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South Carolina RB still recovering; plus, news on Gamecocks interim OC Bryan McClendon

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

On the mend

Injured South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle is still questionable for the Outback Bowl against Michigan on Jan. 1, according to Will Muschamp.

“Rico is a little slowed, but I think he’s going to be OK. A.J. Turner is fine,” Muschamp told reporters on Tuesday. “Sherrod Greene is fine. Shi [Smith] was fine. … Rico was the only one I thought might be a little questionable.”

Dowdle finished the season with 206 yards and 1 touchdown on 60 carries. He’s been out since breaking his left leg against Tennessee in Week 7.

Off the sideline

Interim offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon will call plays from the press box in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, John Whittle of The Big Spur reported.

“It’s not a whole lot of difference being in the box than on the sideline,” Muschamp said. “The box is a lot calmer environment and you’re able to see things a lot better from that standpoint and from an adjustment standpoint. We have people assigned on every snap where their eyes need to be to be sure we have correct information about different looks that we’re getting.”

McClendon was named to the role after former co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper was relieved of his duties earlier this month.

Sunshine State prospects

With the Gamecocks in Florida for the Outback Bowl, SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan took a look at some of the team’s top prospects in the region, including 2018 4-star defensive tackle Dennis Briggs (Kissimmee, Fla.) and 2019 4-star offensive tackle Michael Tarquin (Belleview, Fla.).

“Lakeland High School is home to several other targets, including 4-star tight end Keon Zipperer and 4-star defensive end Latrell Jean,” McGranahan wrote. “The school also has 2020 running back Demarkcus Bowman.”

Briggs, one of the Gamecocks’ few remaining 2018 targets, recently listed South Carolina among his top 4 schools.

Against the odds

OddsShark installed South Carolina as a 7.5-point underdog against Michigan in the Outback Bowl, per Kody Timmers of Garnet and Black Attack.

The Wolverines opened the season 4-0 before going 4-4 in their last eight games. Michigan dropped its final two games to close the season, losing 24-10 to No. 5 Wisconsin and falling 31-20 to No. 9 Ohio State.

To IR

Former South Carolina star and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Damiere Byrd was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday after injuring his leg in the Panthers’ 22-19 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, reports Rick Millians of The State.

“He’s a playmaker on this team and we can’t go too far without him,” fellow Panthers WR Russell Shepard told the Charlotte Observer. “We’re a better football team when No. 18 is on the field.”

Byrd has 4 catches for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a 103-yard kickoff return score, in his last two games.

‘Just footwork, I think, is the biggest thing’

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley is looking to improve his accuracy as the Gamecocks prepare for the Outback Bowl.

“Just footwork, I think, is the biggest thing. Controlling my feet, slowing it down, not being so sporadic, being under control more,” said Bentley, via David Cloninger of The Post and Courier. “Get my base underneath me. Doing a lot more footwork drills during individual time in practice. And just really focusing on accuracy.”

The sophomore signal caller completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,975 yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. In his last four games, against two of the four College Football Playoff teams, he posted a 3-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Gamecocks take Tampa

South Carolina’s media guide for the Outback Bowl made its debut on Twitter on Tuesday, featuring QB Bentley, LB Skai Moore, “Buck” DJ Wonnum and tight end Hayden Hurst.

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The post South Carolina RB still recovering; plus, news on Gamecocks interim OC Bryan McClendon appeared first on SEC Country.

Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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South Carolina’s change at offensive coordinator; plus, a closer look at Gamecocks’ interim play caller

South Carolina-Bryan McClendon

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

A different direction

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp announced on Wednesday that co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Kurt Roper has been relieved of his duties.

“After much deliberation, I have decided to go in a different direction with the offensive coordinator position on our football team,” the second-year South Carolina coach said in a release. “We appreciate Kurt’s contributions to our program and to the university and wish him all the best.”

Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will call the plays against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

Muschamp noted that a full-time replacement won’t be named until after Jan. 1.

The new play caller

Though McClendon is new to calling plays for the Gamecocks offense, he’s no stranger when it comes to wearing multiple hats.

The Atlanta native previously served as running backs coach, then wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia before coming to South Carolina. In fact, McClendon once held an even larger distinction during his time in Athens, Ga.

“This won’t be the first time McClendon has held an interim title during a bowl game. Two years ago, before the end of his final season at Georgia, he was the Dawgs interim head coach,” Hale McGranahan of SEC Country wrote. “In place of Mark Richt in TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2, 2016, McClendon led Georgia to a 24-17 win over Penn State. He became the first black head coach in program history.”

Beyond his on-field roles, McClendon was named by Rivals.com as one of the top recruiters in the country in 2017. In the 2018 cycle, he’s been the lead recruiter for 4-star wide receiver and South Carolina commit Josh Vann.

Still on board

Four-star quarterback and South Carolina commit Dakereon Joyner may have a great relationship with Roper, but according to a tweet he posted on Wednesday night, he’s still solid to the Gamecocks.

Joyner’s rated as the No. 201 overall prospect in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite.

The North Charleston, S.C., native will be among the official visitors on campus this weekend.

‘They just need an athletic person’

Speaking of the big recruiting weekend, 3-star cornerback and South Carolina commit Jonathan Gipson will also be in Columbia.

The versatile defensive back likes what he hears from the South Carolina defensive staff.

“They think I can do both of them at that safety position, to cover and tackle, and run,” he said of Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson. “They just need an athletic person. They say to me all the time that I’m very gifted with the football ability, but they really want to clean up my techniques and get me ready.”

