Josh Kendall

Gamecocks lose a starter for next month, reserve for the season

Another day brought another blow for South Carolina’s football team Sunday.

South Carolina starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum, a junior, will be out “about a month” because of a torn ligament in his ankle, coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. Wonnum was injured in the first game of the season. Muschamp originally predicted a short recovery period, but the extent of Wonnum’s injury was revealed when the team did a second MRI on Friday, Muschamp said.

“We didn’t detect the tear on the first MRI because of the swelling,” the coach said. “They think he will be out about a month.”

That wasn’t the only bad injury news. True freshman offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwynn, a second-team guard, will miss the remainder of the season after having foot surgery to repair a “nonfootball related” injury, Muschamp said.

Wonnum watched Saturday’s 41-17 loss to No. 3 Georgia from the sideline with his foot in a plastic boot and supported by a roller. If he’s out one month, he would miss games against Marshall, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri, leaving the possibility he could play against Texas A&M on Oct. 13 in Williams-Brice Stadium.

Wonnum led the Gamecocks with six sacks last year. He was also the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 57 stops, including 13 for a loss. He had five pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. Wonnum had three tackles in the season-opener against Coastal Carolina before being injured in the third quarter.

The Gamecocks have several options for replacing Wonnum. On Saturday, they opened the game in a three-down front with Aaron Sterling at defensive end, Javon Kinlaw in the middle and Keir Thomas at end. They also can use Bryson Allen-Williams, Daniel Fennell or Brad Johnson at the Buck and Shameik Blackshear at defensive end.

“We are not going to make excuses,” Muschamp said. “D.J. is a really good player, but we have guys who can step up. That’s why you recruit.”

Georgia rushed for 271 yards Saturday, mostly by attacking South Carolina on the edges.

“We have to play better on the edges,” Muschamp said.

Run down. South Carolina’s 20-to-48 run-pass ratio against the Bulldogs didn’t please Muschamp.

“We needed to run the ball more to create more balance in what we were doing,” Muschamp said. Offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon “and I have talked about that.”

The Gamecocks opened the game in an empty-backfield, five-wide receiver set, and quarterback Jake Bentley ended up with a career-high 48 pass attempts.

“We agreed to start the game the way we did,” Muschamp “We wanted to spread them out and get their rushers fatigued. I felt good about that, and (I wanted to) settle back into the run game with some things. Sticking with the run a little bit more would have helped us as we moved forward in the second half.”

South Carolina’s 20 rushing attempts were the second-lowest of the Muschamp era. The only time the Gamecocks have rushed fewer times in a game the past two years was last year against the Bulldogs when they rushed 17 times.

Speak up. Muschamp was unhappy with the communication in his secondary, blaming it specifically for a 42-yard reception by Georgia’s Mecole Hardman and generally for several other mistakes at the back end of the defense.

“We have had some issues in camp with that,” he said. “We have to do a much better job communicating. It starts with us as coaches. We had some issues yesterday.”

Little help. South Carolina’s six dropped passes were “all on the receivers,” Muschamp said.

“The ball should have been caught,” he said.

Out the poll. The Gamecocks fell out of the AP Top 25 after a one-week stay because of the loss.

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