#SECPreviews- East: #4 South Carolina Gamecocks
This could be beautiful. Their returning quarterbacks have a combined 8 career passes, and that guy (Connor Mitch) is apparently in the doghouse. The defense, after rumors of Will Muschamp and Gene Chizik, ended up with some dude named Jon Hoke, last seen as the Chicago Bears’ DB coach. Unexpected departures from the receiving corps leave Pharoh Cooper the sole focal point of the passing game.
On the other hand, Steve Spurrier is still the Ball Coach in Columbia. His presence alone should make Dawg fans (and the rest of the SEC East) nervous enough.
What Happened Last Year?
Still a vexing question. After the unprecedented (and still SEC title-less) run of three straight 11-win seasons, Spurrier’s Cocks fell off the map. The defense, upon losing Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, and more, gave up 10.1 points and 83 yards more per game than the 2013 bunch. The offense lost a major pain-in-the-rear-on-third-and-six-or-less dynamic in Connor Shaw, and the team just looked lost.
As cathartic as their opening loss at the hands of Texas A&M was, we as Georgia fans didn’t know quite how much the Gamecocks’ 38-35 triumph over the Bulldogs was going to hurt. They followed that win with an unconvincing 14-pointer at Vanderbilt, losses to Missouri and Kentucky, more losses to Auburn and Tennessee, an OT win at Florida, and another loss at Clemson.
While this year’s iteration returns a lot more on D, it loses anyone with significant QB experience, bowling ball Mike Davis, and four of last year’s top five receivers. One places them in the middle of the pack because Spurrier is still a damn good coach and…well? I guess we’re calling last year a moderate fluke.
I hope I’m wrong.
Three Key Games
Sept. 19, at Georgia: Unfortunately for me, I don’t see a neutral-site game against UNC in the opener as a loss for the ‘Cocks. Our first chance to really learn if they’re going to bounce back from last year is in Athens. I’m counting no chickens (I swear to God no pun intended) as the Sandlappers have won 4 of 5 against the Dawgs.
Oct. 31, at Texas A&M: Last year, SC fans made asses of themselves by starting fights at A&M’s ‘Midnight Call’. I hope the bad karma continues to carry over, and the Ags establish dominance in this crossdivisional series. Aside from Georgia, games at Mizzou and home against LSU and Vanderbilt give S.C. a chance to still be in the hunt for the East at this point.
Nov. 7, at Tennessee: Carrying over from the week prior, a 1 or even 2 loss S.C. team is still in the hunt against a team I (spoiler!) haven’t previewed yet.
Five Players to Watch
– WR Pharoh Cooper: Cooper is going to do everything for this offense– he was 5/8 with 2 TD as the Wildcat QB last year, ran for 203 yards on 27 carries, and had 1136 yards receiving. #11 is the one guy who’ll make SC worth watching in 2015.
– LB Skai Moore: Somewhat of the defensive equivalent of Cooper. Moore has 7 interceptions in his career from his SPUR spot, and led the team in tackles last year (for whatever that’s worth).
– DL Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer: What do you do when your defense, lacking the NFL’s #1 overall draft pick, struggles the next year? You hit the JUCO ranks. Lewis is 6’3 266, Sawyer is 6’3 280. Not bad size for two guys who are slated to start from day one.
– S Isaiah Johnson: What do you do when your secondary allows 62.1% completions and you can’t blame it all on the D-line? You take a two-year starter from Kansas– yeah, I don’t know if this is desperate yet.
– RB’s David Williams/Brandon Wilds/Shon Carson: Wilds and Carson are seniors, and neither has ever really lived up to their respective hypes. Williams is listed as the starter by Phil Steele, but he only went 45/265/2 last year…South Carolina, in a departure from Spurrier’s Florida Fun ‘n’ Gun, has relied heavily on a featured back during its successful era. Someone needs to emerge.