It was a weird year for South Carolina. Thanks to a two-tier QB system of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, the fact that Shaw seemed to struggle with getting battered by fast SEC players didn’t matter. They won close games. They lost a few, too. They beat Georgia….and still didn’t go to the SEC Championship game because they lost to Florida…..and to LSU.

Jadeveon Clowney was undoubtedly the star of the Gamecocks, partnering his frightening size with brutal speed and amazing playmaking ability. We can’t wait to see him this year…..and nor can most people.

So here goes our preview…

OFFENSE

The great thing about South Carolina’s QB ‘quandry’ is that it really isn’t a quandry in the least. Both Shaw AND Thompson can do great jobs for the Gamecocks – and they’ll need to without running back Marcus Lattimore. Thompson’s got the cannon arm, while Shaw’s got the whirring legs. They combined for an average of 238.1 yards passing per game. Not great, but when you’ve got a good running game, you don’t really need them.  We think both QBs could be pretty good if they shared the load. And we also think that whoever throws to Bruce Ellington (600 yards last year), he’ll catch the thing. But in a Spurrier offense (and a soft-ish schedule), both Shaw and Thompson will be fine.

Offensive line-wise, South Carolina brings everyone back except center TJ Johnson, so a lot will be hoped of freshman center Cody Waldrop, so that’s going to be a point of real strength.

At that running back position, much has been made of the Mike Davis/Brandon Wilds battle for Spurrier’s eye, so we’ll have to see. It’s definitely a question mark, though.

DEFENSE

Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney (deep breath) Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney. There’s nothing else you really need to say about ‘The Freak’, who can rip apart offensive lines – it seems – almost singlehandedly. The only offense that managed to actually get a hold of Clowney’s aggression was LSU, who seemed to throw behind him to RBs/TEs/WRs who then found the space to cause problems. It was really interesting – and stunning that a lot of teams didn’t copy the gameplan.

But apart from him, the Gamecocks return just four defensive starters, although DE Chaz Sutton and DT Kelcy Quarles are both very, very good.

In the secondary, the loss of D.J. Swearinger is going to be a massive loss for the team, and we wonder how the ‘Cocks are gong to cope. Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree had 84 tackles between them, and strong safety Brison Williams, who had 52. But despite this good experience, Swearinger’s still going to be a massive loss.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug 29 NORTH CAROLINA

Sept 7 at Georgia

Sept 14 VANDERBILT

Sept 28 at Central Florida

Oct 5 KENTUCKY

Oct 12 at Arkansas

Oct 19 at Tennessee

Oct 26 at Missouri

Nov 2 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Nov 16 FLORIDA

Nov 23 COASTAL CAROLINA

Nov 30 CLEMSON

South Carolina opens the season with North Carolina on Thursday night. Opening nights on a Thursday at Williams-Brice have become a college football staple, and we’re not complaining. The next week they go to Athens for a SEC showdown with Georgia, and then a tricky home game with Vanderbilt. Then comes the easiest part of the schedule, with Central Florida, Kentucky, on the road to Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri, and a home game with Mississippi State before Nov 16’s beast of a showdown with Florida. Coastal Carolina and a possible “11-os” showdown with Clemson – which could see both teams unbeaten before they face each other on Nov. 30.

BOTTOM LINE South Carolina’s showdowns with Georgia, Florida and Clemson are both toss-ups. We truly don’t know how they are going to go. Otherwise, we can confidently predict that the Gamecocks are going to go 9-0 in the other games. So, if all goes well the Gamecocks will end up going 12-0. If not, 9-3. It’s going to be more like 11-1, with a loss to Georgia or Florida. This is a very, very good side Steve Spurrier has, people.

 

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