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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #10 South Carolina

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 12, 2014

#10 South Carolina Gamecocks

 

2013 Recap:

11-2 was an expected outcome with 1 upset loss to Tennessee and 1 early season loss to Georgia that was not a shock. A big win against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl was icing on the cake for the Gamecocks as the defense, led by top NFL pick Jadeveon Clowney, was on the mind of many coordinators.

 

Coaching:

What else can be said about Steve Spurrier after 77 victories at South Carolina and 219 overall in his coaching career. Spurrier has been doing it more on defense though rather than with an offensive juggernaut which he has been known for in the past. He looks like he still has a few years left in the tank and his experience and craftiness always look like it is good for a victory or two every season.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

As efficient as Connor Shaw was, the quarterback had a hard time staying healthy and was banged up from time to time leaving the door open for others at quarterback. Dylan Thompson has seen plenty of action for South Carolina and this is why he will be relatively comfortable moving into the captain's chair on offense. What can't be duplicated though is the outstanding 24 touchdowns to 1 lonely interception Connor Shaw showed us all last season. Thompson himself threw 3 interceptions in less than 100 passes. Thompson is also not nearly as mobile as Shaw but he will be able to move the chains until freshman Connor Mitch is ready to assume the controls. The leash on Thompson may be shorter than many believe if Mitch progresses well in the latter stages of the summer and into the regular season.

South Carolina doesn't want to have to rely heavily on the quarterback, not when Mike Davis is there to run the football. Davis brings his 1,500 yards of offense with 11 touchdowns to the table and is one of the top 5 running backs in America. The problem for Davis is that T.J. Yeldon at Alabama and Todd Gurley at Georgia attract more attention and he may wait until he is a senior to head into the draft pool. Backup Brandon Wilds averaged over 5.0 YPC so all seems well for the running game at South Carolina.

Best Draft Prospect: Mike Davis RB 2nd Round 2016 (Could declare for 2015).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd, and Pharoh Cooper will form a solid nucleus catching the football in Columbia. Losing Bruce Ellington was a blow for the offense as his top-end speed and tenacity will be missed. While the receiving corps will be able to spread the wealth adequately it should be noted that these receivers, like all Steve Spurrier receivers, know how important blocking is to helping the running game.

Rory Anderson is the perfect example of having both worlds mesh as the tight end for the Gamecocks can do both. Anderson doesn't catch a ton of passes for South Carolina but he is a presence in the red zone with tremendous leaping ability. Even though Anderson is not the largest tight end he uses his hands well. He engages blockers to the point where he can be dominating using chip blocks and just knocking players off balance. Anderson is a draft prospect for the season coming up, and while he won't be a star in this draft class, he will show some versatility and open some eyes during the scouting process.

Best Draft Prospect: Rory Anderson TE 6th Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

It’s always a good sign when you have a pair of starting tackles from the previous year returning and that is what South Carolina has in Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell. These tackles are far from the best the conference has to offer but they are solid and they have over 30 starts between them. Robinson will be a draft prospect, who at the very least will have a solid camp invite. A.J. Cann is the best prospect along the line from a draft perspective as he enters the season as the #2 offensive guard on the board behind only Tre Jackson from Florida State. Cann is s solid run blocker who uses his feet about as well as any lineman in the conference. Cann is able to play any of the three interior positions with ease. Cody Waldrop and Clayton Stadnik will be sharing center duties and Stadnik has plenty of starting experience to draw upon. South Carolina seems to want to use him as their fill-in-extraordinaire, or a player that is top on the depth chart off the bench at multiple positions. We should see plenty of him, but we are just unsure where. This is one of the better units in the SEC. We would rank them #4 or #5 in the conference overall on paper.

Best Draft Prospect: A.J. Cann OG 2nd Round 2015.

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

This season begins year 1AC at South Carolina (After Clowney), as the top NFL pick in last year's draft, Jadeveon Clowney, will be playing the role of pass rushing linebacker for the 3-4 front in Houston. South Carolina will also have to deal with the early departure of Kelcy Quarles who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks last season. Quarles was the beneficiary of the increased attention afforded to Clowney, despite being a very capable player in his own right. Pressure should be coming from the interior once again as J.T. Surratt is the lone returning starter after 4 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks a year ago with 33 total stops. Surratt will be joined inside by Abu Lamin, a JUCO transfer that will be stepping right into a starting role. Gerald Dixon, Darius English, Mason Harris, and Cedric Cooper will all be platooning between the top two spots at defensive end with English likely seeing the most action and making the biggest impact. It’s a sufficient line that is very young and needs direction early in the season.

Best Draft Prospect: J.T. Surrat DT 6th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

The linebackers are much stronger than a season ago and much of that comes from the play of Skai Moore, who as a true freshman led the team with 56 tackles. Kaiwan Lewis and his 54 tackles seem to be the best prospect at this time as Lewis covers the most ground and has the game that is most well-rounded of all the linebackers. Lewis excels in play recognition and is one of the better linebackers when it comes to covering running backs and tight ends coming off the line and out of the backfield. Sharrod Golightly is the linebacker that plays the SPUR position on defense and has the most leeway and freedom when it comes to rushing the passer. Marcquis Roberts will be a backup and contributed a lot with 48 tackles last season, but he was still very cautious after missing most of his first two seasons of eligibility due to injury. Roberts should be turned loose this season and play with more flair and confidence, and could be a real difference maker if he stays healthy.

Best Draft Prospect: Kaiwan Lewis LB 4th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

With Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton now gone, the departures in the secondary seem to hurt the defense more than losing Clowney and Quarles along the line because the depth is not as prevalent. Brison Williams is a dynamic safety but with the thin secondary, more importantly at cornerback, it may necessitate a move for Williams to cornerback. Williams will see time at corner, but it’s just a question of whether he will spend most of his time there or will stay at safety. T.J. Gurley and Chaz Elder are capable at safety if Williams makes the move to cornerback full-time. Rico McWilliams or freshman Ali Groves would be the primary cornerback on the other side. There are a ton of questions in the secondary but the rest of the defense looks very solid. It should also necessitate South Carolina playing a more ball-control run-oriented offense in order to try and keep the defense fresh and off the field.

Best Draft Prospect: Brison Williams S 3rd Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

Tyler Hull was not very impressive punting the ball last year and South Carolina will have to hope he improves because this looks to be the only “weak link” on special teams. Elliot Fry was 15-18 in the kicking game a year ago and South Carolina had five games decided by a touchdown or less last season. Pharoh Cooper is still coming along as a receiver but in the return game it looks like he will bring excitement and be one of the better return men in the conference. Overall this is a solid area for South Carolina.

Best Draft Prospect: Pharoah Cooper WR/KR 7th Round 2017.

 

Schedule:

Opening at home against Texas A&M will be huge as both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks. Georgia and Missouri are tough tests in September but both are home contests. The October 25th road game against Auburn may be the toughest on the schedule and South Carolina is on the road for their annual grudge match with Clemson. South Carolina always seems to have that one big letdown game when you least expect it. Last season it was Tennessee, so if they avoid that big upset they should be heading for the SEC Championship game.

 

Draft Outlook:

A.J. Cann will be a nice pick along the line and Mike Davis will probably need another year in school but he will be one of the most sought after running backs available in his draft class. The picking may be thin on defense but the future classes beyond 2015 look rich on the offensive and defensive lines.

 

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