>Pre-Season Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

>Pre-Season Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

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>Pre-Season Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks


>2009 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in SEC)
2009 Bowl: Papajohns.com Bowl (lost to UConn 20-7)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: N/A
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (35-28 at South Carolina, 177-68-2 All-Time)
Non-Conference Schedule: Southern Miss (9/2), Furman (9/18), Troy (11/20), at Clemson (11/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 20.6 points per game (11th in SEC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 121 (last in SEC)
Passing Yards/Game: 226 (4th in SEC)
Total Yards/Game: 347 (9th in SEC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 20.4 points per game (5th in SEC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 137 (5th in SEC)
Passing Yards/Game: 163 (2nd in SEC, 8th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 300 (3rd in SEC, 15th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: -0.31 per game (9th in SEC)
Penalties: 53 yards per game (10th in SEC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 8
Defense: 7
Kicker/Punter: 2

Phil Steele All-SEC Pre-Season
DE Cliff Matthews (First Team)
CB Stephon Gilmore (First Team; also Second Team for PR)
RB Marcus Lattimore (Third Team)
WR Alshon Jeffrey (Third Team)
DT Ladi Ajiboye (Third Team)
CB Chris Culliver (Third Team)
TE Weslye Saunders (Fourth Team)
LB Shaq Wilson (Fourth Team)
P Spencer Lanning (Fourth Team)

Athlon Sports All-SEC Pre-Season
DE Cliff Matthews (First Team)
CB Stephon Gilmore (First Team)
TE Weslye Sanders (Second Team)
WR Alshon Jeffrey (Third Team)
DT Ladi Ajiboye (Third Team)
CB Chris Culliver (Third Team)

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Stephen Garcia, Jr (239 of 432 for 2862 yds, 17 TD, 10 INT, 220 ypg, 4 rushing TDs)
Rushing: RB Kenny Miles, Soph (117 carries for 626 yds, 1 TD, 5.3 ypc, 48 ypg)
Receiving: WR Alshon Jeffrey, Soph (46 rec, 763 yds, 6 TD, 3.5 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Shaq Wilson, Jr (85)
Sacks: DE Cliff Matthews, Sr (7)
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #30
Phil Steele: #21
Sporting News: #38

2010 Pre-Season SEC East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #3
Phil Steele: #2 (tie with Georgia)

2010 Bowl Prediction
Athlon Sports: Outback Bowl (vs. Penn State)
Phil Steele: Chick-fil-A Bowl (vs. North Carolina)

South Carolina won 6 of their first 8 games last year with their losses coming to eventual National Champion Alabama and in a frantic game against Georgia. South Carolina really struggled down the stretch as they lost 4 of their last 5 with their sole victory coming against in-state rival Clemson. Steve Spurrier has yet to be able to get South Carolina over the hump in the SEC East. He has posted a decent 35-28 record in Columbia in 6 seasons (he had 27 losses in 12 seasons at Florida). South Carolina still has a young nucleus despite returning 15 starters on offense/defense. This might be the year to catch Florida since they’ve had so much changeover and Georgia is also in a state of flux. Is this the year for South Carolina to finally break through? We couldn’t go tailgating in the SEC this year without catching up with the South Carolina blog Leftover Hot Dog to find out their thoughts on the Gamecocks of 2010.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The strengths of the USC team can be found in the running back stable, the WR corps, the defensive secondary and the defensive line. The weak spots going into the season are the offensive line and the linebacking corp as it needs to prove they can rise up in 2010 without Eric Norwood.

The running back group is deep and loaded with talent yet will be only as good as the offensive line play in 2010. Same can be said about the wide outs as they are lead by Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley but if qb Stephen Garcia has no time to throw, it could be a long season.

