Gamecocks to Watch: Georgia vs. South Carolina

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Gamecocks to Watch: Georgia vs. South Carolina

Ryan Hilinski (3),
(Photo courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics)
Ryan Hilinski (3),
(Photo courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics)

RYAN HILINSKI (QB, #3)

After three-year starter Jake Bentley suffered a season-ending foot injury in the Gamecocks’ opening loss to North Carolina this year, true freshman Hilinski (6-3, 230) took over the quarterback reins and has performed admirably for South Carolina. In his four starts for the now 2-3 Gamecocks, Hilinski has passed for 912 yards and five touchdowns, while completing 61 percent of his passing attempts. The native Californian is aiming to lead South Carolina to a huge upset of the Bulldogs Saturday and Georgia’s pass defense must be on point in this SEC East encounter.

BRYAN EDWARDS (WR, #16)

While senior tailback Rico Dowdle (#5) leads the Gamecock running game against the Bulldogs, another senior teams with quarterback Hilinski to spark the South Carolina aerial attack. That would be the 6-3, 215-pound Edwards who, in the Gamecocks’ five outings to date, has pulled in 27 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns. That’s coming off a 2018 season in which Edwards totaled 55 catches for 846 yards and seven touchdowns, including three 100-yard receiving games. Again, the UGA secondary can’t allow the Hilinski-to-Edwards passing duo to put up big numbers Saturday.

DONELL STANLEY (OG, #72)

Stanley, a 6-3, 322-pound redshirt senior, is the leader of South Carolina’s offensive line from his right guard spot. Now in his sixth season in Columbia after also getting a year back due to injury, Stanley started all 13 games for the Gamecocks in 2018 with the first 12 coming at the center position. He was nominated for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s top center and then after shifting over to guard Stanley received the Joe Morrison Offensive Player of the Spring award in the Gamecocks’ spring drills. He will be pumped to create holes in the Bulldogs’ defense Saturday at high noon.

D.J. Wonnum (8),
(Photo courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics)
D.J. Wonnum (8),
(Photo courtesy of University of South Carolina Athletics)

D.J. WONNUM  (DE, #8)

Teaming with Brunson on Will Muschamp’s SC defense is prolific South Carolina pass rusher, D.J. Wonnum. The 6-5, 260-pounder comes off the edge with the best of them and his 2019 totals thus far show six tackles-for-loss, three sacks, and one pass interception. In the Gamecocks’ most recent 24-7 win over Kentucky, Wonnum earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors by notching those three sacks along with five solo tackles as well as a forced fumble. Coming off an injury-plagued season in 2018, Wonnum is clearly making life tough for opposing offenses this fall.

T.J. BRUNSON (ILB, #6)

South Carolina’s leading tackler in 2018 with 106 total stops, which included 10.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks, the 6-1, 230-pound Brunson has continued on that pace this season in his senior campaign. Entering the Georgia game Saturday, Brunson has recorded 34 tackles including 1.5 for loss and is clearly one of the ringleaders for the Gamecocks’ defensive unit. If the Bulldogs’ offense is to have another big afternoon running the football, it will certainly have to neutralize the ball-hawking Brunson.

BRYAN MCCLENDON (OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR)

The former Georgia standout receiver and assistant coach who served as the Bulldogs’ interim head coach for the TaxSlayer Bowl (24-17 win over Penn State) when Mark Richt was dismissed as UGA coach after the 2015 season, McClendon is in his fourth season in Columbia as the wide receivers coach and his second as the sole offensive coordinator after joining the staff on Dec. 23, 2015. He was put in charge of the offense and called the plays for the Outback Bowl and, in early January 2018, was named the full-time offensive coordinator. Last season, Carolina averaged 30.1 points, 152.8 yards rushing, 272.8 yards passing and 425.6 total yards per game, the most since 2014. The Gamecocks had a school-record five games of 500 yards or more. McClendon, quite naturally, would like for his offense to dial up those kinds of numbers against his old school this weekend.

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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.