COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2011 PRESEASON TOP 25
SEC East PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Steve Spurrier, 55-35 (7 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Steve Spurrier | DEF. COORDINATOR: Lorenzo Ward
South Carolina is coming off the best two-year run in school history.
With Stephen Garcia gone, there was no quarterback controversy this spring at South Carolina. Connor Shaw was actually promoted a game before Garcia was dismissed last season, and while Shaw showed his inexperience at times, he blossomed into a legitimate dual-threat starter by the end of the season, when he cemented his status as a star among South Carolina fans by helping the Gamecocks beat rival Clemson and Nebraska.
Shaw is now a junior, and in the spring quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus wanted Shaw, who has fleet feet, to focus more on shifting in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, rather than simply scrambling at the first sign of a pass rush.
Between Shaw’s running ability and running back Marcus Lattimore’s return from a knee injury, expect coach Steve Spurrier to lean on the running game more than he ever did in his pass-happy days at Florida. Last season, South Carolina ran 42.5 times per game and passed 24.4 times per game as Spurrier adapted to his team’s strengths.
The Gamecocks will have one of the best defensive end tandems in the country, with Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who decided to return for his senior season. Last season, Clowney had such a poor grasp on the scheme that his teammates had to tell him where to line up before the snap. Now, Clowney has a better understanding of the mental aspects of the game, which bodes well for his chances to improve on his eight-sack true freshman season.
South Carolina lost its leading tackler, Spur outside linebacker Antonio Allen, and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward decided to replace him with the starting strong safety from the past two years, DeVonte Holloman, who is about 40 pounds heavier than Allen. This should allow South Carolina to blitz more with Holloman — something that Ward wants to do as he employs a more aggressive approach than his predecessor as coordinator, Ellis Johnson.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who turned pro a year early, was a big reason why South Carolina had the nation’s No. 2 pass defense in 2011. The other corner, C.C. Whitlock, is also gone. The good news for Ward, who still oversees the secondary, is that corner Akeem Auguste returns for his senior season after missing last year with a foot injury. Auguste started 19 games over the previous two seasons and will definitely be a starter.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
The second-round NFL selection had over 3,000 receiving yards and 23 TDs in just three years in Columbia. Jeffery broke or tied a majority of the South Carolina receiving records during his three seasons and will be missed by the offense.
Connor Shaw, QB The junior enters his first full season as a starter hoping to improve as a pocket passer.
Marcus Lattimore, RB He was one of the top freshmen in the country in 2010 but suffered a season-ending knee injury last year.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE He showed last season why he was the top-rated recruit in the class of 2011.
Devin Taylor, DE Had six sacks last season, ranking third on the team behind Clowney and Melvin Ingram.
DeVonte Holloman, OLB A steady presence at strong safety the past two seasons, he now moves to Spur outside linebacker.
|Aug. 30th||at Vanderbilt|
|Sept. 8th||East Carolina|
|Sept. 29th||at Kentucky|
|Oct. 13th||at LSU|
|Oct. 20th||at Florida|
|Nov. 24th||at Clemson|
South Carolina lost punter Joey Scribner-Howard and kicker Jay Wooten. Patrick Fish and Mike Williamson are battling for the punter job, while Adam Yates appears to be the guy at kicker. A more interesting offseason development was Bruce Ellington’s decision to once again play both football and basketball next season, for the second consecutive season. He played only basketball as a freshman. Ellington led South Carolina with 20 kickoff returns last season.
This is truly a golden age for the Gamecocks, who are 20–7 over the past two years — a long-awaited reward for fans who endured years of average-to-awful seasons. Last season, they went 11–2 and set a school record for wins.
Spurrier returns enough talent for 2012 that South Carolina should once again be in the mix to win the Southeastern Conference’s East Division. The Gamecocks went 6–2 in the league last year, but losses to West Division opponents Auburn and Arkansas kept them from playing in their second straight SEC Championship Game.