Aug 17

South Carolina Gamecocks 2010 Preview

Posted By:Damian Thorpe - Aiken, SC  Tags:

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In a little less than three weeks, the South Carolina Gamecocks will take the field in what will be their sixth year of the Steve Spurrier era. While the past five seasons mark the winningest five-year stretch in the history of the program, it hasn't exactly been what you would call a "Cinderella Story". Ask any Gamecock fan where they would have envisioned the program to be after five seasons under Spurrier, and most would tell you that they would have at least expected to be able to tell you what the inside of the Georgia Dome looks like. Instead, it's been a disappointing five-years to say the least, with more up's and down's than the "Superman" ride at Six-Flag's. Fans have become increasingly more impatient with each disappointing season and it's safe to say that Steve is starting to feel the pressure mount. While the past five seaons have been anything but what you would call sucessful, several of the elite programs in the SEC will be trying to find their identity and going through what many like to refer to as a "rebuilding" year this season, which have caused many to say that this is the Gamecock's year. With the anticipation and excitement building for Gamecock fans for the upcoming season, its hard to forget last season ended just eight months ago. Let's look at an in-depth preview of the 2010 Season:


Postion Grades -

Coach: Steve Spurrier (35-27) - Not only have the past five seasons not lived up to the expectations of Gamecock fans, Steve seems to grow more and more impatient with the team and himself every year. After his highly successful stint in Florida, it's understandable that he was immediately put on a pedestal upon his arrival in Columbia. Most believed that he was the savior, sent by God to cure a hundred years worth of dismay and sorrow. Five years later, Steve finds himself in the same place as he started. What has seemed to change over that time however, is the mentality of the fan base. Five seasons ago, Gamecock fans seemed to be 'ok' with a mediocre season, just as long as it contained a win over either Georgia or Clemson. Steve has publically criticized the mentality of Gamecock fans in the past and blamed it as the biggest thing that needed to change with the program before it could be successful. With more pressure on him now than ever before, Spurrier finds himself in unfamiliar territory, almost as if he has to prove himself as an elite coach all over again. The productivity of the offense over the past several seasons have begun to leave question marks on his legacy as an offensive-guru, and have also left fans starting to wonder if he has lost a step at his old age. While some believe that it's time for him to step down and admit defeat, I don't think South Carolina could find anybody better to do the job. There's an old saying that many of you have heard before; "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" and that applies here. Steve has seemingly done everything in his power to make South Carolina a powerhouse, but it almost seems like the players aren't meeting him half-way. Steve is a competitor, and all great competitors rise above when their backs are against the wall. I think this year you will see a different Steve. For the first time since he's been at South Carolina, he feels like he has something to prove. All great competitors love a challenge, and that's what he has here. Look for Steve to pull a little something out of his sleeve before he closes the "South Carolina" chapter of his coaching career. Overall Grade: A

Quarterback: Stephen Garcia needs no introduction. In what will be his fourth season with the team, the fate of the program rests on his shoulder's. It's hard to say whether his poor play at times during the past two seasons were due to a lack of effort of the field, or the play of his offensive line. Nonetheless, he has certainly not lived up to the expectations that he brought with him three years ago. The biggest headline going into the summer for this South Carolina program was him being publically criticized by Spurrier for a lack of effort off the field. In what was sure to be a motivational tactic, Steve all but guaranteed that Stephen would sit the bench this year if he did not see more effort out of the redshirt-junior. Time will only tell if it lit a fire under Stephen, or if it just went into one ear and out the other. Behind Stephen is a true-freshman by the name of Connor Shaw. Shaw, out of Flowery Branch, Georgia, seems to have the work ethic that a successful quarterback needs. Gamecock coaches and fans are hopeful that Shaw will be able to provide a little spark and pressure to Garcia. While Shaw may provide an answer for the future, if the Gamecocks want to be in Atlanta in December, it's going to have to be with Garcia at the helm. Stephen has shown signs of being a good quarterback over the past two seasons, it just hasn't seem to all come together for him. He has the arm strength and accuracy, he just seems to have trouble when it comes to reading defenses. However, in order for him to reach his full potential, his offensive line is also going to have to get a lot better. After giving up 37 sacks last season, its safe to say that all the blame can't be put on Stephen. The news on Stephen has been positive since the start of fall camp. He has reportedly dropped fifteen pounds and is in the best shape of his college-career. Only time will tell if the kid from Lutz, Florida, will be able to put it all together and lead South Carolina to the promise land. Overall Grade: B+

