On the Beat: Wando product Hart helping Gamecocks prep for USF star Flowers
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — If South Carolina manages to contain record-setting South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers in Thursday’s Birmingham Bowl, walk-on quarterback Bailey Hart of Mount Pleasant can take satisfaction in knowing he played a part.
Hart, a freshman from Wando High School, has been playing the role of Flowers on the scout team in bowl camp, Gamecocks safety D.J. Smith said after Tuesday’s practice at Birmingham-Southern College.
“He’s not as fast, obviously,” Smith said. “You’re obviously not going to get the real game-type look from (Hart), because he’s not the same type quarterback. I’d say he throws the ball a little bit better. But other than that, it’s not really a comparison. We’ll probably have to wait until game day to see.”
South Carolina’s No. 2 quarterback, Brandon McIlwain, had also mimicked Flowers some when the Gamecocks’ first-string defense has drilled against the second-team offense, said junior defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth.
“He’s very different,” Stallworth said of the USF star. “We’ve played against a lot of quarterbacks kind of like him, but he brings a different aspect. He’s more explosive than any other quarterback we’ve played this year.”
Flowers this season passed for 2,546 yards and 22 touchdowns, and rushed for another 1,425 yards and 15 scores. USC has implemented a few new schemes to try to limit his mobility and force him to throw the ball.
“I feel like we’ve been running the same plays in scout for like five weeks,” Smith said. “It honestly feels that way. I feel like we’re going to be ready. We’re going to know what to do, we’re going to be sound, we’re going to be playing fast.”
South Carolina remains a double-digit underdog to South Florida, which was ranked No. 25 in the most recent AP poll. The Bulls were a 10-point favorite as of Tuesday, according to most Las Vegas sports books.
“A lot of people are saying we’re underdogs in this game,” linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said. “You don’t want to look too much into those things, but we hear them. We just want to go out there and end the season the right way. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs on defense, so just to go out and finish it the right way is very big for us.”
Smith added the 10-point spread “doesn’t really matter. It’s just like social media — it’s all outside stuff. We’re just listening to us. We know what we can do. At the end of the day, it’s about us. So we’re not really thinking about that. We’re just worried about what we’re going to do.”
South Carolina has eight players from the state of Alabama — including junior defensive tackle Ulric Jones of Oxford, who expects about 50 friends and family members at Thursday’s game.
“I have a strong family base, so a lot of people want to come see me play,” he said. “This is my last time playing this close to home.”
Other USC players from Alabama include linebacker Jonathan Walton from Daphne, cornerback Jamarcus King and Stallworth from Mobile, and quarterback Jake Bentley and defensive lineman Boosie Whitlow from Opelika.
Jones said some younger USC players who didn’t need their tickets gave them to him, knowing he had plenty of family members to try and accommodate. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “I’m excited to play better.”