Given how well Dennis Rogan is playing at the other corner for Tennessee, there is no doubt that Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia will be trying to pick ON Willingham, who, in turn will be trying to pick OFF Garcia.
Dating to his days as head man at Florida, Carolina head man Steve Spurrier has shown a knack for identifying a defense's weak link and repeatedly attacking it. Clearly, Willingham has been the weak link in Tennessee's secondary of late.
"I told him Sunday that one of Steve Spurrier's strongest concepts is to get his best receiver on what he looks at as the weakest defender," Slade said. "DeAngelo has sort of opened that up a little bit, and I think he'll get some of that."
With backup Brent Vinson suspended, Willingham must play most of the snaps at corner tonight, even though he has been burned several times in recent weeks. You have to wonder if the guy is up to the test.
"He's working at it," Slade said. "He's going to get challenged a little bit. When you have some balls thrown against you, then people tend to (keep testing you)."
Blessed with good size (6-0, 200 pounds), speed and athleticism, Willingham has the tools to be an exceptional cornerback. His level of production seems to suggest he has underachieved a bit.
"No," Slade replied. "DeAngelo has in my estimation to a large extent overachieved. He's a big guy that can play corner or safety. He's a hard-working dude. He really works at it, cares about it. He will get better as a result."
Tennessee's last five opponents – Auburn, Northern Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama – featured run-oriented offenses. South Carolina will provide a much sterner test for Willingham and the rest of the Vol defensive backs. The Gamecocks average 240 passing yards per game, compared to only 100 rushing yards per game.
"They will throw it," Slade said. "They're very gifted. If you look at the strength of their team offensively, you look at their receiving corps. They're really good."
In other words, DeAngelo Willingham is in for a busy evening.