The defense will continue to be good in the fall just as they have been for several years now. Had some key losses with LB Eric Norwood, SS Darian Stewart and DE Clifton Geathers but this group is well-coached and should be able to re-load for another great year defensively.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

First test, as usual, will be the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Last season, UGA beat SC by the score of 41-37 yet Carolina had a chance late. The winner of this game in recent history has a good year, meaning 8+ wins, as the loser generally has a 6-7 win kind of season. This year the ‘Dawgs come to Columbia on September 11th and the winner of this game most likely will have a shot at the SEC East crown.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

I could easily say Alabama, Arkansas or Florida but I am going to go with Auburn. The Gamecocks will travel to play Auburn on Sept. 25th and this will be the first road game for USC. Auburn is doing good things under Gene Chizik and I feel this game come be high scoring or if nothing else a tight battle. USC lost 5 of 6 road games in 2009. For USC this is the first road test in 2010 and will say a lot about the team going into the meat of the SEC schedule.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

The best player in my eyes that no one talks about on this USC squad coming into 2010 is Center TJ Johnson. He quietly goes about his business of being the anchor for the offensive line. He started at guard in 2009 as a freshman but the now sophomore moves over to man the center position. He leads by example and provides leadership to an O-line that needs to improve as much relies on their performance.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Going with WR Alshon Jeffery here coming into the season. As a freshman, he averaged 16.6 yards a catch and was named a Freshman All-American. He is 6 foot 4 inches and weighs in the 230 lb range, so he is a big receiver with NFL capabilities. He had 46 catches with 763 yards to go with his 6 TD’s in 2009. Hands of glue and can out leap any DB.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Going with a tie here between DE Cliff Matthews and CB Stephon Gilmore as both are key ingredients to the defense.

Matthews was second team All-SEC last year and is on lots of All-American lists going into the season. Much is expected from him on the outside and getting to the opposing qb. Through his career, he has accounted for 105 career tackles including 17.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks.

Gilmore, whether running the “Wild Cock” offense in the shotgun at qb or being a force at cornerback, is highly talented with excellent playmaking skills. Stephon is as sophomore cornerback who earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2009 and he too, is on lots of All-something lists. Last season, he ranked fifth on the team with 56 tackles including 39 solo stops, 6 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 INT and 8 pass breakups. And did we mention he returns punts too? Get my point on being “impactful?”

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach its full capability?

The Offensive line HAS to step up in 2010. For too long now, the O line has been the Achilles heal of the Spurrier offense. From not providing enough time to giving up sacks and not creating running lanes. In 2009, the line gave up 37 sacks and due to their sorry play, USC has been bottom dwellers in rushing in the SEC the last three seasons. This can not happen in 2010 as a good passing attack must have a good rushing attack.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Remember this name: Marcus Lattimore. He is the highly talented running back that everyone wanted coming out of high school but he chose to go with his heart and be a gamecock. Lattimore, who rushed for 1,898 yards and 31 TDs as a senior in high school, is the highest-rated tailback to sign with SC since 2003. He will be in the mix in 2010 and Phil Steele already has him on his 3rd team All-SEC.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I am high on Toquavius Gilchrist at linebacker. He is a JUCO coming out of Butler CC as was rated the number 24 JUCO prospect by Rivals. Is around 6 foot 2 inches and 230 but has good instinct for getting to the ball. Has a good motor and knows how to tackle. He will provide depth to a needed area, that being the LB corp for USC in 2010.

Are Spurrier’s comments helping or hurting Garcia’s development?

Not sure if it is helping or hurting QB Stephen Garcia but I feel certain the message of him needing to step-up and be the leader of this team is getting through to him. Will it pay off? That is something Garcia can only answer with his actions both on the field and off. Garcia has the skills to be a good qb as he has been in the SC system for 4 years now. He has 2 years to play and now is time to shine. Spurrier is riding him because he knows it too – that Garcia can be a really good QB.

Spurrier is known for his treatment of his qb’s and for not being afraid to pull them when mistakes are made. He demands a lot from the guys under center. I feel that Garcia will listen and begin to lead this team. He must if USC will make noise in the SEC in 2010.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

This team, given the schedule, will win at least 8 games in 2010. Best case is a 10 win season and SEC East crown.

Success in my eyes is improvement in the program. I have seen it with the talent being brought in, the coaching staff being better and now I want to see USC do better than 6-7 wins as they have done the last few seasons. Spurrier does have USC in the right direction, just need on the field successes to occur now….will 2010 be the “year of the Gamecock?”

Make sure you check out Leftover Hot Dog throughout the season for your South Carolina and SEC football fix and check back here before the South Carolina/Georgia game as we are planning another Q&A with them. You can follow them on twitter @LOHDgamecocks.

Next Up: Kentucky Wildcats

2010 Previews
ACC- Maryland Terrapins
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies

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