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Gamecocks To Watch

Jake Bentley Photo by Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA
Jake Bentley
Photo by Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA

This is the guy who makes the South Carolina offense go. A 6-4, 224-pound junior, Bentley has started the last 20 games at quarterback and threw every pass for the Gamecocks in 2017, finishing with 2,794 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. With 4,214 passing yards in his career at USC, Bentley is more than capable of inflicting damage on a Georgia secondary that has new starters playing alongside veterans Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed this season. With the jury still somewhat out on the Gamecocks’ running game this season, look for Bentley to be filling the air with footballs Saturday afternoon in Columbia. That’s why the Bulldog defense can’t allow the tall quarterback to get in a comfort zone. That’s why the Bulldog defense must bring the heat on Bentley in this SEC debut for both teams.
All of a sudden, the Gamecocks’ offense is much more explosive and that’s because of the presence of Samuel, a 6-0, 210-pound senior who rates one of the most dynamic receivers/playmakers in America. Get this, despite suffering a season-ending leg injury in the third game of the 2017 season Samuel tied for the team lead in touchdowns with six, returned two kickoffs for 97-yard touchdowns and had 15 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. So, clearly, the Georgia secondary and kick coverage team have their work cut out on Saturday in attempting to keep Deebo from going off. Jake Bentley will be looking for Samuel and the Gamecocks’ other talented receiver, Bryan Edwards, early and often at Williams-Brice Stadium and Mel Tucker’s Bulldog defensive unit must be primed to limit their big-play ability.
D.J. WONNUM (DE, #8)
This 6-5, 258-pound junior from Stone Mountain, Ga. can come off the edge and make life tough for opposing quarterbacks, as evident by Wonnum’s team-high six sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss last season. In his first two seasons with the Gamecocks he totaled 89 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles-for-loss. Thus, the Georgia offense must have a plan to neutralize Wonnum on Saturday. The Bulldogs simply can’t permit South Carolina’s stellar defensive end to penetrate into the backfield and make life miserable for quarterbacks Jake Fromm/Justin Fields and the UGA running backs.
Now a 6-1, 240-pound junior, Brunson started all 13 games for the Gamecocks at middle linebacker last season when he was second on the team with 88 tackles. This season, Brunson has been anointed by the South Carolina coaching staff as the “one voice” and leader on the defense. So Georgia’s offensive line will have a tough assignment in slowing not only Gamecock defensive end D.J. Wonnum, but Carolina linebacker Brunson as well. If the Bulldogs’ offensive front comes anywhere close to living up to its preseason billing, it should handle the challenge in Columbia this coming 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.