolina offense looks sharp in spring game

Hale McGranahan

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley threw for over 300 yards with 3 touchdowns. Running backs Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams combined for 113 yards rushing.

To say the offense won the day would be an understatement.

“Offensively, we’re a little further along, which is good, should be with the returners we have,” coach Will Muschamp told reporters, after the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

RELATED: Instant analysis of the South Carolina spring game

It’s a different story on the other side of the ball.

“Defensively, we’ve got some unknowns as we go into fall camp, which is concerning as a coach, from the standpoint of there are some guys that aren’t on campus that are going to need to help us and going to need to play for us,” Muschamp said. “That’s not always good leaving spring ball, but that is what it is.

“That’s where we are right now.”

Offense

Year 2 of the Bentley Era is off the a great start. He connected on 19 of 31 passes for 301 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, en route to a 35-24 win by the Black squad. Those numbers might be a little more impressive than they look on the surface, considering tight end Hayden Hurst and wide receiver Deebo Samuel didn’t play.

In place of the two star playmakers were Jacob August and Bryan Edwards, both of whom had 4 catches. Edwards reeled in a game-high 111 yards receiving with 2 scores. August had 54 yards and a touchdown.

And, of course, there were the two running backs: Williams and Dowdle, a duo that will become a trio with a fully healthy A.J. Turner, another player held out from Saturday’s spring game.

“I think people saw today the depth that we have and the vast amount of playmakers that we can put on the field,” Bentley said. “That’s great for us.”

Grade: A

Defense

The pass rush was non-existent. The coverage, at times, according to the head coach, “was suspect.”

It wasn’t all that good of an afternoon for the South Carolina defense.

“We’ve got to continue to work through some of those things,” Muschamp said. “But I’m pleased with our progress through spring ball. I thought we improved in some areas we needed to.”

South Carolina’s biggest scare of the day came in the first half when senior cornerback Jamarcus King exited the game with an arm injury. Fortunately for the Gamecocks’ thin defensive backfield, King’s injury isn’t too serious.

“Jamarcus is going to have a plate put in his forearm there,” Muschamp said. “He’ll be lifting in two weeks. Just a crack there in his forearm. I don’t know the total prognosis of it. … He should be fine.”

Grade: D

Special Teams

Freshman kicker Alex Woznick has some big-time shoes to fill for Elliott Fry, the school’s all-time leading scorer. Muschamp was pleased with Woznick’s debut.

“I wish he hit the one 32-yarder that I think he missed. He missed a 52-yarder and a 54-yarder. He had the distance on both of them,” Muschamp said. “He’s had an outstanding spring. I believe, at one point in the spring, he was 21 of 23. In all 1-minute situations, critical kicks, he hit every one of them.

“Certainly, I think today was huge for him.”

Punters Michael Almond and Joseph Charlton each averaged over 40 yards per punt during the game.

“Joseph and Michael are in a battle for the starting punting spot, as we look,” Muschamp said. “I  thought we punted the ball extremely well under duress (Saturday). We rushed today, on purpose. Those guys needed that, in that situation.”

Overall, Muschamp believes the special teams are in good hands.

“You never know until Sept. 2, when you’ve got to go out and hit that game-winner, to help us win a football game and have that pressure, it’s hard to simulate that,” Muschamp said. “But, as far as the ability standpoint, the ability is there for us to be extremely successful.”

Grade: B+

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