Gamecocks' defense ready to show mental toughness along with better communication
Sept. 21, 2022

Linebacker Debo Williams cited the need for mental improvement in the unit. “It’s 95% mental and 5% physical,” Williams said. Against No. 1 Georgia, the team allowed 48 points, with scores on eight of the Bulldogs’ 11 drives. This lopsided outcome wasn’t unique to South Carolina. Georgia decimated Oregon 49-3 just two weeks before.

Senior tackle Zacch Pickens felt the defensive performance on Saturday was self-inflicted. “It was on us,” Pickens said. “Some people didn’t go where they were supposed to. Some people were covering where they were supposed to blitz.” Several defenders have been thrust into different roles since the season began due to injuries to key players.

Gilber Edmond, Nick Emmanwori, Stone Blanton, DQ Smith, and others moved up the depth chart to fill in the gaps of the injured Gamecocks. There’s an experience gap on the field for the South Carolina defenders, as the veterans have now embraced the role of instilling confidence in the young players. “Everybody has to step up,” Williams said. “We’re SEC players for a reason.”

With the Gamecocks starting 1-2 with two SEC losses, head coach Shane Beamer is looking for the newer inserts to develop quickly. “We don’t have time to wait,” Beamer said. “We got to go now. We want to grow up, we want to get better, we want to do all these things. Well, the time is now.” Edmond has stepped into a starting role this season. The team looked forward to facing the top-ranked Bulldogs, he said, but were often out of position on some of Georgia’s big plays.

“We just have to be more detailed on where we’re supposed to be on the field,” Edmond said. The Bulldogs recorded eight passing plays that eclipsed 15 yards against South Carolina, two of which were touchdowns. The Gamecocks have given up 14 touchdowns this season, the most among SEC teams that have played three games.

The Gamecocks face a Charlotte team on Saturday that just scored five offensive touchdowns against Georgia State. To Beamer, the defensive unit needs to talk with each other more on the field to remain on the same page. “I think it’s getting better, and it needs to be,” Beamer said. “The great defenses, they’re constantly talking. With the way offenses are nowadays, with how fast they go, the pre-snap motion, the communication.” The team is breaking from SEC play to face a 49ers team that outside of its most recent win has struggled this year. After losing to Georgia in blowout fashion, the Gamecocks will look at what it did wrong against the Bulldogs’ elite offense and regroup. “There’s a lot of stuff we missed, a lot of layups,” Pickens said. “We’re 10 times better than what we showed out there.”