2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in SEC)
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Capital One Bowl: beat Nebraska 30-13
Returning Starters: (Offense: 6; Defense: 5)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Connor Shaw (14 TD, 6 INT), RB Marcus Lattimore (818 yds, 10 TD in 7 games), WR Ace Sanders (29 rec)
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Jadeveon Clowney (36 tackles, 8 sacks), DE Devin Taylor (42 tackles, 6 sacks), LB DeVonte Holloman (51 tackles), S DJ Swearinger (80 tackles, 3 INT)
Top Recruits: WR Shaq Roland (Scout.com’s #4 WR), RB Mike Davis (#10 RB), OG Joe Harris (#14 OG), OT Brock Stadnik (#18 OT), WR Kwinton Smith (#21 WR)
A year ago, South Carolina possessed one of the best offenses in the SEC, ranking fifth in points per game (30.1) and fourth in yards (375.4). With several key starters returning, the Gamecocks should only improve those numbers.
Heisman candidate running back Marcus Lattimore is the star player on offense. He amazed the entire nation last year gaining 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 7 games before his season was cut short by a knee injury. Lattimore is now healthy and will attempt to establish himself as a true Heisman contender and top NFL prospect.
“Marcus rehabbed (his knee) beautifully, done everything they asked and probably a little bit more.” said Spurrier. “He should be ready to go.”
Quarterback Connor Shaw will be back after missing time last season due to injury. He proved he could be reliable throwing for 1,448 yards, 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 10 games. Shaw is also a provider in the ground game, running for 705 yards and 8 TDs. He will surely miss his biggest target, Alshon Jeffrey, who was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The receiving corps will have to place Jeffery. Ace Sanders will be looked upon to step up and do so.
Many overlook South Carolina’s defense because of the offense’s great success in 2011. The defense was the reason for the team’s success. The Gamecocks finished third in the SEC behind Alabama and LSU, allowing 18.8 ppg and 268.9 yards per game. The losses of defensive leaders Melvin Ingram and Antonio Allen hurt, but there’s still lots of talent on this defense.
The secondary should be effective with D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman returning. Swearinger recorded 80 tackles and 3 interceptions, while Holloman logged 51 tackles and a pick, despite missing a couple games. Defensive ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney opposing backfields headaches all year long, combining for 20.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Clowney was a Second Team All-SEC selection in his rookie year and earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Linebackers Antonio Allen and Rodney Paulk will be missed but the position features plenty of depth. Shaq Wilson will anchor the unit after 52 tackles and 5 tackles for loss in 2011. Wilson will provide leadership and hard hits across the middle. He plays aggressively and will make any ball carrier think twice about wanting the ball.
Spurrier is very confident in his defense.
“I have full confidence and I like what we are doing on defens,” Spurrier said. “We expect Jadeveon to play more than he did last year. We need to turn him loose.”
Schedule: 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina does have the potential to make it to the SEC Championship Game. The key factor will be the game against Georgia on October 6. This will be the game that decides who will get the SEC East crown. The good news for the Gamecocks is that the game will be played at Williams-Brice Stadium. And the crowd does get wild.
2012 Prediction: 9-3
Be sure to check out other great articles at Heavy in the Games.
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