On the South Carolina football beat: Gamecocks gaining confidence on defense

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — There have been peaks and valleys for the South Carolina football team in the second year under Will Muschamp, but at some point along the way, the defense found a little bit of swagger.

That has to be a sign of movement in the right direction, considering that there hasn’t been much to get excited about when the Gamecocks defense has taken the field over the last few years.

Junior defensive back Steven Montac told reporters on Tuesday that this unit is the best in the country. While most folks would probably suggest that he tap the breaks, it’s easy to see why he’s so fired up, because the unit did just score as many touchdowns as the Arkansas offense on Saturday.

“I mean, we’ve just got to keep playing like that,” Montac said. “We’ve got the best coaching staff. We’ve got the best players.”

Before getting too carried away with Montac’s proclamation, let’s take a look at the valleys, because, in reality, there are still plenty of reasons to be concerned if you’re hoping for a return to the glory days of Clowney, Gilmore and Ingram.

South Carolina has struggled to get off the field on third down. Opponents have converted 45.2 percent of the time, which is second-worst in the SEC, only better than lowly Missouri.

North Carolina State, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M and Arkansas have combined for 126 first downs. That’s the most in the league, though several teams in the league haven’t played six games yet. That’s 21 per game for the Gamecocks, which is better than only Ole Miss and Missouri.

Among conference teams’ sack totals, South Carolina is tied for 10th with Missouri (10).

While the struggles are real, there’s a core of younger players – T.J. Brunson, Keir Thomas, Jamyest Williams and D.J. Wonnum – mixing with some seniors – Chris Lammons, Skai Moore, Taylor Stallworth and Dante Sawyer – that’s led to some of some properly directed steps by the group as a whole.

South Carolina is fifth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 21 points per game. The Gamecocks pass defense efficiency rating (123.4) is sixth. They’re also tied with Kentucky for the second-most interceptions (6), which is bested only by Alabama.

“We’ve just got to continue growing and just don’t take the slump like we did the past couple of games,” Montac said. “We’ve got to continue to rise.”

Consistency, according to Muschamp, is the “biggest challenge” right now.

“Week in and week out, are you continuing to play well? That’s something that we haven’t necessarily done as an entire team, much less as a defensive unit,” he said. “Put together some performances that you’ll be proud of how you play. There’s no doubt consistency is really important to have the type of program you want to have.”

The post On the South Carolina football beat: Gamecocks gaining confidence on defense appeared first on SEC Country.

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