Despite all the talk that comes out of Steve Spurrier’s mouth, there one thing that’s for certain about his South Carolina Gamecocks: They’ve never won a SEC title under him. Sure, they went there in 2010. But they lost, and despite Spurrier’s annoyance at the schedule, they haven’t been back since. 

But this year the Gamecocks are favored for the SEC East. Can they make it?

LAST YEAR

Despite the excellence of QB Connor Shaw and RB Mike Davis, the whole of the 2013 season was really about one player: Jadeveon Clowney. If there was another player in the game who’s name wasn’t Johnny Manziel who was more focused-on than Clowney, we’d like to know who it was. It never stopped. And Clowney spent most of the season either being double-teamed or complaining about injuries, which pissed head coach Steve Spurrier off. Clowney never looked like the Heisman contender people had talked about him being. The Gamecocks lost on the road to Georgia and more stunningly at Tennessee, but the second – coupled with the fact that Missouri only lost one game in the SEC (ironically to South Carolina in 2 OT) – meant that again, Spurrier wasn’t going to Atlanta. However, South Carolina did pick themselves up off the mat – unlike one big football team in the South- and beat Wisconsin the Citrus Bowl 34-24. Ironic, bearing in mind Spurrier’s anti-Tennessee quote when he was at Florida that you “can’t spell Citrus without a UT”. Butch Jones could only wish….

THE OFF-SEASON

It’s been a fairly quiet off-season. We’ve had Steve Spurrier talking **** about Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, but really, it’s been a pleasure NOT to see player after player appear on Twitter for getting arrested. OT Na’ty Tolliver Rodgers was busted for underage drinking….and that’s about it.

And player-wise, Clowney – as we thought he would – went to chase NFL riches (he was the No.1 pick), as did Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton, Jimmy Legree and Connor Shaw. The offense still brings back 8 starters, and the D brings back 6. That’s pretty loaded, if you ask me.

RECRUITING

It’s been an interesting National Signing Day for South Carolina. They’ve gotten in some great recruits – but there’s been a report that as many as EIGHT players are struggling to meet the qualifying standards to even get into school. This includes two DEs and two CBs, which isn’t exactly great for the depth chart. The recruiting of LB Bryson Allen-Williams was a great get for the Gamecocks, and if CB Wesley Green can get to qualifying standards before August, he’ll probably be playing by the A&M game.

THE BIG QUESTIONS FOR 2014?

HOW ARE THE GAMECOCKS LOOKING AT QB AND WR?

Fine, just fine. The immensely talented Dylan Thompson – who actually played a bit last season for the Gamecocks, is going to be Spurrier’s starting QB, and he’s got great poise and a cannon of an arm. Don’t be surprised if he’s going to be in Heisman contention this year. Yep, he’s that good. We’d probably make him the SEC’s No.1 QB. Yes, even better than Maty Mauk. Plus, he’s hasn’t ended up arrested (so far) this off-season, so he’ll play more games than Nick Marshall. And as for wide receiver, the Gamecocks are deep, deep, deep. While Spurrier’s probably sad to say goodbye to Bruce Ellington, Shaq Roland’s going to cause headaches, as will Pharoh Cooper (although with the current lack of depth at CB, he could be playing BOTH WAYS!!), who may be the next Bruuuuce. Damiere Byrd’s also excellent (if he can can recover from a knee injury in time to start Game 1), and there’s also excellent cover. Dylan Thompson’s going to be fine, folks.

AT RUNNING BACK

My MVP for the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2013 wasn’t Clowney. Or Connor. But it was Mike Davis. Davis’ stirring performances were a big part of a great season in Columbia, with his 1,183 yards and 11 TDs carrying the Cocks on his back at points during the season (see his game against UCF for details last year). Davis is back, and he’s looking stronger than ever. We might hear things like ‘Heisman hopeful’ if he puts up big numbers against A&M and UGA in the first two games of the year. And Brandon Wilds and David Williams are going to be good back-ups, too. But expect Davis to play a lot. And big.

AND DYLAN AND MIKE WILL BE HELPED BY…

An offensive line returning a mound of starters (some reports say 4, others say 5). Cody Waldrop may move out of center to play at right guard – where there is a lot of competition for the role -while Clay Stadnik may slot into the center role after doing good works in ’13.  At left tackle they’ve got two interchangeable giants – Corey Robinson (6-8), Mason Zandi (6-9), while A.J. Cann (6-4) mans the left tackle position. This group is also deep, yo.

BUT WITHOUT CLOWNEY…

A lot of people will expect South Carolina’s defense to suffer. There’s no Clowney, Quarless or Sutton, but there IS returning starter J.T. Surratt, who at least will bring some experience to the line. Darius English and Gerald Dixon are solid DEs, and Kaiwan Lewis starred in the bowl win over Wisconsin, and he’ll partner T.J. Holloman at linebacker. There are reasons to be excited about the future, although they’ll be tested in the first 2 games by sprightly offenses.

NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT THE SECONDARY…

Cornerback is definitely a weak spot for South Carolina. No-one has any idea who’s going to be the new CBs. If Wesley Green gets qualified, it may well be him. That’s going to be fun during August. But led by Chaz Elder, the safety corps is looking pretty strong. Brison Williams and Kadetrix Marcus will be solid. But the ‘Cocks really need help at CB.

2014 SCHEDULE (HOME GAMES IN BOLD)

Thursday, August 28, vs Texas A&M
Saturday, September 6, vs East Carolina
Saturday, September 13, vs Georgia
Saturday, September 20, at Vanderbilt
Saturday, September 27, vs Missouri
Saturday, October 4, at Kentucky
Saturday, October 18, vs Furman
Saturday, October 25, at Auburn
Saturday, November 1, vs Tennessee
Saturday, November 15, at Florida
Saturday, November 22, vs South Alabama
Saturday, November 29, at Clemson

If South Carolina gets to the SEC Championship Game, it won’t be because they haven’t earned it. Well, in the SEC, anyway (If the Clemson game wasn’t on the schedule, USC’s non-conference schedule would be goddawful). This team’s good enough to beat A&M and East Carolina pretty easily, and they’ll be favored in the Georgia game because they’re at home. We think they could go out to 7-0 before they walk into Jordan-Hare to face Auburn in a MONSTER of a game….Which we think they’ll lose. They will then gain revenge on Tennessee, beat Florida (but it’ll be damned close) in The Swamp, before beating South Alabama. We don’t know about Clemson. Clemson is, you know, Clemson. We think the Gamecocks end the season 10-2….and go to Atlanta.

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