At the beginning of the season, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was worried if his safeties would play well enough for the Gamecocks to have a quality defense. Now Muschamp is just worried about whether or not he’s going to have enough safeties to finish the season.
The position took another hit Sunday when Muschamp announced that Jamyest Williams and Javon Charleston will miss the remainder of the season due to injuries suffered in Saturday’s 48-44 win over Ole Miss. Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury, and Charleston, who suffered a foot injury, will have surgery this week, Muschamp said.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Muschamp said.
The rest of the injury news from the Ole Miss game was better than first feared. Running backs Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams, defensive end Aaron Sterling and offensive lineman Malik Young also were unable to complete that game due to injury, but Muschamp expressed optimism that all those players could play Saturday against Florida. Dowdle is South Carolina’s leading rusher, with 98 carries for 490 yards and three touchdowns. Williams is the second-leading rusher with 66 carries for 319 yards and four touchdowns. Sterling has 15 tackles and a sack this season.
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“I feel good about getting all those guys back,” Muschamp said. “Everybody else to me right now is day-to-day. I’ll know more Tuesday. Rico has an ankle. They don’t think it’s one of the high ankles, and Ty’Son’s got a bruise on his hand.”
That leaves safety as the most pressing concern. Seniors J.T. Ibe (knee) and Nick Harvey (concussion) were added in the offeseason as graduate transfers due to concerns about depth at the position, but both already are out with long-term injuries and will be out again against Florida, Muschamp said. It will be the fourth straight game Ibe has missed and third straight game Harvey has missed and there is no firm timetable for the return of either.
“It’s been unusual,” Muschamp said of the amount of injuries at the position, adding it is the first time in his coaching career one position group has been hit so hard in one season.
Williams missed spring practice this year after having surgery on the same shoulder he injured against the Rebels.
Senior Steven Montac, redshirt freshman Jaylin Dickerson and true freshman R.J. Roderick are the only safeties South Carolina currently has available, and the Gamecocks will consider moving players from other positions to safety to help this week against the Gators. Cornerback Rashad Fenton filled in at safety last week.
“We had a discussion about that today. We will meet with those guys tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow night,” Muschamp said. “Rashad Fenton can go play safety if he needs to. He knows our defense extremely well. We will make some preparations past that.”
Players of the game. Quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 363 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, was named the offensive player of the game from the Ole Miss game.
“I thought he played his best game as a Gamecock,” Muschamp said.
Junior center Donell Stanley was named offensive lineman of the game. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel was named the offensive effort player of the game. Cornerback Keisean Nixon, who had a career-high 13 tackles was named defensive player of the game and special teams player of the game. Tackle Javon Kinlaw was named defensive lineman of the game. Linebacker T.J. Brunson and Roderick were named the defensive effort players of the game.
Back to Florida. Saturday’s noon game against the Gators will be Muschamp’s second trip to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since being fired as Florida’s head coach in 2014.
“Regardless of what everyone wants to write, I had a great experience at Florida. It didn’t work out. That’s part of our profession. If you don’t win enough games, you get fired,” he said Sunday. “That’s just the bottom line of our profession. I am not one of those guys that has hard feelings toward anything. We had a great opportunity there and I didn’t get it done. (Former Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley) and I still talk a lot. I still have a lot of Gator friends that I talk to a lot. I look forward to going back to Florida. That’s a place I’ve got a lot of great memories.”