#7 South Carolina Football 2013 Preview

South Carolina Gamecocks

Overall Rank: #7
#3 SEC

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Coach Steve Spurrier has finally put together a few solid seasons at South Carolina. The expectations have always been high and now a trip to the SEC championship game is a realistic goal. Last season the Gamecocks started off 6-0, which included a surprisingly easy victory over Georgia. But then they faced then ranked #1 LSU and #2 Florida on the road in consecutive weeks. South Carolina lost a close one to the Tigers before being blown out at the Swamp. After that the Gamecocks got back on track, winning at Clemson to conclude the regular season and beating Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

2012 Record: 11-2, 6-2
2012 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Michigan (W 33-28)
Coach: Steve Spurrier (66-37 at South Carolina, 208-77-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Steve Spurrier
Defensive Coordinator: Lorenzo Ward

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Connor Shaw, QB, 435 yards
Passing: Connor Shaw, QB, 1,956 yards
Receiving: Bruce Ellington, WR, 600 yards
Tackles: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, 54
Sacks: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, 13.0
Interceptions: Jimmy Legree, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Dylan Thompson, RB Mike Davis, WR Damiere Byrd, TE Rory Anderson, OL Roland Patrick, S Brison Williams, DT Kelcy Quarles, P Tyler Hull

Key Losses: RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Ace Sanders, WR Justice Cunningham, C TJ Johnson, DE Devin Taylor, DT Byron Jerideau, LB Shaq Wilson, LB Reginald Bowens, LB DeVonte Holloman, S DJ Swearinger, K Adam Yates

Even by SEC standards, South Carolina had a very productive defense in 2012. With an experienced secondary and Jadeveon Clowney, there are plenty of reasons to believe the unit will be just as good in 2013. However, there are also a lot of holes to fill, most notably at linebacker where Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowens and DeVonte Holloman, three of the team’s top four tacklers, are gone. Sophomores Cedrick Cooper and Kalwan Lewis are the likely starters, while Sharrod Golightly and redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs are atop the depth chart at the hybrid linebacker/safety spot. There is talent, but the lack of experience could turn out to be a bigger problem than South Carolina hopes. Speaking of losing leadership, D.J. Swearinger was the other top tackler on the team and he was the senior leader from his free safety spot. The rest of the secondary does return and strong safety Brison Williams is now an upperclassman who is ready to turn into a leader. With corners Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton also returning, the secondary will be productive even without Swearinger. But, of course, it will be Clowney who garners all of the attention. The 6-6 end tallied 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-loss as a sophomore and he has been penciled in for the top spot in the 2014 NFL Draft for a couple years already.

Coach Spurrier is going to run a two quarterback offense. Connor Shaw is the more athletic option after rushing for 435 yards and three scores in 2012. He also threw for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Dylan Thompson is the more prototypical passer and he did throw ten touchdowns and just two interceptions. There is something to be said for riding the hot hand, especially with a couple different types of players under center. Shaw and Thompson will have a great target down field in Bruce Ellington, who caught 40 passes for 600 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore, but Ace Sanders needs to be replaced. Sanders was the tougher receiver who could get open on short routes and finding somebody else who can do that is extremely important, especially when Shaw is under center since he is not going to be able to hit the deep ball consistently. As usual, South Carolina does want to work through the ground game. Marcus Lattimore is gone, but speedy sophomore Mike Davis is ready to take on the starting job and bulky back Brandon Wilds will help in short yardage situations.

The Bottom Line:
The back-to-back losses on the road were the only black mark on the Gamecocks 2012 schedule. This year the schedule is not very friendly either. South Carolina plays five of their first eight games on the road, including three weeks and three road games at Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Those three games should be winnable for Coach Spurrier and company, but the team will be on upset alert during that stretch of tough road games. The biggest game of the year for South Carolina could be in week two as they head to Georgia. The winner of that contest will be take early control of the SEC East.

Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 138.46 (89th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 238.08 (57, 6)
Total Offense: 376.54 (82, 9)
Scoring Offense: 31.54 (44, 5)
Rushing Defense: 120.69 (17, 4)
Pass Defense: 194.85 (21, 5)
Total Defense: 315.54 (11, 4)
Scoring Defense: 18.23 (13, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (43, 6)
Sacks: 3.31 (5, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.92 (102, 12)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#1 Jadeveon Clowney
#73 Chaz Sutton

Madness 2013 Football Recruit Rankings:
#48 Kelsey Griffin
#71 Larenz Bryant
#188 David Williams
#227 D.J. Park


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