South Carolina offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Clayton White said they have a newfound confidence in the team's youngest players following the Gamecocks' first win of the season against Furman.
Injuries forced the coaching staff to adjust its game plan on both sides of the ball, creating opportunities for new players to get experience. Throwing young players in early comes with trial and error, according to Loggains, but many of the team's freshmen have made the most of their opportunities.
“If they're going to bite, they're going to bite when they’re puppies,” Loggains said. “When you throw them out there as freshmen, and they bite, you should be excited about that.”
Loggains said he was excited about working with the fresh faces along the offensive line and that it all boils down to true freshman offensive linemen Trovon Baugh and Tree Babalade's talent, which enables them to mix in with the veterans and put together a line strong enough to compete in the SEC.
Their performance against Furman backed up head coach Shane Beamer’s confident remarks last week despite scrutiny for the loss to North Carolina.
“When you play freshmen, you are going to live with some mistakes,” Loggains said. “They don’t have the experiences the older guys have. But at some point it becomes about talent, and you say, ‘Hey, these young, talented players are going to learn and get thrown in the fire, and we are expecting them to play well when they do play and when their number is called,' and they did last week.”
White said the freshmen on defense have added versatility to the group among uncertainty about the return of the injured players. Despite the missing pieces, the group put up a strong performance, shutting down Furman on nine straight possessions during last week's game.
“We’ve always rotated guys around just to make sure our room is versatile so we can’t get handcuffed or jammed on a situation with some injuries,” White said.
Freshman defensive back Jalon Kilgore stands out in the secondary due to his high promise and physical preparedness, according to White. As sophomore defensive back Nick Emmanwori recovers from an injury sustained in week one, White said he is confident in Kilgore’s ability to get out on the field and tackle in that spot.
The maturing squad faces the daunting task of taking on No. 1 Georgia this weekend on the road. Going against the top-ranked defense in the country, Loggains said he wants to make sure that everything the Bulldogs gets is earned.
“When you play teams like this, it really is about you,” Loggains said. “You have to make them earn everything. You can’t give them things, and if you do, then it gets lopsided real fast, because they're a talented, well-coached team.”