There were not many fans remaining at the end of South Carolina’s dramatic 37-35 victory against Missouri Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
A driving rain storm and lengthy lightning delay led to several empty spots in the stands at the end of the SEC matchup, which lasted more than five hours.
But one of the most important pieces of South Carolina’s 2019 recruiting class stayed and cheered on his future teammates throughout the day.
“I stayed the whole game. I wanted to make sure we won,” five-star commit Zacch Pickens of T.L. Hanna told The State Tuesday. “It was really hype, even if it was pouring down rain they still competed as a team and found a way to win, ... They kicked the field goal and made it and we all got happy.”
Pickens has attended all three of South Carolina’s home games thus far.
He watched South Carolina dominate Coastal Carolina in the opener and struggle against Georgia in Week 2 before its back-and-forth contest with Missouri on Saturday.
Pickens said he has enjoyed every visit and he is not going to visit any other schools.
“I’ve been really happy,” he said. “I love that school. I really do. I wouldn’t change it for nothing.”
Pickens is also enjoying his senior season.
T.L. Hanna is off to a 7-0 start thanks in part to Pickens’ contributions on offense and defense.
T.L. Hanna has had two fullbacks go down with injuries, so Pickens has received several snaps at fullback. He has 36 carries for 251 yards and nine touchdowns so far. He is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry.
“He’s made a huge difference for us. Our goal going into it wasn’t to do that as much, but we had two guys playing fullback get hurt. And all of a sudden Zacch became more of an option for us,” Yellow Jackets coach Jeff Herron said. “When we do block it well it’s really good, but even when we don’t block it well you feel pretty good about handing it to him.”
But Pickens primary position remains at defensive line, and he is making a difference there as well. Pickens is not putting up the stats that he would like to as he is often getting double teamed and triple teamed, but he still has 30 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
“I talked with our defensive coordinator yesterday about it because there has not been a game that he has not been at least double teamed in a passing situation,” Herron said. “Most of his plays have been in the run game when they can’t afford to do that. But when they’re throwing they’re going to put two guys on him, which is smart on their part. But it’s opened up opportunities for our other guys.”
T.L. Hanna’s other defenders have taken advantage of so much attention being placed on Pickens.
The Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to eight points and 145 yards per game.
“Sometimes I get mad and frustrated with myself thinking what could I do more? But there’s nothing else I could do,” Pickens said. “It’s been a struggle for me a little bit not being able to make all the plays that I could have back when I was a freshman. They have three people blocking me, but that’s an opportunity for somebody else to make a tackle.”
Pickens will likely only play defense in college as he is one of the top defensive prospects in the country, but Herron believes he is such a good athlete that he could play on either side of the ball at a high level.
“Certainly I think defensive line is his best position,” Herron said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind if a team had a fullback or H-back or tight end he’s just a really gifted athlete that could do a lot of things.”