South Carolina will open up its 2022 football season at home against Georgia State on Sept. 3. The matchup will be the first time in history that they two teams have played each other.
The Daily Gamecock spoke with Malikai Collins, the sports editor of Georgia State’s student newspaper, The Signal, to learn more about Georgia State head coach Shawn Elliot and his program.
The Daily Gamecock: How have the players responded to head coach Shawn Elliott during his tenure with the program?
Malikai Collins: “The ability to motivate the players. They believe in him, they listen to him, they respect him. So he has the team behind him through it all, through anything, and they’ll go to war for him.
"If you have the team behind you, believing in you, you can motivate them to do whatever that they need to do … He has the tools for this team to take the next step, for sure.”
Who are the top performers to look out for when the Panthers take the field on Saturday?
“Darren Grainger, returning quarterback, I believe he's going to be a junior this year. He took over last season for the other starting quarterback ... and he had almost 1,700 yards passing, 19 TDs, four interceptions, which is a pretty solid ratio for a quarterback, you got to respect that ... It was kind of all gas, no brakes with him."
"And then Tucker Gregg … he’s returning, team leading rusher. He had almost 1,000 yards last year on nine rushing touchdowns."
"Our leading receiver is returning, he’ll be a (redshirt) junior … Jamari Thrash is his name."
"We also have our tight end Aubrey Payne returning, I believe, he’s on the roster for 2022. He’s returning, he had seven touchdowns last year, seven receiving touchdowns, he led the team in receiving touchdowns.”
How do the expectations of the fanbase compare to those of people inside the program?
“I’ll start with the fans first. I think that they believe that this team could take that next step into becoming Sun Belt champions or at least winning their division in the Sun Belt ... The road is going to be little tougher because we’ve added a couple more teams to the Sun Belt.
"The fans especially think this team can make it because we have all these key guys returning, especially on offense with the quarterback, the running back.
"The players believe the same thing ... They’re behind the quarterback and the coach.”
How do you think Jordan Strachan and his former teammates will react to competing on opposite sides of the ball on Saturday?
“Seeing the guys he used to play with and used to practice every day with is going to be different. It’s going to be a weird feeling for him going up against them. But I don’t think there is going to be any animosity on the field because I feel like they probably respect him as a player, know what he can do."
"They’ll probably look out for him, and if he’s out there, they probably know all his tips and tricks and what he likes to do, so they’ll probably just hone in on that and focus on stopping that, preventing that.”
How do you think the Georgia State players will handle the atmosphere in Williams-Brice Stadium week one?
“I believe a few years ago we upset Tennessee at Tennessee, so you never know. With college football, it’s always that crazy atmosphere, it’s always ruckus and wild, people are going crazy. That’s what makes college football college football, that’s what makes it unique, makes it stand out from everything else because the atmosphere is so wild and crazy and unpredictable, so it's just always a good time."
"But they’re going to come in there with that mindset of we can shock the world, we can beat this team. And they’re going to try to the best of their ability to upset you guys on Saturday. I don’t personally believe we will upset y’all, but they might shock me, they could shock the world on any given Saturday.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“Watch out for that run game — Tucker Gregg, Darren Grainger — watch out for those option plays. They might have a few rushing break-offs."
"I don’t know if it’s going to be entertaining, but it should be a game to watch for fans of both sides. But it’s going to be exciting because college football is back, so it’s going to be exciting either way.”
Final score prediction?
“34-17, South Carolina wins.”