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Kentucky Football: Talking To Garnet And Black Attack

Talking to a South Carolina expert about Saturday's game.

Todd Bennett

Gamecock Man from the excellent Garnet And Black Attack site took some time to answer questions regarding Saturday's match-up between the Kentucky Wildcats and the South Carolina Gamecocks. If you are on Twitter, you can follow them @GABAttack for their views on South Carolina and the SEC. If for nothing else, follow them for their Twitter page's hilarious banner. Without further ado...

Q: Several major publications in the preseason listed South Carolina's offensive line as one of the best in the SEC. Has the unit lived up to those lofty expectations?

Somewhat. During the ECU and especially UGA games, the offensive line absolutely lived up to expectations. Against UGA, Dylan Thompson enjoyed a good pocket, and the Carolina tailbacks had some huge holes to run through in the second half. Carolina has bolstered its push up front by inserting former tackle Cody Gibson as a blocking second tight end in jumbo formations.

However, Carolina's pass protection broke down against Mizzou last week. Mizzou has some talented pass rushers, and Dylan didn't help matters by not getting rid of the ball, but last week proved that this line isn't invincible by any stretch of the imagination.

Q: Quarterback Dylan Thompson has taken the reigns of the offense as a senior but he did see some limited action in the past. How would you evaluate his performance to date?

Good but not great. Thompson is near the top of the league in many categories despite not having been able to pad his stats against a cupcake yet. However, he's left some yards on the field. His mechanics aren't consistently good, leading to frequent overthrows. He takes too many avoidable sacks. At times, he's been too greedy in looking for the long ball instead of taking what the defense gives him. All areas where improvement is needed.

Q: South Carolina has several nice pieces on the offensive side of the ball. Which play-makers should UK fans be aware of heading into Saturday's match-up.

Shaq Roland got a lot of press coming into the season as Carolina's likely go-to receiver, but Pharoh Cooper has turned out to be that player. Cooper has been better than expected. He's the player who has helped Thompson out by bringing in tough catches and who can be relied upon in crunch time. He's also Carolina's "wildcat" QB and has had some big plays running the ball out of that formation.

Q: South Carolina's defense has faced some great offenses so far this season (Texas A&M, ECU, Georgia, and Missouri). With that in mind, and the loss of multi-year starters from last season, how do you feel the defense has done so far?

The defense played poorly throughout the first four games. Granted, it played some good offenses, but no Carolina defense of recent years would have been so thoroughly sliced up by even those teams. The defense did play much better against Mizzou last week, although it wilted at the end of the game when it needed a couple more stops to wrap up the victory. The offense didn't help the defense in that game, though.

Q: Defensive end Gerald Dixon and linebacker Skai Moore appear to be two of South Carolina's best defensive players (and only sophomores!). Would you agree with that assessment, and are there any other defensive players poised to disrupt UK's offense?

In addition to Dixon and Moore, Carolina also has a talented, experienced safety in Brison Williams, who started the season playing corner but who has been playing more and more safety lately as Carolina's young corners mature. Another player to keep your eyes on is true freshman Bryson Allen-Williams. Allen-Williams, who plays in a pass-rushing linebacker role in Carolina's 3-4 defensive package, is beginning to show why he was such a coveted recruit.

Q: South Carolina appears to have a good kicker and punter. How have the return teams done so far this season? Also, the kick-off coverage team did not have a good night against Vanderbilt. Was that an aberration or have those breakdowns occurred semi-regularly this season?

Carolina has gotten a handful of decent returns. The kickoff returner is Shon Carson, a player many fans would like to see replaced, although Carson did have a very good return to set up a touchdown drive against UGA. Pharoh Cooper is the punt returner and has had some decent returns but nothing spectacular. Blocking on Carolina's return units leaves much to be desired.

The problems on return coverage have only occurred against Vanderbilt. We didn't have any of those problems in the first three games. Against Mizzou last week, we worked with a new kickoff specialist, and he sent most of his kicks out the back of the end zone, negating the possibility of a return.

Q: Final score and what will be the difference(s) in the game?

Hard to determine given how Carolina has been playing and how much better UK is than last season. This is a very important game for both teams: Carolina must win to keep its season alive, and the game is an excellent opportunity for Kentucky to position itself for bowl eligibility. I think Carolina remains the more talented team, though, and I feel Carolina will come out playing well with its back to the wall. Let's say Carolina in a close one, 27-20.

I'd like to thank Gamecock Man for his time and thoughtful responses. If you're interested in the questions he asked me, and the answers I provided, you can check that out here.