A surprisingly solid defensive performance was sabotaged by an inept passing game when Kentucky took on Florida last week. Senior Morgan Newton was thrown to the wolves just prior to game time after the staff decided to hold starting quarterback Maxwell Smith out of the game. Newton had been practicing at tight end for the previous week and was visibly unprepared to take the snaps. The result was a disastrous performance. Now at 1-3, Kentucky will Truro turn their fortunes around against South Carolina this week in Lexington.
What you really need to know about South Carolina:
The gamecocks are one of the hottest teams in the country right now and have cracked the top-ten in some polls. A combination of a balanced offense and a overbearing defense has made the lives of their opponents miserable for the first four weeks of the season. Kentucky will be facing an offense and a defense full of future NFL draft picks and some of the premier players at their positions in the entire country.
The players you really need to know for South Carolina:
#14 – Connor Shaw – QB
Shaw really has shown extreme improvements over the past season and has emerged as one of the elite quarterbacks in the SEC. He managed to complete a ridiculous 20 of 21 against Missouri and has become a much better leader as the season progressed. On top of it all , Shaw has shown he is a tough competitor and has played trough injuries this season.
#21 – Marcus Lattimore – RB
There probably isn’t a better back in the entire country than Lattimore. He’s really as complete as they come and on top of wing the team’s leading rusher and receiver, he’s a capable blocker as well. Lattimore is averaging 103 all-purpose yards per game at this point and will be a load for the Kentucky defense to contain.
#1 – Ace Sanders – WR
Sanders isn’t the team’s top receiver (he’s actually only 3rd with 7 catches), but he is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the conference. He’s averaging 73 all-purpose yards per game and is a dangerous punt returner. Considering Kentucky’s troubles handling speedy players, Sanders could actually be the x-factor in the game.
#7 – Jadeveon Clowney – DE
Clowney was basically NFL-ready as a high school senior and hasn’t disappointed in his first year and a half at South Carolina. He has piled up 7 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks this season and doesn’t look like he’s ready to slow down. The Kentucky offensive line can really hope to contain Clowney, as it doesn’t appear he can be stopped.
Top 3 matchups to watch:
UK’s Kevin Mitchell vs. USC’s Devin Taylor
While the fans, television cameras and offense is focused on the Darrian Miller/ Jadeveon Clowney battle, Mitchell will have his hands full with Taylor on the other side. He hasn’t registered a sack yet this season, but the 6’8 Taylor is a beast in his own right. With the offense (understandably) expected to use backs and tight ends to slow down Clowney, Mitchell and Taylor should end up one-on-one frequently and Mitchell will have to keep him contained.
UK’s Avery Williamson vs. USC’s Marcus Lattimore
Lattimore can runtime ball, he can run routes out of the backfield, he can take a screens for big games, or stay in the backfield and blow up blitzers. Williamson in manning the middle linebacker position and will have to make sure Lattimore is accounted for on every play. Williamson’s ability to quickly diagnose the play could be the difference between the entire defense being in position or not.
UK’s Cody Quinn vs. USC’s Bruce Ellington
Quinn got a surprising start last week against Florida and played admirably considering the circumstances. This week the challenge will be more manageable as South Carolina’s receivers will not haw much of a size advantage on Quinn with the exception of D.J. Moore. Ellington is a basketball standout for South Carolina and has some shifty moves. Quinn will have to utilize his blazing speed to keep up with him as the Gamecocks are sure to test the young freshman early.
Potential breakout players:
#13 – Jalen Whitlow – QB-
After Saturday, I would be surprised if Morgan Newton ever lines up at quarterback again. The staff has indicated that Whitlow had moved up to the second string spot and, while Maxwell Smith is expected to play, you never know when you’re starting QB is injured. Whitlow ability to use his legs and his arm to beat defenders could give the USC defense serious problems.
#33 – Dyshawn Mobley – RB-
Every week Joker Phillips says he should have played Mobley more after the game. With Ray Sanders in the dog house for his off-the-field behavior and CoShik Williams banged up, Mobley could see some extended time on the field.
#16 – Cody Quinn – CB-
Quinn played well against Florida, but he is sure to be a target of the offense this week with South Carolina knowing he’s starting. With more attention comes more opportunity, and Quinn will have a chance to pick off a couple of passes if the offense tries to force things. shaw has already thrown two picks this season.
#32 – Miles Simpson – LB-
Simpson has had a rough start to the season, but will have a decent chance at turning thugs around this week. With Ukwu, Cobble, Rumph, and Dupree all likely to be bigger focuses for the Gamecock offense, Simpson could be in for a big game.
Key for a Kentucky win:
Hate to beat an old horse, but the chances of this team winning look like they will always ride on turnovers. The Wildcats have turned the ball over 9 times I the first four games, and have only gotten 4 from their opponents. In Kentucky’s only win (Kent State), the Wildcats did not turn the ball over once. An oppressive South Carolina pass rush will make things difficult for Smith (or whoever the quarterback is) but he’ll have to protect the ball to keep his team in the game.
USC 38 – UK 24