Running back:  Lattimore for Heisman. Not so fast. Don't forget, a quarterback and running back are only as good as their front line, which for South Carolina....isn't very good. South Carolina has an abundance of talent at the running back position, but it's going to take a good line for it to show. The arrival of Marcus Lattimore in Columbia, has added some excitement and competition to the position. Lattimore finds himself behind three experienced backs that are all capable of being starters elsewhere. The excitement of somebody like Lattimore coming to South Carolina will certainly help recruiting, but time will only tell if he will live up to the hype. The Gamecocks will have to develop some type of running game in order to open up the passing game. The rushing attack for the Gamecocks was practically obsolete last year as they ranked last in the SEC. The talent is there, it's just a matter of if the offensive line can step up and open up some holes. If not, don't expect anything different from the offense. Overall Grade: A-

Wide Receiver/Tight End: Once again, the talent is there, but can Garcia get enough time to throw it to them. The Gamecocks bring a wide receiving corps to the table, that looks more like a basketball team. Each of the three starting wide receivers are at least 6'4" tall. Sophomore Alshon Jeffery, showed last year why he was so heavily recruited by Southern Cal. Add Tori Gurley and Jason Barnes to the mix, and you have a group that consists of a great variety of height and athleticism. Freshman 5'7" receiver Ace Sanders, out of Brandenton, Florida, has impressed during Fall Camp and should add some speed to the receiving corps as well. At tight end, you've got Weslye Saunders. I've been high on Weslye Saunders since he was a freshman. I said last season, that by the end of the year, you would know that kid's name. While he was plauged with injuries at times last year, Saunders still produced when they needed him to. If the NCAA allows him to play this year, thats another great weapon in Stephen Garcia's arsenal. If Garcia is able to get a little more time to throw this year, look for big things from this group. Overall Grade: A-

Offensive Line: And that now brings us to the offensive line - the biggest question mark of all. South Carolina comes into this season having had three different offensive line coaches in the past three seasons. That alone can make it hard for any offense to be successful. After Eric Wolford departed at the end of the season for Youngstown State, Spurrier turned to Shawn Elliott from Appalachian State. Elliott has been brought in to perform almost an over-night transformation. What most of the time takes two or three seasons to transform, Elliott will be expected to do in one. He did have some success at Appalachian State, he helped lead them to three straight national championship's. Elliott brings some passion and enthusiasm to a position at South Carolina, that has lacked it over the past couple of seasons. He realizes the task at hand, the question is, can he do it? The play of the offensive line is going to make or break the season for the Gamecocks. If they can improve from last year, the offense should be able to produce some better numbers. Overall Grade: D+

Defensive Line: While Carolina has not had to worry too much about the defense in the past, that could be a question mark this season. It's headed by Cliff Matthews, a senior out of Cheraw, South Carolina. Matthews is a sure NFL prospect and brings some experience to a young defensive line. Lined up next to him will be Ladi Ajiboye. Pay attention to that name. Ajiboye, a senior, was a headline name in the 2007 recruiting class that ranked number four in the country. Ajiboye has been plauged with injuries and has also had problems off the field which have kept him from showing his full potential. At 290 pounds, Ajiboye brings size and quickness to the defensive tackle position. The only question is, can he remain healthy? If so, you will hear a lot about this kid this season. After those two, the defensive line remains a mystery. Devin Taylor lines up at the other end. He showed some promise last year as a freshman, causing a fumble in the first game against N.C. State which lead to the only touchdown of the game. Besides being young and inexperienced for the most part, the line is also lacking depth. Matthews has also had problems with injuries in the past and the biggest question mark of all for the line, is if they can remain healthy. If so, they may not lose much of a step from last season. Overall Grade: B

