The South Carolina football team will hit the road fresh off its first conference win against Mississippi State for a game against the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gamecocks upset then-No. 5 Tennessee in Columbia 63-38 last season.
The Daily Gamecock spoke with Caleb Jarreau, the sports editor for Tennessee's student newspaper, the Daily Beacon, to talk about the Volunteer's season and his thoughts on the upcoming matchup with the Gamecocks.
The Daily Gamecock: What is the current mood around the Tennessee program?
Caleb Jarreau: “A good word would probably be 'disappointed.' The loss at Florida was one that really stung because this was supposed to be the team with Joe Milton and an explosive offense. This is supposed to be the team that was able to go to Gainesville and win.”
“Obviously, this past week, (Tennessee) handled UTSA pretty well, but you still didn't get to see your freshmen play as much because it was a little too close at times and stuff like that. And there's breakdowns here and there that kind of just add on to that disappointment.”
You mentioned the Florida game a little bit, so what went wrong for the team there?
“(The) communication was clearly off.”
“They used two timeouts, I want to say within two or three minutes of this half starting. So that just kind of summed up the inability for the team to run the offense. (Milton) didn't look the best. He made good decisions. He had one interception, but he was getting murdered by Desmond Watson in the backfield. That's another thing — this offensive line played very, very poorly at Florida.”
“Then you look at the defense. The offense wasn't producing, and the defense let Trevor Etienne run for, I want to say 172 yards, his career-high, and they were not slowing their run game.”
What are some things that you think Tennessee needs to do this year that they didn't do last year to get a win against South Carolina?
“That game probably cost Tennessee a shot at the playoff last year because, if you think about it, they beat South Carolina they win out with one loss. They could have snuck in as a four-seed. And it also cost Hendon Hooker a chance to go to New York — even just for the Heisman ceremony, whether he won it or not. So, there's definitely going to be a lot of bad blood, which makes me think it'll be a rowdy crowd.”
“But just overall, I feel like this team has better leadership this season on the defensive side of the ball in particular. I don't think there's going to be those fractures that we saw. Now, is the secondary as good? I don't know if we've seen them play good against a good quarterback yet. But, they won't play bad because of team chemistry issues.”
Who are some weapons, on the offensive side or defensive side of the ball, that you think could have a big effect on the game?
“I would say Bru McCoy would probably be number one. So as Joe Milton has not been allowed, I guess, or the playbook hasn't been opened for those intermediate routes, (Milton has) been hitting Bru McCoy out on the outside on wide receiver screens."
"That's basically like throwing a pass to the linebacker. And I mean, (McCoy) just puts his head down and runs. I mean, if he falls forward, that's 6'3", 220 pounds coming at you. I mean, that's four or five yards if he just gets to the line of scrimmage and falls forward.”
“Tyler Barrett has been quietly having a very, very, very good season on the defensive line from the edge rusher spot. He leads the team in sacks.”
Is there anything else about the game or Tennessee football you’d like to add?
“You face Florida, and it was like a completely different football team was there. So that makes you wonder if the environment got to them that much or if that's just the team is not good against better teams, better competition, SEC competition. So that'll be a real test on Saturday — is the team just like 'FCS merchants' and padding stats against those worse teams or are they actually good and will that show up at home? Maybe it was just 'The Swamp' that got to them in their first SEC game.”
What is your score prediction and who wins?
“I think it’ll be a high-scoring game, a shootout. And I just don’t know if Joe Milton and Tennessee's offense can keep up with a shootout. And I don't know if you can trust that defense yet.”
“I would take South Carolina by a touchdown. I'd probably go 45-38.”