#52 South Carolina Football 2016 Preview

South Carolina Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #52
#12 SEC
After three straight 11-2 seasons, South Carolina has fallen off the map over the last two years. The Gamecocks need redemption and so does new coach Will Muschamp. This program is not going to fall apart even after a three win season, but there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. The future is bright, but this season cannot be any worse than last year.
2015 Record: 3-9, 1-7
2015 Bowl: None
Coach: Will Muschamp (0-0 at South Carolina, 28-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kurt Roper, Bryan McClendon
Defensive Coordinator: Travaris Robinson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Lorenzo Nunez, QB, 375 yards
Passing: Perry Orth, QB, 1,929 yards
Receiving: Deebo Samuel, WR, 161 yards
Tackles: T.J. Holloman, LB, 63
Sacks: Darius English, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: T.J. Holloman, LB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB David Williams, S Jordan Diggs, DE Marquavius Lewis, P Sean Kelly
Key Losses: RB Brandon Wilds, WR Pharoh Cooper, TE Jerell Adams, LB Skai Moore (injury), DB Isaiah Johnson, LB T.J. Gurley
The quarterback situation is a bit of a mess at South Carolina. Coming into the spring, there were five quarterbacks listed as co-starters. And then Jake Bentley, who was originally slated to come in as part of the class of 2017, reclassified to the class of 2016. Perry Orth is the most experienced option. He threw for 1,929 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The senior is a decent quarterback who is not a terrible option to fall back on. Lorenzo Nunez and Connor Mitch have starting experience too. However, freshman Brandon McIlwain could turn into the better quarterback sooner or later. Deebo Samuel will need to step up as the team’s top receiving threat after catching 12 passes for 161 yards in an injury shortened season. Freshman Bryan Edwards is a big receiver who could turn into the big play threat. The running attack should be solid under David Williams. The junior only rushed for 299 yards last year, but he is ready for a breakout season.
The defense struggled mightily last season, ranking dead last in the SEC in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. Coach Muschamp is a defensive guy though and the move to a 3-4 scheme will eventually help the unit. And the defense cannot get much worse than they were in 2015. An injury to last year’s leading tackler, Skai Moore which will force him to miss the 2016 campaign, will not help either. T.J. Holloman will slide over to the middle spot after recording 63 tackles last season. One thing the new scheme should help with is getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Sophomore Boosie Whitlow or redshirt freshman Daniel Fennell should fill the hybrid end/linebacker spot and those two will be counted on to get to the quarterback on a regular basis. The secondary has some experience, and some potential with players like sophomore Rashad Fenton, but there is still a long way to go.
The Bottom Line:
South Carolina has an easier schedule then they did last year. And without all of the coaching drama, the Gamecocks should see a pretty big jump in the win column. But they will need to get started early if they want to reach a bowl game. South Carolina opens at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and hosts East Carolina the next week. Then it is off to Kentucky for another winnable conference game. It is possible for South Carolina to start off 4-0 or 3-1 with non-conference home games against Umass and Western Carolina coming up later in the season. With a home game against Mizzou in November, there is even potentially a bit of wiggle room And six wins is all it takes for Coach Muschamp’s debut season at South Carolina to be a success.
Projected Bowl: Belk Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 154.7 (87th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 207.5 (84, 7)
Total Offense: 362.2 (99, 11)
Scoring Offense: 21.9 (110, 12)
Rushing Defense: 217.4 (109, 14)
Pass Defense: 212.4 (50, 9)
Total Defense: 429.8 (94, 14)
Scoring Defense: 27.5 (71, 14)
Turnover Margin: 0.42 (32, 6)
Sacks: 1.67 (94, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (70, 8)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#52 Skai Moore
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#173 Brandon McIlwain