Linebackers: The linebacking corps is another position that lacks depth and experience for the Gamecocks. Rodney Paulk returns this year to the MLB spot, after suffering season-ending knee injuries the past two seasons. While on paper he is a senior, Paulk was granted a sixth year of eligibility for next season if he wishes to stay. With Paulk being the only starting senior lineback, and having been out the past two seasons, it raises questions of experience. Ellis Johnson has said Paulk has been rusty so far during camp, but he should return to form by the start of the season. The junior Shaq Wilson, will take over for Eric Norwood. Norwood has stated that he thinks Wilson is capable of taking over for him and he thinks he will do a terrific job. With experience issues and lack of depth and veterans, I can see trouble over the horizon against highly prolific offenses. Time will only tell. Overall Grade: C+

Secondary: One place that the Gamecocks are not lacking talent, is in the secondary. On paper, South Carolina arguably has the best secondary in the SEC and top five in the country. But just like the offense, the secondary is only as good as it's line. If the defensive line can't get some pressure on the quarterback, the secondary will not reach its full potential. Carolina returns standout freshman Stephen Gilmore and senior Chris Culliver. Culliver moved to the DB spot this season, to avoid further shoulder injuries and to also take advantage of his great one-on-one coverage skills. Secondary coach Lorenzo Ward, expects big things out of Culliver this season. Akeem Auguste moves to the free safety spot and DeVonte Holloman lines up at strong safety. Keep an eye on Holloman. Coaches have been impressed with his work ethic and expect big things out of him this season. The secondary will be great for the Gamecocks, as long as the front four can apply pressure. If not, watch out. Overall Grade: A-

Special Teams: One of the places that the Gamecocks struggled with last season, was it's special teams. The Gamecocks ranked dead last in the SEC in kick-off coverage. It's hard to beat teams like Florida, when you give them the ball at the fifty yard-line everytime. With an inexperienced defense, the coverages on special teams will be vital. Overall Grade: D+


2010 Season Predictions-

Sept. 2 vs. Southern Miss - South Carolina does not have a history of playing well in "first" games. While they have won every one since Spurrier has been there, they've also struggled. We can all remember that firework performance during the South Carolina/N.C. State opener last season. Best believe Southern Miss has had this game circled since the end of last year, if not sooner. The Golden Eagles are a solid bowl team almost every year, and should prove to be a great opening test for the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier has said in recent weeks that he is happy with the enthusiasm at practice so far and it's been the best it's ever been since he has been there. I think the overall excitement for this game will be too much for Southern Miss to handle in the end. I think when it's all said and done, South Carolina just simply has too much athleticism for Southern Miss to compete with. This will be a close game however, and I don't see the Gamecocks pulling away until the fourth quarter. Final Score: S. Carolina - 24       Southern Miss - 13

Sept. 11 vs. Georgia - Georgia is considered to be one of the elite teams in the SEC that will be trying to find its identity at the beginning of this season. Georgia comes into this season with questions at the quarterback position, as well as the defense. Freshman Aaron Murray is expected to get the nod, and this game will be his first big test. Georgia brought in new defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham from the Dallas Cowboys. Grantham is installing a new 3-4 defensive scheme to a Bulldogs team that struggled defensively last season. This game is scheduled to start at 12:30, which I think is an advantage for the Bulldogs. At the end of the day though, I don't know if Georgia will be able to overcome a new quarterback on offense, and a new defensive scheme on defense. I think playing at Williams-Brice will be a little too much for Georgia to overcome. Look for South Carolina to have some success running the football in this one. Final Score: S. Carolina - 27        Georgia - 17

Sept. 18 vs. Furman - This should be an easy win for the Gamecocks and a could way to try some new things on offense to help prepare them for Auburn in the following week. Final Score: S. Carolina - 45           Furman - 10

Sept. 25 at Auburn - This game will be a crucial part of the Gamecocks season. At (3-0), this game could really give them some momentum, going into the game at home against Alabama. The problem is, this game will probably be at night on ESPN, and Jordan Hare stadium isn't one of the easiest places to play at. Unless they have a slip-up against Clemson, Auburn should also be (3-0) going into this game. Carolina in the past, hasn't shown signs of struggling on the road because of the atmosphere. They more or less struggle, because they tend to shoot themselves in the foot. In order for the Gamecocks to pull this one off, they will need to play zero-mistake football. I think Carolina's schedule helps them more going into this game. With Furman before this game, they almost have two weeks to prepare for Auburn. Auburn however, cannot afford to lose to Clemson. I see Carolina winning this in a close one, and start to raise some eyebrows around the college football world. Final Score: S. Carolina - 24    Auburn - 21

