South Carolina Defender Zach Pickens has fond memories of the game at Williams Brice Stadium and is looking forward to taking the field at Senior Night on Saturday.
Pickens has had a strong season as he has recorded 37 total tackles with three tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two pass deflections.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior said in a Tuesday news conference that it feels like he’s just arrived in Columbia and is dying to give it his all against the Volunteers on Saturday night.
“It came quickly,” Pickens said. “It felt like I was a newbie, but time flies when you’re here. Especially if you play soccer. I will definitely miss Willy-B. Had a lot of fun memories, especially with the boys. It’s going to be a good game. We will give everything we have, especially since we are playing for Willy-B for the last time.”
Pickens could have gone to the NFL after last season but is glad he didn’t because he’s seen his teammates grow.
“I said last year was my last year, but I ended up coming back,” Pickens said. “I’m glad I came back because I couldn’t have seen everyone grow. That’s one thing I like to see. Young people are growing up and that’s actually nice.”
One area where Pickens has seen the Gamecocks grow is in growing closer as a team and playing for one another on the field.
“We had a little hiccups here and there,” Pickens said. “It’s gotten a lot better. We started to trust each other. We love each other now as a whole. We believe in each other. In my first year, we really didn’t have anyone who said, ‘Yeah, guys, we have it.’ We only played for ourselves. Now we have the opportunity to play together as a team. We work together as a team. We do things outside of football. Just hanging around and enjoying the time, laughing. Just to have fun. I think we missed that in my first year.”
As for their opponent on Saturday night, Pickens and the Gamecocks need to find a way to slow down the fast offense that will bring the Volunteers to Columbia.
“We have to figure out how to make negative plays to slow them down,” Pickens said. “Yes, they go as fast as they can. That’s one thing we’re trying to practice right now. If we create negative plays and come off third, we have an opportunity to slow them down a bit.”
Pickens said he has never faced anyone who goes on the offensive as quickly as the Volunteers and knows they need to finish quickly.
“They line up as soon as they’re attacked,” Pickens said. “I’ve never seen anyone line up. Throw the ball to the umpire, already set, set, done, the ball is snapped before the snap count even starts. Chains aren’t even set yet and they’re ready to grab the ball. We just have to find a way to stop this.”
Tennessee quarterback Hendon hooker is having a fantastic year at Knoxville and Pickens and the rest of the Gamecocks defense will have a lot to prepare for when the Volunteers make their way to Columbia.
“He just does one, two and throws the ball,” Pickens said. “We have to get him out of that routine and keep him in check because he can run. Basically he can do everything. We have to contain him. Make sure it doesn’t break. Make sure we keep him straight. Do you have a spy. We have to make sure we have him under control because he can take over a game on his own.”