No South Carolina player got the best of his opponent the last time the Gamecocks played Clemson, but nobody had it worse than Jamarcus King.
King, a 6-foot-2, 186-pound senior cornerback, was matched up against Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, and it was a mismatch. Williams, who would go on to be the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, caught six passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers 56-7 victory.
“Obviously, Mike was a fantastic player,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that’s a very tough cover because of his size and top-end speed.”
King saw that firsthand. The most lasting image of the game came to be when the 6-4, 218-pound Williams carried King into the end zone on his back for a score. It summed up the night for King and the Gamecocks.
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So, what has King learned in the year since?
“I realized I won’t get carried no more,” he said.
The game motivated King to put more work into something his coaches had been asking him to do since he arrived on campus in 2016 as a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, and that is get in the weight room.
“Jamarcus is a guy who had never really spent any time in the weight room and that was something that we really emphasized to him and there’s no question he’s gotten stronger on the line of scrimmage,” Muschamp said. “He’s improved his strength and his ability to finish because of his confidence. When you’re a stronger player, you’re a more confident player.”
King, who has 37 tackles and a team-high 11 pass breakups this season, is a more confident player this year, he said.
“I got in the weight room a lot more and it won’t happen again,” he said.
King, who is fourth in the SEC with 1.09 passes defended per game, believes he has put last year’s game behind him, but adds “then again I feel like I’ve got to make a play, but I am not going to try to do too much. I’m going to let the play come to me.”
Plenty of plays should. The Tigers average 32.8 passes per game. They don’t have Williams anymore, but they still have plenty of targets. Three Clemson players have more than 35 catches, led by Deon Cain and his 46 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns.
“All of them are pretty good receivers, so we will see,” King said.
Like King, all the Gamecocks are more confident headed into the Clemson game than they were last year, he said.
“Coaches are putting us in a situation to win the game,” he said. “We feel like we can play with anybody.”
Who: USC (8-3, 5-3 SEC) vs. Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
Line: Clemson by 14