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There won’t be many secrets on Saturday when the Tar Heels and Gamecocks get together.

Not only did South Carolina coach Will Muschamp work under Mack Brown as his defensive coordinator at Texas, but Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo matched up with South Carolina on Nov. 3, 2018, as the Gamecocks edged his Ole Miss team 48-44.

Having watched from afar during his time in the broadcast booth, Brown has been impressed with his former understudy.

“He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s aggressive,” he said. “He did a tremendous job for us, and then when he left us, he became the head coach at Florida and he’s doing a tremendous job at South Carolina.”

Given Muschamp’s defensive philosophy, it’s not exactly rocket science what he’ll attempt to do to the Tar Heels and true freshman quarterback Sam Howell on Saturday with seven starters back on defense that underachieved last season.

“They’re always aggressive on defense, but with a true freshman quarterback, Will is going to put a bunch around the line of scrimmage and blitz him and try to stop the run and hit the quarterback,” Brown said. “That’s easy; I mean that’s a no-brainer and Will is one of the better defensive coaches in the country.”

The strength, however, is on the other side of the line for the Gamecocks, who have seven starters back on offense, including senior quarterback Jake Bentley, who took over the starting job midway through his freshman season.

“Bentley is a coach’s son who’s played a lot of football,” defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said. “He’s really smart and hard to fool.”

The Gamecocks have performed admirably on offense over the past three seasons considering they’ve gotten nothing out of their run game, with an average national ranking of 103.6 in rushing yards during that span.

For the first time, Bentley will have help in the backfield this season thanks to graduate transfer Tavien Feaster joining the program after spending his first three seasons at Clemson, averaging 5.9 yards per carry over the past two seasons. He was exceptional for the Tigers — just not Travis Etienne exceptional.

Feaster will team with senior Rico Dowdle, who rushed for 654 yards last season, to create a formidable duo and take some of the pressure off Bentley.

“We’ve got to be very gap-sound and I think we’ve got to try to create some confusion up front and we’ve got to do a good job trying to find where 89 is and stay on top of him,” Bentley said.

The 89 in question is Bryan Edwards, a 6-3, 215-pound receiver who managed 846 yards and seven touchdowns last season as the Gamecocks’ second option.

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The Tar Heels know the big play is coming, and they know it’ll be going to Edwards after a steady dose of Dowdle and Feaster.

Whether they can stop the run without loading the box will ultimately decide whether Bentley will get the chance to put it up and let the big man go get it.

“I think they spread them out, they run the ball and try to get us in one-on-one situations,” Brown said. “Bentley is really accurate so he’s going to try to get the ball to his big backs on the edge in the passing game, run it up inside then throw it to Edwards. Football is not complicated; people are.”

Javon Kinlaw

Spotlight Player

DT Javon Kinlaw (6-6, 310), Senior

The Gamecocks’ defensive MVP last season, Kinlaw finished with 38 tackles — 10 for loss — and 4 ½ sacks despite battling injuries. He’s a big, powerful pass rusher with loads of raw athleticism and ability who is beginning to refine his game and become a solid NFL Draft prospect.

Even at this point, that’s enough to get the attention of Carolina defensive coordinator Phil Longo.

“He’s a scheme changer,” Longo said. “You have to adapt everything you do to a player like that and he’s got a good supporting cast with him on the D-line.”

Moving from right guard to center, Nick Polino will see plenty of Kinlaw on Saturday.

“He looks incredible on film; he’s big, powerful, explosive,” he said. “Future top draft pick written all over him.”

With the shuffling along the interior of Carolina’s line, Kinlaw will certainly be a challenge as Polino guides redshirt freshman Ed Montilus at left guard and sophomore Marcus McKethan at right guard — both of whom will be making their first starts.

But it’s a challenge Polino is looking forward to.

“Dudes like that, you’ve just got to watch as much film as possible and break it down, get to where you know everything inside and out,” he said. “He’s definitely a phenomenal talent, but I don’t think anybody on our defensive line is going to roll over. He’s going to be great and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”