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You can read the entire South Carolina preview in Athlon Sports' 2011 SEC magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
#21 South Carolina
SEC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Steve Spurrier, 44–33 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Steve Spurrier | DEF. COORDINATOR: Ellis Johnson
Finally with some experienced weapons in tow, Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina program has some substantiated expectations for a change. Not that the Ball Coach believes the Gamecocks are deserving, even though they won nine games in 2010 and reached the SEC title game for the first time in the program’s history.
“We don’t deserve much preseason ranking,” Spurrier says.Why not, Coach? For starters, the Gamecocks bring back All-America candidates at running back and receiver. Sophomore Marcus Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards last season, breaking the school’s freshman rushing record by 349 yards. And now he’s getting his first legit opportunity in the school’s weight program. Alshon Jeffery does not wow with speed, but physicality and consistency allowed him to rack up eight 100-yard games last season.
As usual, much of the team’s success will be determined by its mercurial quarterback, Stephen Garcia. Suspended indefinitely to close out the spring — the fifth time he’s been suspended — Garcia could as easily flame out as he could spark the team. But when Garcia is on, he is on.
The offensive line is again a giant question mark, even though this is the first time since 2008 that it retains the position coach for a second straight season.
South Carolina will win the SEC East if Stephen Garcia starts every game.
As much as Lattimore was a game-changer for the offense, the Gamecocks are hopeful Jadeveon Clowney does the same for the defense. They’re not shy about that, either.
“Signing players like Jadeveon ups our expectations,” Spurrier says.
South Carolina allowed an average of 15 points in its nine wins. In its five losses, however, the Gamecocks were torched for 37.8 points.
Clowney is a 6'6", 245-pound machine designed to get to the quarterback. He’ll have help from All-SEC rusher Devin Taylor (7.5 sacks in 2010) on the opposite end. Throw in Melvin Ingram (nine sacks), who can play both tackle and end, and tackle Travian Robertson, and the Gamecocks have one of the best starting defensive lines in the country. Linebacker will be an improved position with the return of Shaq Wilson from a hamstring injury that cost him the 2010 season. Moving physical junior DeVonte Holloman from strong safety to Spur linebacker figures to bolster a group that was previously a bit undersized.
The secondary regularly struggled in 2010, but moving senior Akeem Auguste back to his familiar corner spot should go a long way toward steadying things. Expect Stephon Gilmore to bounce back at the opposite corner. D.J. Swearinger must take over as a leader at free safety.
Marcus Lattimore, RB Has pedal to metal in weight room to improve on
terrific freshman season. Should be one of the best running backs in
the nation in 2011.
Alshon Jeffery, WR Safety net for any quarterback in the game.
Catches everything. Faster than you think, too.
Stephon Gilmore, CB Had decent sophomore season, but several lapses.
Expect a bounce-back year before leap to NFL.
|Sept. 3rd||East Carolina (in Charlotte, NC)|
|Sept. 10th||at Georgia|
|Oct. 15th||at Mississippi State|
|Oct. 29th||at Tennessee|
|Nov. 5th||at Arkansas|
|Nov. 19th||The Citadel|
Spencer Lanning, who kicked field goals the past two seasons and punted the past three, will be sorely missed by the Gamecocks. The audition for both placekicker and punter will extend into August. There are some big-leg options, such as North Carolina transfer Jay Wooten and Joey Scribner-Howard, but no one has proven he can consistently put the ball through the uprights.
A bevy of opportunities is again out there for Offense PerGame SEC National South Carolina. A relatively soft division. A manageable schedule. A host of returning talent, along with the addition of the nation’s top recruit.
But there are some issues, most notably with Garcia at quarterback. And keep in mind that even in a breakthrough season, South Carolina still lost five games in 2010. A repeat in the SEC East is definitely a possibility — but the Gamecocks still have plenty to prove.