Dec. 27, 2017
Temperatures hovered in the low 70s as the University of South Carolina football team went through about a 90-minute workout Wednesday morning at Jesuit High School in Tampa. The Gamecocks (8-4) are preparing to face the Michigan Wolverines (8-4) in the 2018 Outback Bowl on Monday, January 1.
A dozen Gamecocks will be playing in their final game in the Garnet & Black next Monday, including standout linebacker Skai Moore. Moore is poised to become the first player in school history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons.
"It's been a long process for sure," said Moore. "It goes by quick, no matter even with my fifth-year deal, it still goes by quick. I've been sitting and thinking about all of this. I'm happy it's my last game."
Moore, who was originally committed to Rutgers before signing with South Carolina, feels that he has acquitted himself over the past five years.
"I was an overlooked guy. Down there in South Florida, a lot of guys get overlooked," noted Moore. "I had a chip on my shoulder coming in and I just always wanted to prove people wrong. People thought I was too undersized to play the position I do in this league, but I feel I proved people wrong."
Moore has a 13-tackle lead over teammate T.J. Brunson to pace the squad in tackles for the fourth time, a rare accomplishment indeed, but Moore hasn't spent a lot of time thinking about that.
"Not too much. I just go out there and play the game. Prepare during the week, watch the film, then go out there and play. (T.J. and I) haven't talked too much about it. We're focused on the scheme and trying to get our gaps right. He's going to make his plays and I'm going to make my plays. But it means a lot. It's a big accomplishment. Of all the guys that have played college football, only 15 guys (have led their team in tackles in four seasons). That's something that's big."
Moore knows that Michigan will present a challenge.
"They're a pro-style offense," noted Moore. "They're kind of like Arkansas. They're going to try to run the ball on us. Once we stop the run and make them throw it, we should have an advantage. If they feel like they can run the ball, we'll let them try. We're just going to keep stopping them until they have to throw. We're ready for all that stuff."
Moore has an idea of what he wants his legacy as a Gamecock to be. "A player who showed up on Saturdays and did what he had to do to help his team win," said Moore. "A good leader that's a good person and a guy who always made plays."
Moore is focused to go out on a high note in the Outback Bowl, but has given some thought to the draft and playing at the next level. "I've heard some mid-round stuff, but it only takes one team to really like me. So whichever team picks me is going to get a good one for sure."
Moore will actually have one more opportunity to perform at the collegiate level after the Outback Bowl, has he has been selected to play in the Senior Bowl. "Just going out there and performing in front of the scouts. Anytime you get an opportunity to do that, it will help you. Playing against competition that they feel is the top of the country will help me out."
QUOTES FROM T.J. Brunson:
"The first two days out here have been pretty nice. We've been getting adjusted to the weather. It's really nice."
"(Michigan) has a power run game. It's about making sure you have the right fits and getting the right calls in, getting the defense set up."
"They have a power run game. I'm pretty sure they'll come out and try something different, but that's their bread and butter."
"I hope (Skai Moore) gets that last pick. I want him to get that pick. Everyone does. That's a big deal, for a linebacker to have that many interceptions."
"This win would mean a lot for our program, to show where we're headed and what's in store for us in the future. It's definitely important."
QUOTES FROM D.J. Wonnum:
"(Michigan) is going to try to run the ball. They're going to try to run (downhill) on us. They're aggressive up front, and they have a great running back. We can stop it. We need to come ready to play regardless. We'll see on the 1st."
"Bowl practice gets us ready for the next game and the next season. We just keep going and going and going. We're trying to go upwards."
"There's a lot of game plan work going on. We're focused on Michigan a lot (in Columbia), and we're focused on them a lot here too."
"I want to go to Busch Gardens. I haven't been there in a long time. To the beach too, because it's hot out here. I'm looking forward to everything."
Later tonight, the team will head to Splitsville, where they will take part in a bowling competition with the players from Michigan.
The Gamecocks will return to practice at Jesuit High School again on Thursday morning.
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