It will look different. The Swamp will only have around 17,000 fans inside, there will be no Gator Walk, no tailgating and no on-field performances by the band. But, at long last, there will be football inside the Swamp as the No. 3 Gators take on South Carolina (0-1) at noon on Saturday.
Florida (1-0) will try to replicate what it did on offense last week and do a 180-degree turn on defense. Playing against a struggling South Carolina offense could be just the remedy.
As we always do before each game, here are three positions of strength, three positions of weakness and three players to watch for from the Gamecocks.
Three Positions of Strength
While the Gamecocks only rushed for 89 yards against Tennessee, they have a trio of running backs with diversified skillsets. Sophomore Kevin Harris is a 225-pound power back who receives the most carries. Redshirt sophomore Deshaun Fenwick is an all-purpose back, as he caught four passes against the Volunteers. ZaQuandre White was the No. 1 junior college running back prospect in the nation last year. This trio should challenge a UF defense that’s still looking to find itself in 2020.
As you’ve come to expect from a Will Muschamp-coached team, South Carolina is loaded with talent and size along the defensive front. Strongside end Aaron Sterling was a Preseason Third Team All-SEC selection. Kingsley Enagbare, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior, starts at BUCK and made a pair of sacks and nine tackles in the opener. Jabari Ellis made a tackle-for-loss from his tackle spot. What really stands out about this front is the depth. Former five-star recruits Jordan Burch and Zacch Pickens serve as key reserves. This will be the first true test of how much progress Florida’s offensive line made this offseason.
This is the Gamecocks’ most experienced position. Junior Ernest Jones mans the middle, and he stuffed the stat sheet last season. He made a team-high 97 tackles to go along with 5.5 tackles-for-loss, a sack, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He’ll be flanked by junior Brad Johnson on the strongside and either senior Sherrod Greene or senior Damani Staley on the weakside. Greene has been a two-year starter. The backups also consist primarily of upperclassmen.
Three Positions of Weakness
If you take away slot receiver Shi Smith, the only two other receivers on the two-deep who caught a pass last season are Xavier Legette and Dakereon Joyner. They combined for 15 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown, and Joyner is a converted quarterback. Legette and Smith were the only wide receivers who caught a pass last week. True freshmen compose the entire second unit, and one of them is also a converted quarterback. This should be a favorable matchup for Florida’s defensive backs to get back on track. If they don’t have a big day against this group, there will be cause for concern.
The Gamecocks ranked 12th in the SEC in passing defense in 2019 and tied for the second-most passing touchdowns surrendered. They gave up 259 yards and a touchdown to Tennessee’ Jarrett Guarantano last week. Kyle Trask is significantly better than Guarantano. They’re undersized and not very good at the safety and nickel positions. Either 5-foot-11, 195-pound Jammie Robinson or 6-foot, 205-pound R.J. Roderick figures to be tasked with covering Kyle Pitts. That probably won’t work out too well for them. The one thing they do have going for them on the back end is cornerback Israel Mukuamu, a Preseason Second Team All-SEC choice. He’s extremely long and physical at 6-foot-4, which means he’ll likely be tasked with covering 6-foot-4 Trevon Grimes. As long as Trask is careful to not let Mukuamu get his long arms on the ball, he should have another 300-plus-yard game.
It’s an annual tradition for Muschamp’s offensive line to end up on this list. They gave up four sacks and generated just 89 rushing yards against Tennessee. They finished 10th in the league in rushing and gave up the sixth-most sacks in 2019. They have a lot of youth on the right side of the line, as sophomore Jovaughn Gwyn starts at right guard and sophomore Jaylen Nichols, freshman Vershon Lee and redshirt freshman Jakai Moore are listed as co-starters at right tackle. Dylan Wonnum was a part-time starter the past two years, but he’s only started two games at left tackle. They do have a Preseason Second Team All-SEC left guard in Sadarius Hutcherson, but one player doesn’t make an entire offensive line. The Gators got a lot of pressure against a decent Ole Miss offensive line last week, and they should dominate this week.
Three Players to Watch
Wide Receiver Shi Smith
The senior slot receiver is by far the Gamecocks’ most proven playmaker, as he entered this season tied for 12th on the school’s career receptions list. He caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a score against Tennessee. He also serves as a kick returner. At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he’s a smaller, shifty receiver who has a similar skillset as Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, who torched the Gators for more than 200 yards. South Carolina doesn’t have much firepower offensively, so it’s imperative that Florida’s defensive backs prevent him from putting up another monster game.
Quarterback Collin Hill
Hill doesn’t have the arm strength or speed that you look for in a quarterback, but he came with new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo from Colorado State, making him a veteran leader who knows the offense inside and out. He had five 300-yard passing games with the Rams, and he completed 25 of 39 passes for 290 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his South Carolina debut. His 6-foot-4, 222-pound body makes him difficult for defenders to bring down, and he’s overcome three ACL injuries in his career. He’s a tough, intelligent player who has already earned the respect of his new teammates. The Gators shouldn’t have much trouble defending South Carolina’s passing game, but they’ve made average quarterbacks look very good in their last two games.
BUCK Kingsley Enagbare
The junior is known as an athletic and instinctive pass-rusher, but he also has the size to set the edge against the run. He lived in the backfield against the Volunteers, who are considered to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Florida probably has a middle-of-the-pack offensive line. He’ll likely matchup against left tackle Stone Forsythe a lot and is the type of player that Forsythe has struggled against throughout his career. The Gamecocks cannot cover the Gators’ receivers for long, so they’re hoping for Enagbare to take over this game and get Trask out of his rhythm.