As this week's game against the Kentucky Wildcats approaches, The Daily Gamecock caught up with Kentucky’s student newspaper, Kentucky Kernel. Sports editor Erika Bonner discussed this Saturday’s matchup between the Gamecocks and Wildcats.
Q: What is your prediction for the game?
A: I’m gonna say UK wins 35-21. I think that with the Florida game, they kind of showed what they can do against a top-10 team. They looked like the better team against them, so I think that they will have had a couple of weeks in between then to prepare for South Carolina and get better and clean up some of those things on offense that they’ve seen with their new quarterback.
Q: How do you feel about Kentucky’s team this year without Benny Snell, losing him to the draft, and without Terry Wilson, who is out for the year with an injury?
A: What they have been missing most is all the players they lost on their secondary. That’s been the big thing this year. They have two really good running backs that were both behind Benny Snell. One of them, A.J. Rose, he’s their leading rusher right now, and then right behind him is Kavosiey Smoke. ... Really where they’re lacking is their secondary. They lost their starting safety, both their starting cornerbacks. ... As far as the quarterback goes, that was definitely a huge loss with Terry Wilson going down, but Sawyer Smith is coming in with experience from Troy. ... He has the experience and is not shell-shocked. He can come in and step up.
Q: Do you feel the series has grown into a rivalry the past few years?
A: Yeah, I definitely do. ... I feel like in the SEC East, in general, all the teams are kind of huge rivals. ... Especially if there’s any sort of win streak or anything like that between the two teams.
Q: Which South Carolina player do you think poses the greatest threat to the Kentucky offense and defense?
A: It looks like Bryan Edwards is [South Carolina’s] top receiver. ... Like I said, Kentucky’s secondary is just not exactly where it needs to be, and they had two injuries last week, so I don't know if they'll be back for the South Carolina game. But that’s probably their weakest spot, covering downfield, things like that. ... On defense, I would say Ernest Jones. It looks like he is leading in tackles right now and [was] most improved player in the spring, something like that. Recently, it just seems like Kentucky has been lacking in their running game, so I think that if Ernest can have a good game against Kentucky, then he definitely will probably pose the biggest threat to UK's offense.
Q: What UK player do you think poses the greatest threat to South Carolina’s offense and defense?
A: On defense, I would say DeAndre Square. ... He is leading Kentucky in tackles right now with 22, and I think against Eastern Michigan he had like eight or nine. So he's definitely stepped up where Kentucky’s secondary has lacked. And then, on offense, I would say Ahmad Wagner. He’s not UK's top receiver, but he’s definitely UK's most threatening receiver. ... He’s a king at drawing pass interference. ... He’s one of those guys that can go in and can catch anything with two, three defenders on him, and I think, because of his size, that makes him an incredibly hard player to defend.
Q: Head coach Mark Stoops has established himself at UK, winning 10 games last year. Given that, do you think that Kentucky will pose a threat to win the East in the future?
A: In every year that [Stoops] has been here, he’s either matched or gone above his wins in the previous year. I don’t know how far in the future that’s going to be. The SEC East is a tough area with Florida; you know, Georgia is good every single year. I would say that last year established Kentucky as one of the best teams in the SEC East. But now that they’ve seen that, I think they’ll get more recruits that want to start coming to Kentucky. ... If they were to win the SEC East, I think it would take a few years. ... If they keep this upward rise and if Mark Stoops can continue doing what he’s doing with the program and bringing these high recruits in, I think it’s definitely doable in the next three to four years.