Will Muschamp’s South Carolina football team hasn’t been shy about making tweaks after bye weeks.
On Saturday against Tennessee, the Gamecocks made a couple changes to the starting lineup, giving a freshman his first start, making a switch at one of the most high-profile positions and opening with a veteran on the bench.
The explanation for each change and how each guy did in the 27-24 win:
Ty’Son Williams replacing Rico Dowdle at running back
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This was a change that ended up only mattering in name only. Williams played the first two series, but Dowdle got more carries (14 to 13) and had a much better day, outgaining his teammate 140-34.
When asked about the reason for the change, Muschamp said Williams simply practiced better, and referenced that as the central tenet of how to earn playing time. Williams came into the game with a more robust yards-per-carry number, though Dowdle had been the top back.
After the game Dowdle was asked if the change lit a fire under him.
“I didn’t view it as an insult at all,” Dowdle said. “All our guys, all of us running backs have the ability to start. I guess coach just felt he needed to start this week.”
Cornerback Rashad Fenton starting on the bench
Rashad Fenton, the team’s best cover man the past two seasons, opened the game on the bench, with Keisean Nixon and Jaycee Horn getting the starting nods.
Muschamp’s explanation for the move was that it was about what Tennessee put out there and gave a little credit to a young player.
“Israel (Mukuamu) has played well,” Muschamp said. “We started out in regular, if we had been in nickel, Rashad probably would’ve been in the game. But Israel played more than he’s played.”
Mukuamu, is a 6-foot-4 Lowcountry product, rotated in early on USC’s first drive, when the Gamecocks put three corners on the field with only one safety. He didn’t register a tackle on the night, while Fenton had one.
Freshman Dylan Wonnum replacing Blake Camper at right tackle
Will Muschamp hinted at this move through the off week and pulled the trigger. Wonnum is a four-star freshman and someone the staff has been high on since well before he enrolled.
“He played really well against Texas A&M,” Muschamp said. “Played about 33 snaps and thought he really played at a high level. There’s nothing that Blake hasn’t done, but Dylan’s a guy that athletically has done some really nice things.”
The coaches were pleased with the work in the run game and in pass protection.
D.J. Wonnum, Dylan’s brother, said he knew through watching practice his brother was set to ascend to the starting spot.
“Dylan did outstanding,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “Just really poised, really stayed in the moment and understood what he had to do. Didn’t try to do anything outside of his ability. Really just locked in to what he had to do.”