Game preview: Spotlight on USC run game, pass rush vs. Vandy
In 2012, when Jadeveon Clowney was manning one end of the defensive line for South Carolina, the Gamecocks totaled 43 sacks as a team, good enough for sixth in the nation. In the four-and-a-half seasons since, South Carolina hasn’t had that many sacks in any back-to-back seasons combined.
There are signs of late that the Gamecocks might end that pitiful streak this season. After notching seven sacks against Tennessee two weeks ago, South Carolina is fifth in the conference in sacks this year with 17.
“Basically, we’re just spreading it out,” sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum said. “Everybody has been contributing to the pass rush so teams can’t focus on one player. They have to focus on all four or five.”
Wonnum leads the team with four sacks, tied for 12th most in the SEC. Dante Sawyer (three), Skai Moore (two), Keir Thomas (two), Daniel Fennell (two) and Bryson Allen-Williams (two) also have multiple sacks this season.
“Our d-line as a whole, run defense and pass rush they have played great,” Moore said. “They caused a lot of disruption for us and allow us to make a lot of plays. We feed off them.”
With five games remaining, the Gamecocks need seven more sacks to top their total from any of the last four seasons.
“I think the biggest question I have for them is the consistency in your performance week in, week out,” head coach Will Muschamp said of his defensive line. “I'm still concerned with our four-man pass-rush. It hasn’t been as effective as it needs to be.”
It’s getting a little better, though. Two of South Carolina’s three multi-sack games have come in the last two games against the Volunteers and Arkansas. The explosion against Tennessee may have had something to do with the fact that the Vols had a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start, but Vanderbilt won’t have that same problem.
The Commodores are led by junior quarterback Kyle Shurmur, the son of NFL offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, a player who won’t be as easy to confuse as Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano. Vanderbilt has given up 10 sacks this year, which ranks fourth in SEC.
“We have guys who are going to keep stepping it up,” Sawyer said.
Who: South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network Radio: 107.5 FM