South Carolina's defensive backs wary of Wisconsin's passing game
COLUMBIA - His name is difficult to pronounce, much less for South Carolina defensive backs coach Grady Brown to remember.
Watching film of Wisconsin's offense as the Gamecocks prepare for their Capital One Bowl matchup on New Year's Day, Brown saw the Badgers' senior receiver dart around the field. Instantly, he was impressed.
"I don't know his name," Brown said, "but he wears No. 4. He has good length and is a really good player."
There is no shame drawing a blank on Jared Abbrederis' name. Along with being third in the Big Ten with 73 catches and fourth with 1,051 receiving yards, his 10-letter surname is also among league leaders at his position.
Regardless, South Carolina's secondary knows its work is cut out to prevent Abbrederis from stamping his name all over the Capital One Bowl.
Abbrederis needs just 10 yards against the Gamecocks to move into eighth place in the Big Ten's career receiving yards list. With seven catches, he would also move into the top 10 in career receptions. Achieving both would cement Abbrederis' place as the most accomplished Wisconsin receiver ever.
Naturally, it's a challenge junior cornerback Victor Hampton has no problem accepting.
"He's a guy that I'm going to have to play every play. Can't let up on no play," Hampton said. "He can go up and get the ball, he's kind of physical. So I'm just going to have to come ready to play my A-game. He's nothing I haven't seen, or going to be the best receiver or something I'm going to be nervous about. He's definitely a talented wide receiver."
Wisconsin's running game gets most of the attention, justifiably so. The Badgers rank eighth in the nation with 283 rushing yards per game. With sophomore Melvin Gordon and senior James White, they pose arguably the nation's most dangerous dual threat in the backfield.
When the Gamecocks broke down game film, they realized how often Wisconsin throws the football. Badgers quarterback Joel Stave tossed 323 passes this fall, 64 more than Gamecocks senior Connor Shaw.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said one of his defense's goals is to make Wisconsin one-dimensional, preventing the Badgers from finding balance between the run and pass.
"I think they like to pass the ball a lot more than what people expect," Clowney said. "They do a lot of play-action pass."
The importance of keeping Wisconsin's passing game - specifically, Abbrederis - in check can't be overstated. Since the start of October, South Carolina's strategy has remained the same.
Hold the opponent's star receiver under 100 yards, win the game.
Only once in the past eight games has the Gamecocks' defense allowed a 100-yard receiver. That was Tennessee freshman Marquez North, who caught three back-breaking passes for 102 yards on Oct. 19 in Knoxville.
It's no coincidence Tennessee was the only team to beat South Carolina in the season's final two months.
Abbrederis will undoubtedly test South Carolina's five-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard receiver. He's exceeded the 100-yard mark four times this season, highlighted with a 10-catch, 207-yard performance at Ohio State.
"With me outside at corner, the first thing I have to worry about is covering," Hampton said. "So the run aspect in this game for me, if I'm covering a wide receiver, has got to be something where I'm saving a touchdown with a tackle or something like that. So I just have to focus on my assignment, do my keys, then worry about the run."