Gipson is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 31 cornerback for 2018.

The domino effect

With Jimbo Fisher now at Texas A&M and Willie Taggart in place at Florida State, the coaching shakeup has affected several South Carolina targets, including 3-star safety and former FSU commit Israel Mukuamu.

Muschamp and Robinson visited the 6-foot-5 safety on Monday.

The Bossier City, La., native is expected to graduate from high school in December.

On the mend

Three-star offensive tackle and South Carolina commit Wyatt Campbell is finding ways to stay busy as he heals from a torn meniscus to his left knee.

“I actually do a lot more upper body stuff than I thought, just keeping myself in shape,” Campbell told SEC Country. “Planks, sit-ups. … Just calf raises, leg press, just stuff to start building back up some muscle that I lost.”

The 6-7 offensive lineman will enroll at South Carolina in January.

Another double-double

A broken nose didn’t stop forward Chris Silva from posting his third double-double of the season in South Carolina’s 80-64 win against Wyoming on Wednesday night.

The junior forward led all Gamecocks scorers with 19 points and 10 rebounds; freshman guard Felipe Haase pitched in with 17 points off the bench.

With the win, South Carolina improved to 7-2 on the season. Next up, the Gamecocks host Coastal Carolina on Saturday.

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The post South Carolina’s change at offensive coordinator; plus, a closer look at Gamecocks’ interim play caller appeared first on SEC Country.

Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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Ole Miss removes interim tag, names Matt Luke full-time coach

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Ole Miss made it official on Sunday night and officially named Matt Luke it’s full-time coach.

A press conference is scheduled for Monday morning. Luke went 6-6 as the interim, which included a win over No. 14 Mississippi State this past Thursday. Luke had met with the team on Sunday night prior to news coming out.

Luke is a former Ole Miss player and captain. He had served as an assistant under two different stretches from 2002-05. Luke was named the interim coach after the school parted ways with Hugh Freeze in July amid scandal.

The search firm Ole Miss used was the Turnkey Search, which was the same one LSU used a year ago when it promoted Ed Orgeron to full-time coach from interim status, according to Antonio Morales of the Jackson-Clarion Ledger. 

The Rebels won SEC games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and nearly beat Arkansas and Texas A&M as well.

Luke will be one of at least 4 new full-time coaches in the SEC West next year, as Texas A&M, Arkansas and Mississippi State all will have new coaches.

Ole Miss also picked two commitments on Sunday.

Ole Miss is still waiting to hear from the NCAA as to what their penalties will be regarding the NCAA’s investigation. On Thursday, Ross Bjork told ESPN that those penalties could come as early as this week and as late as possibly two weeks.

After Ole Miss beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, the players began to campaign for Luke to get the full-time job. They were pretty happy on Sunday night.

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Connor Riley – SEC Country

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Florida interim coach Randy Shannon explains decision to start QB Malik Zaire

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After seven games of biding his time at Florida, Malik Zaire is finally getting his opportunity.

The graduate transfer from Notre Dame on Thursday was named the Gators’ starting quarterback for its road game against Missouri on Saturday, taking over for redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks.

On the Gators’ weekly radio show Thursday, Florida interim coach Randy Shannon said he adjusted the approach in practice so that each quarterback was taking reps in packages that played to his strengths.

“Whichever one executed the plan for what is their strength, that’s the one that we went with,” Shannon said. “Malik did a great job, and we went to his strength of what he can do. The things that he can do brings a lot to the table.”

RELATED: A big game from Zaire will raise more questions about Gators’ 2017 struggles | Zaire could become the most important recruit for Florida’s next coach

This will be Zaire’s first chance to start for the Gators since he transferred to Florida over the summer as a benefactor of the SEC’s decision this spring to amend its rule on grad transfers. However, after falling behind the depth chart following fall camp, his only chances to play thus far came late in two blowout losses  — the 33-17 season opener to Michigan and the 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday. In those brief appearances, Zaire completed 12 of 23 passes for 142 yards.

Zaire led the Gators to their lone scoring drive against the Bulldogs on Saturday, orchestrating a 9-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Mark Thompson against Georgia’s reserves. It preserved the Gators’ nation-leading 368-game scoring streak. On that drive, Zaire completed 3 of his 4 attempts for 36 yards and had 2 carries for 30 yards.

And it’s not like Florida’s passing game could get worse after the way October played out.

During the Gators’ three-game losing streak — a 17-16 loss to LSU, 19-17 loss to Texas A&M and 42-7 loss to Georgia — Franks recorded just 273 passing yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions while being sacked 15 times. Against Georgia on Saturday, Franks completed 7 of 19 passes for 30 yards and an interception before being benched for Zaire.

Florida’s passing offense is 111th in the country and on pace for its worst finish since 2012 (118th).

Maybe Zaire can provide enough of a spark to change that. With just three-career starts, his sample size at Notre Dame is small. But Zaire put up impressive numbers in the 2014 Music Bowl while splitting reps (96 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-15 passing, 96 rushing yards and a touchdown) and the 2015 season opener against Texas (313 yards and 3 touchdowns on 19-of-22 passing).

Saturday will be the first chance to see how — or if — that success will translate to his time at Florida.

“He’s prepared,” Shannon said. “You always have to be on top of what you’re doing and on top of your game every time you play football. … This is his chance to step up and represent the Florida Gators.”

The post Florida interim coach Randy Shannon explains decision to start QB Malik Zaire appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country