Key Gamecocks as the team starts practice on Thursday for the Birmingham Bowl:
The Gamecocks had chances to make plays early against Clemson that might have at least kept the game respectable, but their freshman quarterback missed some throws he usually makes. It was the second straight road game in which he struggled. Add to that the knee injury (a bone bruise) that kept him out of the second half of the Clemson game, and it’s worth watching how Bentley responds in Birmingham.
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With one sack, English will become the first Gamecock since Jadeveon Clowney in 2012 and just the fourth South Carolina player ever to have a double-digit sack season. He enters bowl season third in the SEC in sacks behind Tennessee’s Derek Barnett (12) and LSU’s Arden Key (10).
Like Bentley, Dowdle needs a bounce back game. Also, like Bentley he has shown he’s the starter of a future, but he was held to 18 yards by Florida and 30 by Clemson. Dowdle, a freshman running back who had 226 yards against Western Carolina, is South Carolina’s leading rusher this season with 121 carries for 714 yards.
Through the first five games of the season, the sophomore wide receiver had four catches for 66 yards. In the last seven games, he has 37 catches for 513 yards. Samuel has the ability to be a breakout star in the SEC next season, and the bowl game could be a preview of that.
The junior cornerback had a rough end to the season before the Clemson game, and the Clemson game got downright ugly for him. King is just finishing up his second season of football as a defensive back, and he still has a lot to learn and needs to add strength. If he can do those things and get his confidence back, he has the physical ability to be a key to the defense next year.