The Gamecocks are coming off of their first win of the season— a 72-10 route of Charleston Southern— a game in which the South Carolina defense forced three turnovers and only gave up 195 yards. So far in 2019, South Carolina ranks 73rd in the country in total defense, giving up an average of 375 yards per game and an average of 5.14 yards per play. This ranks lower than the 2018 campaign for the Gamecocks, in which they had a defensive S&P+ rating of 23.6 which ranked 40th in the country.
The South Carolina defense is led by defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson. Robinson was the defensive coordinator for Will Muschamp at both Florida and South Carolina, where he enters his fourth season. He plays a base 4-3 defense which has four linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs.
The defensive line is anchored by 6-5, 258-pound senior D.J. Wonnum. In his junior year, Wonnum only appeared in five games due to injury, but started all 13 games the season before and was named a permanent team captain. So far this season, he has 7 tackles.
The linebacker corps for the Gamecocks are led by T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene. Brunson, a 6-1, 230-pound senior, was named a permanent team captain in 2018 and has been a starter for the South Carolina defense for the last two seasons. He led the team in tackles last year and has 13 total tackles so far in the 2019 campaign. Greene, a 6-1, 230-pound junior, started every game last season and was second on the team in tackles. So far, he only has 3 tackles, but this number is likely so low because he was ejected in the first half of the Charleston Southern game for targeting. It was a first half ejection, though, so he’ll be back for the full game against Alabama.
The South Carolina secondary is led by 5-8, 180-pound junior safety Jamyest Williams. Williams played in only eight games in the 2018 season due to a shoulder injury but was an SEC All-Freshman in 2017. So far in the 2019 season, he has 11 total tackles. The secondary has three interceptions on the year and those all came in the Charleston Southern game. Sophomore R.J Roderick, freshman John Dixon, and sophomore Israel Mukuamu each had one interception.
Mukuamu is a 6’4” monster at outside cornerback, and his running mate is Jaycee Horn, a 6’1” sophomore who was an SEC All-Freshman selection last year.
North Carolina passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns against the Gamecocks. They rushed for 238 yards. Alabama is averaging 326 yards per game in the air and 232 on the ground. South Carolina could be Alabama’s toughest test yet, but Alabama will still win by a few touchdowns. The Gamecocks have a suspect rush defense that will not hold up to the Alabama rushing attack. The South Carolina secondary is more likely to be a problem than their front seven, but will still get exposed by the Alabama receivers and Tua Tagovailoa (as will most every team in the country, to be fair). Their corners are big and rangy, but can they keep up with speed of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith?
The South Carolina heat will be tough to play in, but after last week I am convinced that heat will not affect the Crimson Tide. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Alabama an 86.2% chance of defeating the Gamecocks.