South Carolina Football: Grading All 22 Starters Against Arkansas
The South Carolina Gamecocks finally prevailed against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday after a three-year span of losing.
The defense was once again the star of the show, notching four sacks and holding the high-flying aerial attack of Tyler Wilson and Co. to 20 points.
It was an emotional affair at the South Carolina homecoming, as it was the first game the team has played without the services of star running back Marcus Lattimore.
Let's take a closer look at how all of the starters performed on Saturday.
Last time fans saw Connor Shaw play in Williams-Brice, he treated them to a career-best day throwing the rock.
While his performance against Arkansas didn’t feature such gaudy statistics as the Tennessee game (22-of-32, 356 yds, 4 total TDs,) he was still very efficient.
Shaw followed up his strong showing by completing more than 60 percent of his passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He was also able to run in a touchdown, giving him three rushing scores on the year.
If not for the fourth-quarter interception to Arkansas’ Tevin Mitchel with the game all but decided, Shaw would have pretty much played the perfect game.
Connor Shaw: B+
This was the first game that South Carolina has played since the injury to star tailback Marcus Lattimore.
In his absence, the burden fell to fifth-year senior Kenny Miles and true freshman Mike Davis to carry the load.
While Davis was the more productive of the two running the football (4.1 ypc,) Miles’ contributions to the passing game should not be overlooked.
No. 31 provided Connor Shaw with a reliable outlet out of the backfield and ended up being the team’s second best receiver on the day (3 rec, 44 yds).
While the two combined for just 90 yards rushing, it will be interesting to see which back gets more carries moving forward after Davis proved he could move the ball on the ground, particularly in the second half.
Kenny Miles: C
Mike Davis: C+
Tight ends proved once again to be one of the biggest factors to South Carolina’s offensive success.
Justice Cunningham continued his dominating play against Arkansas, providing a number of key blocks and reeling in two catches as Connor Shaw’s security blanket (2 rec, 33 yds).
One of the best things about Cunningham is his bruising running style after the catch, a trend that continued on Saturday.
Rory Anderson and freshman Jerrell Adams also made their mark on this game, each reeling in a 29-yard catch, Adams’ for a touchdown.
Justice Cunningham: A
Perhaps the most under-utilized position grouping on the offense, the receivers were a mixed bag against Arkansas.
Bruce Ellington came up big on a number of plays (5 rec, 104 yds,) but none more so than his 42-yard touchdown grab late in the first half.
Not only did Ellington get behind the defense on that play, he also flashed some serious cutback ability that must have South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin itching for him to get back to the gym.
Ace Sanders had a disappointing game both receiving (1 rec, 15 yds) and returning punts. After averaging over 15 yards a return heading into the game, Sanders finished with three returns for a loss of one yard.
D.L. Moore continues to be little more than a big body to hold blocks on the outside.
Ace Sanders: C
Bruce Ellington: B+
D.L. Moore: C-
The Gamecocks’ offensive line has been the most oft-criticized position grouping for the entire season, and Saturday did not exactly give the naysayers reason for pause.
The pass protection improved slightly from the last outing against Tennessee, but still gave up three sacks.
Perhaps more discouraging was the lack of running lanes this group provided.
Tailbacks Kenny Miles and Mike Davis combined for 90 yards on 27 carries (3.3 ypc) and couldn’t really get anything going against a stout Arkansas run defense.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliot has basically had this unit playing musical chairs all year, content with riding the hot hand at both tackle positions.
The good news is that Arkansas was the best defensive line South Carolina will play the rest of the regular season.
Corey Robinson: C+
A.J. Cann: C
T.J. Johnson: C+
Ronald Patrick: C
Brandon Shell: C
The defensive line’s dominance continued against the Razorbacks on Saturday.
It finished the game with four sacks, three of which were in the first half of play.
Pass rushing wasn’t the only aspect this unit excelled at.
With the return of Kelcy Quarles, the line was able to get major push and disrupt the running game of Arkansas, while simultaneous forcing Tyler Wilson to get rid of the ball before he wanted.
Aldrick Fordham was particularly impressive, notching two tackles for loss in his best game of the season.
Jadeveon Clowney: A
Byron Jerideau: B+
Kelcy Quarles: A
Devin Taylor: B
As good as the defensive line was, the play of South Carolina’s linebackers was just as important to limiting the Arkansas run game and creating turnovers.
Shaq Wilson continued to be a cog in the middle of the defense, totaling eight tackles on the day.
One of the biggest plays of the game came early in the second quarter when senior linebacker Reginald Bowens was able to recover a fumble on the 5-yard line to prevent the Razorbacks from tying the game.
This unit’s inspired play and gap control limited Arkansas to just 83 yards rushing on the day.
Shaq Wilson: B+
Reginald Bowens: B+
Quin Smith: C+
While D.J. Swearinger will be included in the secondary for the purposes of this article, he was basically all over the field and played a lot of snaps in the Spur linebacking position instead of DeVonte Holloman.
Holloman dropped back to safety in his stead, a position he played all of last year, and did a nice job covering his assignments, limiting big plays.
Victor Hampton was lined up on the SEC’s leading receiver for the majority of the day and managed to hold him to 72 yards receiving, almost 50 yards less than his average.
Jimmy Legree and Akeem Auguste split time on the opposite corner and did not disappoint.
Auguste, in particular, proved that he was more than just a name on the injury report as we have come to expect.
The injury-plauged senior came up with a big pass breakup on a third down and also notched his first career interception.
D.J. Swearinger: A+
DeVonte Holloman: B+
Victor Hampton: B+
Akeem Auguste/Jimmy Legree: A-