South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Position Breakdown

The first home game of 2015 is almost here.

After a pair of close wins last week, South Carolina and Kentucky collide in Columbia for the SEC opener for both squads on Saturday night.

Here's a breakdown of which team has the edge at every position. 

Quarterback

Connor Mitch looked overwhelmed at times against North Carolina and was nearly picked off on multiple occasions. Mitch did some good things with his legs, but was banged up in the process.. Patrick Towles is a veteran for the Wildcats and threw for three touchdowns in the win over Louisiana-Lafayette. However, just like Mitch, the junior completed less than 50% of his passes.

Advantage - Kentucky

 

Running Backs

South Carolina's tailback accounted for 168 of the team's 259 yards on the ground Thursday and proved to be one of the team's most solid groups. Shon Carson was a big-play threat and could see increased touches. Boom Williams averaged 13.5 yards on 10 carries for the Wildcats, including a 75-yard scamper. And last I checked, JoJo Kemp still plays for UK. 

Advantage - Tie

 

Wide Receivers

Pharoh Cooper and Terry Googer were the only receivers to catch passes for positive yardage in the opener. Connor Mitch may have had a lot to do with that, but the Gamecocks still need someone to emerge as a solid second option. Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker both averaged over 16 yards per catch in Kentucky's opener. At 6'5", sophomore Blake Bone is the top redzone target for Towles.

Advantage - Kentucky

 

Tight End

Jerrell Adams proved to be a reliable security blanket for Mitch on designed screen passes. Adams can be extremely dangerous in the open field. Kentucky is fairly in experienced at this spot, with true freshman C.J. Conrad and redshirt freshman Darryl Long. Neither caught a pass in the Wildcats' win over UL-L.

Advantage - South Carolina

 

Offensive Line

South Carolina has lost Cody Waldrop for the foreseeable future with a broken ankle. Freshman Zack Bailey is now the backup at both center and left guard. All five of Kentucky's starting offensive lineman tip the scales at over 305 pounds. The hefty group helped UK average over seven yards per play on Saturday.

Advantage - Kentucky

 

Defensive Line

South Carolina's front four recorded five tackles for loss, including four sacks, against the Tar Heels. Sophomore Taylor Stallworth is slated to get his first start of the season at defensive tackle. Kentucky's defensive line allowed the Ragin' Cajuns to run for 247 yards. Hybrid linebacker/defensive end Denzil Ware had six stops in the game. 

Advantage - South Carolina

 

Linebackers

Skai Moore saved the day with a pair of interceptions in the end zone against UNC. The linebackers were slow to stop the run at times, but had a solid showing. Kentucky boasts a veteran group with three seniors holding down the starting spots. Middle linebacker Josh Forrest had a team-high 10.5 tackles, a sack, an interception and four pass deflections on Saturday.

Advantage - South Carolina

 

Secondary

South Carolina struggled at times against a pass-heavy North Carolina offense. Chris Lammons will start at cornerback after being passed over for Chaz Elder in the opener. Kentucky's secondary allowed 232 yards passing in its first game, the exact same number as the Gamecocks. Junior J.D. Harmon had an interception and a forced fumble. 

Advantage - Tie

 

Special Teams

Sean Kelly averaged over 42 yards per punt in his Gamecock debut and twice downed the Tar Heels inside their own 10. Kentucky averaged nearly 32 yards per kickoff return on Saturday. 

Advantage - South Carolina