As the city of Columbia harnesses for the invasion of howling Aggies, we take a chance to better acquaint ourselves with our deep rooted “permanent rival” from the lone star. Can the Gamecocks finally inject a sting of bad blood of their own into this historic series? I think we’ll get a better feeling after learning more through this Q&A with the crew over at Good Bull Hunting.
1. Trevor Knight has been pretty effective both running and throwing in his new offense. How has he adjusted so well and what's the most exciting thing you've seen from him so far this year?
Sumlin made his bones on the way to A&M by taking smart, flexible quarterbacks and putting them in positions to succeed. It’s how he made Case Keenum the most prolific passer statistically in college football history. He doesn’t need a perfect pro prospect to make the offense work. In fact, the last two seasons, he’s had elite raw talent at the position, but the maturity, leadership, and flexibility were all lagging greatly. In Knight, Sumlin has a selfless, seasoned guy who’s willing to put the team first and do what he can to win ball games.
I think the most exciting thing he’s done was running for 157 yards last week against the Pigs. The coaches set it up and schemed it perfectly and the offense went out and executed designed runs.
2. The Aggies defense showed a lot of grit in some key goal line stands against Arkansas last week. Do you finally feel like this defense is coming around and becoming one of the better defenses in the leagues?
Yes I do. And hot damn it’s been a long time coming. We finally have all the trappings of a top SEC defense – coordinator that’s been around the league forever, size, speed, and depth. The depth has been huge. This is a very hard league to be successful in when you’re thin in the front seven.
3. Third down defense seems to be a key point of improvement for DC John Chavis this week. How big of a factor do you see it being Saturday against the Gamecocks and what kind of adjustments do you see the defense making?
Well, I expect the A&M defense to have success on first and second downs putting the Cocks in third-and-long situations. If the Gamecocks are converting those, it will be a huge factor in the game. It’s very deflating when you give up conversions on third and long. It also wears out a defense. The Aggie D was on the field against Arkansas for 40 minutes the other night. Unpleasant.
4. The Aggies have ample talent at the wideout position. Other than Josh Reynolds, who is the next biggest playmaking threat at receiver for A&M?
Christian Kirk. The true sophomore is a threat to house it from many different formations on the field. He and Knight still seem to be trying to find their rhythm, but Kirk kind of has the build and game of a Percy Harvin. Makes it happen outside, in the slot, and out of the backfield.
5. Myles Garrett is the force to try to control on the A&M defense as he anchors the Aggie d-line. Name another guy on D South Carolina will have to quiet to gain some yards and successfully move the ball.
Safety Armani Watts is playing at an All-American level. He was one of the top tacklers in the SEC last year. He’s very opportunistic on making big plays in the backfield and knows how to force turnovers. He’s also a quality cover man.
6. Kevin Sumlin talked about how the quality of competition to start this season is at different level than years past and how that may better gauge where the team is just four games in. Does it finally seem like the Aggies are past the second-half collapses that plagued them the last couple of years after wins over UCLA, Auburn and Arkansas?
I’m very cautiously optimistic that the Ags have turned the corner in that regard. The leadership is remarkably better at key positions. I mentioned depth earlier. The Ags have beaten some pretty physical football teams in the trenches on both sides of the ball in UCLA, Auburn, and Arkansas.
7. Overall thoughts on how you think Saturday will play out and a prediction.
This game has “trap” written all over it for the Ags. They just played a physical game against Arkansas and a massive home game next week looms against Tennessee. If I was gambling, I’d take the Cocks plus points. I think the game might be close and low scoring at the half, but the Ags will ultimately pull away winning… call it 27-13 against our ol’ buddy Will Muschamp. Hope y’all enjoy the game.