Some South Carolina fans may not have been happy about a trip to the Capital One Bowl to play Wisconsin, but Gamecocks linebacker Kaiwan Lewis was delighted.
“I love it,” the 6-foot, 221-pound sophomore said. “It’s a downhill game. That’s what I love to do.”
“Downhill” is football parlance for a physical running game, and Lewis is South Carolina’s most physical linebacker.
“I feel like run stopping is the best part of my game,” he said.
More than that, the game provides a chance for all the Gamecocks linebackers to prove one final point in a season that started with them searching for answers. Wisconsin has the eighth-ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 283 yards per game.
“Hearing all season that people were unsure about us, this is the game, to end the season to put a stamp on it for all us,” Lewis said.
Lewis is fourth on the team with 45 tackles.
“Kaiwan Lewis is a between-the-tackles guy,” linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said. “That’s what he does. He’s young, but he’s doing a really good job of trying to be a leader. Day in and day out, he doesn’t mind the pounding. As a linebacker, you have to come out here and want to hit people.”
Lewis didn’t arrive in Orlando with the rest of his teammates due to travel problems that forced him to fly from Philadelphia to Greensboro, N.C., to Charlotte and then to Orlando. Lewis ran after Friday’s practice to make up for the conditioning work he missed with the rest of the team Thursday.
“I’m trying to get my legs back,” he said.
Junior defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles have announced the Capital One Bowl will be their final collegiate game, but neither is showing signs of looking ahead, defensive line coach Deke Adams said.
“Today was a really great practice. Both of them were moving around with a lot of energy, lot of focus, encouraging guys,” Adams said. “They were really excited today.”
Clowney has 24 career sacks, putting him third in school history. Andrew Provence is No. 2 on the career list with 26. Pound for pound
Freshman defensive end Darius English continues in his quest to add pounds. English, who has 19 tackles this season, weighs 235 pounds and needs to gain “at least 20 more” to be an every down player next season, he said.
“It makes me one-dimensional only being able to use my speed,” English said Friday.
English has put on five pounds in the last month thanks to a new nutritionist at the school, he said. The 6-foot-6 Powder Springs, Ga., native eats six meals a day, he said.
“It’s a big opportunity for me next year,” English said.