These 5 Gamecocks are crucial to South Carolina’s upset chances against Clemson

·3 min read
Joshua Boucher/jboucher@thestate.com

The Palmetto Bowl is upon us.

Fresh off clinching bowl eligibility, South Carolina has another chance to overachieve in Shane Beamer’s first year at the helm in Columbia with a home date against Clemson on Saturday.

Dabo Swinney’s team heads into this one riding a six-game winning streak over USC, while the Tigers still technically have a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title.

Here are five Gamecocks to watch in Saturday’s contest:

RB ZaQuandre White

Rinse and repeat, I suppose.

ZaQuandre White has become a stalwart in this column each week, but why not? The former Florida State Seminole has played a huge part in South Carolina’s late-season run and averaged more than 7.4 yards per touch on his 31 carries entering the Auburn game.

White finished Saturday’s win over the Alabama-based Tigers one-yard shy of his third 100-yard rushing effort of the season. He made up for it with three receptions for 69 yards and a 28-yard touchdown catch from Jason Brown.

South Carolina has had all sorts of offensive issues, but White’s emergence coupled with what — at least on the surface — seems to be a healthier Kevin Harris only stands to help the Gamecocks on Saturday in Columbia.

Edge Kingsley ‘JJ’ Enagbare

South Carolina’s defense has been way ahead of schedule in Year 1 under Clayton White. A big reason for that is the Gamecocks’ defensive line led by Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare.

Enagbare is a rare combination of speed and size. He’s 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds but runs like a receiver. He’s physical enough to fight off tackles and agile enough to cover in space.

Clemson — not too dissimilar from South Carolina — has had a whole host of problems offensively. The Tigers have failed to hit the 300-yard mark three different times this fall. They also failed to throw for more than 200 yards on six occasions in 2021.

Issues aside, Swinney’s bunch has started to find their stride of late. Clemson notched almost 500 yards of offense against lowly Connecticut two weeks ago. It exploded for 48 points and 543 yards against perceived ACC front-runner Wake Forest last week.

South Carolina has a chance to disrupt quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei in the same way it forced Auburn’s T.J. Finley to throw quicker than he wanted to on Saturday. If USC is going to do that, Enagbare is going to be a key piece.

WRs Dakereon Joyner, Xavier Legette; TE Jaheim Bell

I’m taking a different approach here this week.

Josh Vann has been spectacular. It doesn’t take a football expert to tell you that. He’s gone over 100 yards receiving three times this year. He has double the amount of receiving yards as anyone on the roster and his five touchdown catches are two more than any other Gamecock.

Point being, Vann is going to get his. Someone else needs to be able to make a play.

Jaheim Bell is a unicorn at tight end. His combination of size and speed is unique. It’s why Florida and Oklahoma were after him as a recruit. But Bell has had a tendency to disappear. He hasn’t had more than two catches in a game in a month. He didn’t have a single catch in Saturday’s win over Auburn.

Dakereon Joyner and Xavier Legette, too, have had their moments. Joyner has flashed athletically and has been a nice piece as a wildcat quarterback. Legette’s game-winning touchdown catch against Vanderbilt saved South Carolina from disaster. That said, neither Legette nor Joyner has had more than 40 yards receiving in a game this fall.

Vann had his issues in the middle part of the schedule, but he’s seemed to have largely shaken those inconsistencies of late. Facing a Clemson secondary that is allowing less than 215 yards passing per game, the Gamecocks have to find other options through the air.

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