#28 South Carolina 2018 Football Preview

South Carolina Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #28
#6 SEC
 South Carolina Logo
Coach Will Muschamp took South Carolina another step forward last year with a 9-4 season, including a victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks also picked up some quality wins in SEC play. Once again the offense underperformed, but this team returns enough talent on both sides of the ball to take another small step forward.
2017 Record: 9-4, 5-3
2017 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan (W 26-19)
Coach: Will Muschamp (15-11 at South Carolina, 43-32 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bryan McClendon
Defensive Coordinator: Travaris Robinson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: AJ Turner, RB, 531 yards
Passing: Jake Bentley, QB, 2,794 yards
Receiving: Bryan Edwards, WR, 793 yards
Tackles: TJ Brunson, LB, 88
Sacks: Dennis Wonnum, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Steve Montac, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Ty’Son Williams, RB Rico Dowdle, WR Shi Smith, CB Rashad Fenton
Key Losses: TE Hayden Hurst, DE Dante Sawyer, LB Skai Moore, S Chris Lammons, CB JaMarcus King, S DJ Smith
In an effort to improve an offense that ranked 12th in the SEC in total offense and scoring, Coach Muschamp promoted Bryan McClendon to offensive coordinator. The skill positions return just about everybody. Quarterback Jake Bentley threw for 2,794 yards and 18 touchdowns and he will lead the new offense that wants to run at a faster pace. Bryan Edwards emerged as the team’s top receiver last year, catching 64 passes for 793 yards and five touchdowns. The return of Deebo Samuel, who missed last season with an injury, gives Bentley another super receiving threat. The ground game struggled in 2017, but AJ Turner, Ty’Son Williams and Rico Dowdle are all back. At the very least, South Carolina has an experienced stable of running backs.
South Carolina usually wins games with their defense and this year the story could be the same. Even without linebacker Skai Moore, who led the team in tackles all four seasons he played with South Carolina, this is a unit that should again be among the best in the conference. The line is a little undersized, but is an athletic group that returns three starters. TJ Brunson is ready to take over for Moore as the team’s top tackler. He is a tough run stopper, but will need some help from senior Byrson Allen-Williams and sophomore Sherrod Greene. The secondary lost three starters and will need cornerback Rashad Fenton to remain consistent during his senior season. Safety Steven Montac made some big plays off the bench last season, but now he too needs to be a consistent player in an experienced secondary.
The Bottom Line:
It seems reasonable to expect South Carolina to have a solid defense again. But now there are some hopes that the offense can keep pace. If that is the case, this is a Gamecocks team that can do some damage in the SEC. There will not be much time for South Carolina to prepare for SEC play though. They host Georgia on September 8th and that is nearly a must win game if this group wants to win the SEC East.
Projected Bowl: Liberty Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 122.2 (110th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 214.9 (77, 6)
Total Offense: 337.1 (108, 12)
Scoring Offense: 24.2 (99, 12)
Rushing Defense: 141.1 (39, 6)
Pass Defense: 226.0 (69, 10)
Total Defense: 367.1 (44, 7)
Scoring Defense: 20.7 (25, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.85 (13, 2)
Sacks: 2.00 (65, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (75, 6)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#37 Deebo Samual
#46 Bryan Edwards
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#111 Ricky Sandidge
#132 Dylan Wonnum
#204 Jaycee Horn
#206 Josh Vann