The Daily Gamecock

Preview: South Carolina aiming for second win in SEC opener at No. 16 Arkansas

After an up-and-down week one performance, South Carolina starts conference play as it travels to take on No. 16 Arkansas for the first time since 2017. Arkansas is 13-10 all-time against South Carolina, but South Carolina has won the last three matchups.

Blocking issues plagued the team against Georgia State and will likely be a focal point at practice leading up to Saturday.

Despite the blocking concerns, redshirt sophomore running back MarShawn Lloyd, who rushed for 30 of South Carolina’s 79 rushing yards, took to Twitter Monday evening to defend his offensive line. 

Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler echoed Lloyd's sentiment in a retweet, replying "Amen! Love them guys. We’ll be just fine." Rattler addressed why the players posted the defensive tweets at Tuesday's press conference.

"You have to — that's the least we can do," Rattler said. "Those guys are in a fist fight every single play, and of course, that's the hardest position on the field. You got to realize they're doing a lot of good stuff, making a lot of good plays for us, and as a group we'll all get better. I trust those guys with everything, so we're gonna roll and we'll be good."

South Carolina gave up an average of five yards per rush last Saturday night but was able to hold Georgia State in check in critical moments. Meanwhile, Arkansas is coming off a 31-24 victory of its own over then No. 23 Cincinnati where the team rushed for 224 yards.  

Sophomore running back Raheim Sanders tallied 117 yards for the Razorbacks while junior quarterback KJ Jefferson, the team’s 2021 leading rusher, went for 62 and a touchdown. Jefferson, however, completed just under 70% of his passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns and presents much more of an air threat than Georgia State’s run-first offense. 

Head coach Shane Beamer said there's no way in practice to truly replicate how the signal caller plays and compared Jefferson's size to a defensive lineman. He said players would "just bounce off of him back there." If the team would want to prepare for him, Beamer said they'd have to make a defensive end a quarterback. 

"The way that he's able to — in the run game — run the football, like he does, but then also in the passing game to be able to sit back there and take hits and throw the ball downfield or to have people bounce off of him and he's able to scramble," Beamer said. "But he keeps his eyes downfield and he's able to throw."

Facing a defense that just forced two fumbles and an interception, the Gamecocks will have to limit backfield penetration and prioritize ball security to keep up with Arkansas’ offense. Rattler’s two interceptions accounted for both of South Carolina’s turnovers, though one was tipped by a receiver. 

After Saturday's game, Rattler said he wished he could have his second interception back and took time to note his likes and dislikes of his game one performance on Tuesday. 

"I like how I extended the play when stuff broke down and found my receivers on some routes," Rattler said. "Obviously as a group, myself, everybody, we always want to clean stuff up. It's game one, everybody's got stuff to clean up after week one, so we're gonna take a big jump this week."

Aside from the turnovers, Rattler performed fine in his first game as a Gamecock, but will need to prove that he’s an effective runner against a more stout defense. Passing yards accounted for 227 of the team’s 306 yards as the running backs struggled, with junior tight end Jaheim Bell leading the team in the rushing category.

The second game of South Carolina's season will take place in Fayetteville and kickoff at noon eastern on Saturday. The game will air on ESPN.