COLUMBIA, S.C. — Thursday morning marked the start of Week 2 of spring practice for the South Carolina football team.
What are the takeaways from Week 1?
This offense will be more fun to watch in 2018
OK, so maybe this one started cooking a few days after the Outback Bowl when we found out that Bryan McClendon’s interim tag would be removed.
Even though South Carolina started slow against Michigan, that glimpse into the future has to be encouraging for Gamecocks fans, because there were some impressive moments during that come-from-behind win over Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
Junior quarterback Jake Bentley pretty much summed up the new-look offense on Monday.
“So far, the tempo’s been increased, more [run-pass options], more aggressiveness to get the ball down the field,” he said. “Taking advantage of 1-on-1 matchups is the biggest thing that we’re looking for so far.”
Of course, it will be up to Bentley to connect on some of those 1-on-1 matchups in 2018. Maybe the changes to the offensive coaching staff will help in that department, among others.
Time will eventually tell.
“If you look around college football, everyone runs the same plays, essentially, so it’s a matter of maybe putting two concepts together on each side of the field and finding a way to progress through it or just calling the right plays at the right time,” Bentley said. “The tempo really helps us a lot, because it gets the defense scrambling and you get 1-on-1 matchups, so just trying to use different things to give us the best chance to win.”
Javon Kinlaw means business
On the field during his first season at South Carolina, Javon Kinlaw quietly emerged as one of the best young defensive linemen in the SEC. Down the stretch of his sophomore season, he made quite a name for himself away from the field, becoming one of the favorites among the Gamecocks’ media contingent.
Kinlaw wasn’t shy about showing some personality, cutting up and having a good time during his media opportunities. Hopefully, those days aren’t completely gone, but they could be numbered.
Now that he’s a junior and expected to be one of the key cogs in Muschamp’s defense, the light-hearted media appearances might be a little bit fewer and far between. On Wednesday, he looked and sounded like a guy who’s taking things a little more seriously.
It doesn’t help that his running mate, Taylor Stallworth, was just in Indianapolis at the NFL combine and won’t be around for the fall. Either way, this could be a big season for Kinlaw, a money season, if you will. A strong junior campaign could present him with a tough decision to make in about 9-10 months.
Kinlaw responded “only time will tell,” when asked if this could be a breakthrough season.
“I’m just going to keep working and do what I’ve got to do, to put myself in the best position,” he said.
Zack Bailey will be All-SEC
That would be a nice line for him to add to his NFL resume, which will be all polished up by this time next year.
For many prospective NFL offensive linemen, the more versatile you are, the better chance you’ve got to make it. Zach Bailey certainly doesn’t lack in that department. By the time his South Carolina career is over, he’ll have started at just about every position along the line.
After spending last season at right tackle, he’s back inside at left guard, where he’s probably a little better suited to play.
“It’s awesome. I love it,” Bailey said with a smile, when asked about the latest position switch.
“I’m still learning. That’s the biggest thing about going to a new position. … Just learning it and getting back into it is great. I love pulling again. I love getting back into the grind, back into those trenches, it’s awesome.”
The 1-on-1 practice battles between Bailey and Kinlaw are probably a lot of fun to watch.
“Mainly, at practice, I try to line up on his side all the time, as much as I can,” Kinlaw said. “I feel like he’s going to get me to where I need to be before the season.”
T.J. Brunson is the man
This one seems obvious. T.J. Brunson went wire-to-wire as the starting middle linebacker during his sophomore season. He is the team’s top returning tackler and could be in the conversation for some postseason hardware, especially if he continues on the trajectory he’s been on since 2016.
Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson had some glowing things to say about Brunson and what he adds in the leadership department.
“Being a vocal leader, I think he kind of took the bull by the horns right now of doing that. He’s a guy that our coaching staff, on the defensive side of the football, he’s our leader,” Robinson said. “He does it right, on and off the field. We’re extremely pleased with where he is and I’m extremely excited to see where he can go.”
Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, one of the program’s spokesmen, seems like a potential leader for the defense, but even he acknowledged on Wednesday that Brunson has emerged as the voice of the defense.