Week 4: Missouri vs. South Carolina
After losing the past three contests to the Gamecocks, a smothering Tigers defensive performance sealed the victory at home for Missouri on Saturday. Getting the scoring started for Missouri was unheralded middle linebacker Cale Garrett, who alertly scooped up the ball in the endzone after a bizarre back-and-forth deflection involving a throw by the USC quarterback. It was a bizarre play that went to review, but a heads-up one by Garrett, who also led the Tigers in tackles on the day.
Other seniors for Missouri who are under consideration for the Collegiate Bowl include starting quarterback Kelly Bryant who put together a fairly complete performance while showing his athleticism as a ball-carrying run threat as well as a poised thrower from the pocket. Bryant, who’s in his first season with the Tigers after transferring from Clemson, has the arm talent to succeed at the next level but needs to show improved ball placement on his intermediate and deep throws.
Up front protecting Bryant are a pair of senior prospects in athletic LT Yasir Durant and mauling RG Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms. Unfortunately, Durant was unable to go due to a neck injury suffered the preceding week, but Wallace-Simms did his part in paving the way for a Tigers rushing attack that totaled 194 yards against a very talented South Carolina front.
At wide receiver, slot-type John Johnson had a productive game while catching four balls for 52 yards and also added 13 yards on a second quarter end-around that showed some quickness in evading tacklers. Lastly for Missouri, do-it-all specialist Tucker McCann had a nice day both punting and placekicking, going 6-for-6 combined on field goals and extra points, and impressively downing several punts inside the 10-yard line.
For the Gamecocks, it all starts with their imposing front-seven defensively, who all look like NFL dudes. Edge defender D.J. Wonnum showed his athleticism with his second-quarter interception that he returned to the 1-yard line. Wonnum is what NFL scouts look for body-type wise with his long, thick frame, and his versatility should make him scheme diverse to play in either even or odd-man fronts.
Inside on the DL are two stud tackles in Kobe Smith – who is active and constantly around the ball in run situations – and Javon Kinlaw, another long, powerful man who made his presence felt while recording four tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.
At the second level of the defense roams linebacker T.J. Brunson who officially recorded 12 tackles on the day but seemed to be around the ball even more often than that. Brunson is a physical and instinctive inside linebacker who excels versus the run. He made a nice play on Saturday getting his hand up in the passing lane to break up a pass, but making more plays in this facet of the game is needed from the three-year starter to improve his draft stock come April.
On offense for South Carolina, not much got going in the ground game, negating the impact that this two-headed rushing attack of seniors Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster could muster. Both Dowdle and Feaster look the part physically with their sturdy frames and sizes, and both were out early pregame fielding kickoffs for additional versatility.
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards was also out early while fielding punts pregame – something that is unusual for bigger/stronger bodied athletes. Edwards – who stands 6-3, 220 pounds and is rocked-up – accounted for just about all the offense the Gamecocks could muster and dazzled with his 75-yard receiving touchdown off a screen pass to open the second half. Not to give too much away on the Conway, S.C. native but he showed me some suddenness as a route runner along with the concentration and dependability that a team needs from a big-time wide receiver.
Not to be outdone in the specialist category, South Carolina’s Joe Charlton made some impressive punts in the game, booming six of his eight punts 50-plus yards, including two for 60-plus.