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2013 Pre-Season Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in SEC)

Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (66-37 at South Carolina, 208-77-2 All-Time)

Four Year Trend: 9.5 wins and 3.75 losses

Last Bowl Game: 2012 Outback Bowl: beat Michigan 33-28

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC (capacity = 80,250)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 5th out of 69 BCS teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference Games: 8/29 vs UNC, 9/28 at UCF, 11/23 vs Coastal Carolina, 11/30 vs Clemson

Toughest Conference Home Games: 11/16 vs Florida, 9/14 vs Vandy

Toughest Conference Road Games: 9/7 at Georgia, 10/19 at Tennessee

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: allowed 38 sacks in 2012 (13th in SEC)

Stats to Cheer: had 43 sacks in 2012 (1st in SEC), held opponents to 45.45% TD rate in red zone (2nd in SEC)

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 11th out of 124 teams

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 5, Defense: 5, Special Teams: 1

Key Defensive Returnees: DE Jadeveon Clowney (13 sacks, 54 tackles), S Brison Williams ( 52 tackles), DE Chaz Sutton (5 sacks, 25 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Connor Shaw (1956 yds pass, 67.5% completions, 17 TD, 7 INT, 435 yds rush) , QB Dylan Thompson (1027 yds pass, 52% completions, 10 TD, 2 INT), RB Mike Davis (275 yds rush, 5.29 ypc, 2 TD), WR Bruce Ellington (40 rec, 7 TD)

 
 
 
Inside Scoop with Leftover Hot Dog:
 
CFBZ: Steve Spurrier has two QBs that have experience and have now tasted success in the SEC. How will he handle the QB position this year?

Leftover Hot Dog: This is one of the biggest questions in many of the eyes of the Gamecock faithful. It will certainly be interesting on how Spurrier handles this as both quarterbacks are capable of leading the team. When the “2 qb” system works then it makes the Coach look so smart but when it fails to produce, well the coach feels the blame game. If I had to predict today, you will see Connor Shaw get the starting nod and Spurrier will allow him to keep it as long as he produces. In saying that, Dylan Thompson will play and will get chances in “spots.” Now if Shaw is sucking then Thompson will get the keys to the offense. Basically, Spurrier will go with the hot hand.

 

CFBZ: Jadeveon Clowney is on most early Heisman lists but the Gamecocks lost a lot of senior leadership. Who are some other key players to watch on this defense?

Leftover Hot Dog: No doubt Clowney is the man to watch on defense but do keep an eye on Chaz Sutton on the other side of the defensive line. While Clowney will demand the double team it will mean Sutton can work his angles to apply pressure in the opposing backfield.  Speaking of the defensive line, remember the name Kelcy Quarles as he has NFL-type talent.

In the secondary, keep an eye on Brison Williams at safety and Victor Hampton at corner. These two will set the tone and will be expected to step up big for USC.

 

CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest weakness on the team heading into the 2013 season?

Leftover Hot Dog: Uncertainly at the receiving targets. The biggest issue on offense is who will step up and be the “go-to-guy” for the quarterback. There are a number of weapons and a wealth of talent but who will step up and make the plays necessary. To me that is the weakness, is there is not an answer going into the season. Again the talent is there and it could be a strength but not knowing is a concern going into the first few games of 2013.

 

CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?

Leftover Hot Dog: Success in 2013 will boil down to managing expectations, playing fundamentally sound and doing what is possible. The Gamecocks have the talent and the schedule to make a SEC title appearance. To me, that is the goal. Success will be determined on how they compete towards that goal. I would like to see no less than 10 wins and a SEC east crown.

 
 
Verdict:
 
After several years of mediocrity, it seems like Steve Spurrier finally figured out how to win at South Carolina as he has won 31 games over the last three seasons and has back to back 11 win seasons. The Gamecocks now find themselves as a fixture in top ten polls. Can they live up to, and exceed, the hype?
 
The Gamecocks have two good options at QB and while they don't get the name recognition of Murray, McCarron or Manziel, the Gamecocks can win with them. Connor Shaw might be the most underrated offensive player in the SEC. He really seemed to grow up last year and one of the benefits of that was the increase in his yards per attempt average. Shaw is the heart and soul of the offense as he's just a gritty player who is going to give 100% and will put his body on the line for his team. Shaw and Dylan Thompson form a formidable tandem for SEC opponents. One area these QBs must improve on is getting rid of the football as they took 38 sacks last year. Thompson was not as accurate but did show the ability to play in the SEC and also rallied the Gamecocks past Michigan in their bowl game. South Carolina learned about life without Marcus Lattimore over the last two years due to injuries and this year they are better for it. Mike Davis is the player to watch out for as he performed well in spots as a freshman but should get #1 back carries this year. After sitting out a year, Brandon Wilds should be a capable back-up. Play-maker extraordinaire Ace Sanders (45 rec, 9 TD, 2 punt return TD) is gone and the Gamecocks will miss him. Bruce Ellington returns and he's a really good #1 option but he will need others to step up around him. Keep an eye on sophomore Shaq Roland. The OL loses second-team All-SEC center T.J. Johnson but everybody else returns. In terms of the SEC, this is a mid-tier OL but it's good enough to win the SEC East if other areas step up. The big question-marks on offense surround Mike Davis stepping into the role as #1 RB and finding someone to at least partially take over for the play-making ability of Ace Sanders.
 
The lingering moment of the 2012 college football season was Jadeveon Clowney hitting a Michigan player so hard that his helmet popped off. Don't think opposing players have not seen that and intimidation will be a factor for Clowney this year as he tries to improve on a 13 sack 2012 season while seeing countless double-teams. The DL will be the strength of this Gamecocks defense and as mentioned in the Q&A it's not just because of Clowney. Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton are solid players in their own right and should cause some issues for opposing teams. There is a gaping hole of question-marks at the LB unit for the Gamecocks. Gone are Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowers, DeVonte Holloman, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffrey. The leading returning tackler at LB is SPUR Jordan Diggs. He had five tackles last year. That's scary. The defensive backfield must replace two of their top five players as DJ Swaringer and Akeem Auguste depart. Overall, this defense will be as good as the LB corps lets it be and the lack of experience is troubling especially since it all comes at one position.
 
Steve Spurrier finally got that SEC schedule that he's always dreamed (and complained) about as he draws Arkansas and Mississippi State from the West. No LSU, no Alabama and no Texas A&M so this is really the year the Gamecocks have the best chance to return to the SEC Championship Game and redeem themselves from their showing in 2010. The Gamecocks have a couple of interesting ACC games that bookend their schedule as they start with UNC and then play Clemson to close out the year. Both will be good tests for the Gamecocks because both of those two teams can score the football and will test the inexperience LB corps. The two SEC games that are circled are Georgia and Florida. Those two games turned out the exact opposite last year. Against Georgia, South Carolina came out flying and jumped on top and smothered Georgia before they had a chance to breathe. Against Florida, it was the Gators that took advantage of Gamecocks miscues and put them away before they even knew what hit them. South Carolina has to find a more consistent level in this big SEC East rivalry games if they want to take home the crown this season. This team has some legitimate questions but they also could be the best team Spurrier's had at South Carolina and we will find out very early what the Gamecocks are all about. 
 
Prediction: 11-1
 
 

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

The American-  Cincinnati,  HoustonLouisville,  Memphis,  Rutgers,  SMUTempleUCFUConnUSF

 

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Student Section, This Given Sunday and Crossover Chronicles

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