Josh Kendall

What the Gamecocks need to shore up during bye week

Part of Bryan Edwards is ready to get right back to work and see whether South Carolina can extend its winning streak to three games.

“You kind of do want to play again because you feel like you’re rolling,” the Gamecocks sophomore wide receiver said.

The other part of him is just tired.

“We need the time off to reset and refocus your mind,” he said.

South Carolina’s first and only off weekend of the season arrives this week as the Gamecocks have a bye Saturday. South Carolina improved to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the SEC last week with a 15-9 win against Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. They are tied with Florida for third place in the SEC East.

“It’s definitely a great time for us to have a bye week to get guys back healthy,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “This week we can really focus on us and what we have to do to get better and not worry about preparing for any team.”

The extra time off should allow South Carolina to get injured offensive linemen Zack Bailey, Cory Helms and Malik Young back into the fold. All three have missed varying amounts of time because of ankle injuries. Injured wide receiver Terry Googer also is expected back when the Gamecocks return to action Oct. 28 against Vanderbilt in Williams-Brice Stadium.

“We need some time right now,” coach Will Muschamp said.

Auburn, Alabama and LSU are the only SEC teams who have a later bye week than South Carolina this year. The Tigers, Tide and Tigers all have the Oct. 28 weekend off. The Gamecocks are one of five SEC teams to have a bye for the upcoming weekend, joining Georgia, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

South Carolina’s players took Sunday and Monday off while the coaching staff watched film Sunday and hit the recruiting trail Monday. The Gamecocks will hold an extended practice Tuesday for its lesser-used players before getting the regulars onto the field for situational work Wednesday and Thursday.

“It’s about working on South Carolina,” Muschamp said. “It’s not about working on any opponents right now. We have plenty of time next week to get ready for Vanderbilt. We need to work on South Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday. The guys who are nicked up, we will be smart with them in practice, but we need to continue to progress and improve.”

Offensively, South Carolina plans to focus on third down and red zone, Muschamp said. The Gamecocks are ninth in the SEC in third down conversions at 38 percent and last in the SEC in red zone touchdown percentage at 42 percent.

Overall, South Carolina is 12th in the SEC in yards (337.3 per game) and 11th in scoring (25.1 points per game). Still, the Gamecocks are 5-2 for the first time since the 2013 season in which they won 11 games.

“Anytime you get a win, especially like that (Tennessee game), it takes a weight off of your shoulders,” Edwards said, “and you feel a lot more confident.”

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