October 9 vs. Alabama - ****UPSET SPECIAL**** Mark this one on your calendar folks, it should be a dandy. Alabama comes into this game, a week after playing Florida. If the Tide are able to survive that game, they will find themselves, in a rocking Williams-Brice stadium the following week. South Carolina however, has a bye week going into this game, which I think will help them out tremendously. South Carolina will come into this game with all the momentum and nothing to lose. I don't see Alabama battling Florida and then coming to Williams-Brice Stadium the following week, and pulling through with a win. The Gamecocks prevail and are (5-0). Final Score: S. Carolina - 27     Alabama - 23

October 16 at Kentucky - At 5-0, a slip-up here or against Vanderbilt the following week would almost spell out the same disaster that has cursed the Gamecocks for the past five seasons. Kentucky is in rebuilding mode and I just don't see them making too much noise in this game. Final Score: S. Carolina - 34    Kentucky - 13

October 23 at Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt will be a mystery team this year. After Bobby Johnson abruptly left, new head coach Robbie Caldwell will be expected to pick up the pieces left behind and try to make something out of it. In the end, I just think South Carolina has too much athleticism and talent for the Commodores. Final Score: S. Carolina - 38     Vanderbilt - 14

October 30 vs. Tennessee - The Gamecocks are 7-0 and Columbia is buzzing with excitement. Tennessee however, is looking to pull off the upset. Who could forget that debacle, the Gamecocks had against Tennessee last year. Unfortunately for Tennessee, they are almost in the same position as Vanderbilt. After Lane Kiffin unexpectedly bolted for the Southern Cal job, Derek Dooley is left in Knoxville, trying to make sense of it all. I look for Tennessee to have a 7-5 type year, but this game is in Columbia and will prove to be too much for the Volunteers. Final Score: S. Carolina - 31     Tennessee - 14

Nov. 6 vs. Arkansas - The Razorbacks, led by Ryan Mallett, will be looking to put a hush to a team that hasn't had this much excitement since the '2001' season. At 8-0, the pressure will now be on the Gamecocks to step up and earn a victory against what will be a very talented Arkansas team. The inexperience on defense will create problems for the Gamecocks, who fill be facing one of the top passing attacks in all of college football. If Arkansas is able to set the tone early rushing the ball, this game could be a disaster for the Gamecocks. Opening up the running game, would almost certainly create a playgorund for Mallett and company. I see the Gamecocks tripping up here, with their inexperience on defense. Final Score: Arkansas - 28     S. Carolina - 16

Nov. 13 at Florida - The Gamecocks have struggled in the past with coming back after a loss late in the season that killed all of their momentum. If the Gamecocks were somehow able to beat Arkansas, I would give them a chance in this game. The enthusiasm and excitement in Columbia - if this game mean't a trip to Atlanta - would be overwhelming and I think could possible help propel the Gamecocks to a victory. However, I don't see them getting past Arkansas. Florida, at this point in the season, most likely will have found their 'new' identity now with John Brantley and will most-likely have not lost much since last season. I see the Gators winning this one, and with only one conference loss on the year (against LSU) they earn a trip to Atlanta. Final Score: Florida - 34    S. Carolina - 17

Nov. 20 vs. Troy - This game will not be easy. Everybody knows that Troy is one of those teams that can beat you on any given Saturday. I think Carolina is able to win this game however, and bounce back after back-to-back losses. Final Score: S. Carolina - 31     Troy - 14

Nov. 27 at Clemson - The Gamecocks will need a victory against Troy to have some momentum going into the Clemson game. I don't see the Tigers being as strong as years past on offense with the loss of Spiller and Ford. Parker coming back however, might just give this team all the spark it needs. This will be a hard fought battle, as I think both are pretty evenly matched. Clemson should be able to create some things on offense with South Carolinas inexperienced defense. However, I see the Gamecocks having a decent rushing game in this one and also opening some things up on offense. In a VERY close game, I see the Gamecocks prevailing. Final Score: S. Carolina - 24    Clemson - 23

2010 Final Record: (10-2)

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