Thursday, May 24, 2012
#17 South Carolina
The biggest question on offense will be how far has Marcus Lattimore come in his recovery. If he is the dominant player that the nation saw run wild, the Gamecocks will have a solid running game to fall back on when quarterback Connor Shaw is having an off game. The one upside of Lattimore's injury was the emergence of Brandon Wilds. The then Freshman ran for 502 yards and 3 touchdowns in relief duty. The South Carolina offense will need to improve on the 74th ranked total offense of last year if they want to compete for the East.. They have the weapons to do so but will need a receiver to step up and replace the NFL bound Alshon Jeffery. Keep your eyes on Sophomore Nick Jones to possibly step up and be go to receiver for the Gamecocks.
Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson has departed to be the head coach of Southern Miss. He was a defensive mastermind that helped put the Gamecocks to the third ranked team in the nation in total defense. His replacement, Lorenzo Ward, did a great job for the Gamecocks against Nebraska in the bowl game. They will lose Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, and a host of others from a very good defense. They Gamecocks only have six returning starters but now Sophomore Jadeveon Clowney can show why he was the number one player in the 2011 recruiting rankings. He had an impressive Freshman year registering 8 sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss and 36 total tackles. He will be focused on by many offensive lines so his bookend Devin Taylor will need to step up his game. Linebacker Shaq Wilson will be the leader of the defense and be responsible for getting everyone into position. The secondary not only lost Stephon Gilmore but the teams leading tackler Antonio Allen. They do have both safeties returning but will need new corners and a new Spur. (The Spur is a linebacker/corner hybrid position.) The materials are there for a great defense if new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward can mold them back into a top three defense nationally.
The SEC Scheduler did South Carolina no favors by giving them LSU And Arkansas from the SEC West this year. If they can split those games and avoid a dangerous opener at Vanderbilt, they should be in contention to win the East. Their non-conference schedule is relatively easy with only Clemson as their real challenge. A 9 or 10 win season is a realistic possibility for the Gamecocks this year and potential for an even better season is there if the Gamecocks can catch a few breaks.