South Carolina 2011

South Carolina (2010 Statistics)

(SEC) The Gamecocks play on a grass field at Williams-Brice Stadium (seats 80,250)

  • Steve Spurrier is in his 7th year as head coach at South Carolina.  Last year he led them to a 9-5 record, their first SEC Championship game (where they were crushed by Auburn) and a top 25 ranking.  As a refresher on Spurrier, he is referred to as the Head Ball Coach

    Head Coach Steve Spurrier

    (although much to his dismay that is sometimes said as ‘Ol Ball Coach).  As the head coach at Duke he won an ACC Championship in 1989 and at Florida he won a national championship in 1996.

  • It took six seasons, but Spurrier finally got a 1,000 yard rusher. Was it the experience of the offensive line?  Was it the new offensive line coach Shawn Elliott?  Or was it the running abilities of true freshman Marcus Lattimore?  Most seem to be pointing to the last option.  This year Lattimore is a sophomore and the expectations are even higher.
  • And yes, it did help that the offensive line was considerably more experience last year compared to the previous five. This year they have an equally experienced line and could have an

    Running Back Marcus Lattimore

    even better running game.  Maybe Lattimore won’t top 17 rushing touchdowns (as he had in 2010), but perhaps the other rushers will be able to contribute.  The only concerns are how the new starters gel with the others and whether this unit can stay healthy (there isn’t a lot of depth so health is a big concern).

  • With equally impressive statistics (especially if you’re playing fantasy football), receiver Alshon Jeffery had over 1500 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns. He set single-season records in catches (88) and receiving yards (1,517) for South Carolina, has tied the record for 100-yard receiving games

    Receiver Alshon Jeffery

    (11)… and has caught a pass in 22 straight games.

  • And Quarterback Stephen Garcia is a Senior.  He is mobile and was the #2 rusher on the team, but at least last year he had a running back in Lattimore to share the workload.  That definitely took the pressure off of the passing game because his attempts were reduced considerably, but that resulted in a much more accurate passing game.  His completion percentage increased by almost 10% from 55% to 64%.  One problem he continues to have though is interceptions.  And another even bigger problem he continues to have is suspensions.  He has found himself in and out of trouble since he arrived in Columbia, South Carolina in January 2007.  He was arrested twice in his first month and his second suspension this spring alone marked the 5th time he was suspended from the football team. Spurrier gave Garcia a list of what he can do to get back in his good graces, including cutting his hair and he was reinstated on August 1st.  Incidentally, quarterback coach G.A. Mangus will also likely be reinstated along with the quarterback.  Mangus was arrested for getting drunk and doing that stupid thing that guys sometimes like to do when they’re drunk (although they’re typically 17 when this happens)…going to the bathroom in public.
  • Back-up quarterback sophomore Connor Shaw gained some experience  due to Garcia’s spring suspension (technically he got in for the Auburn regular season game after Garcia fumbled twice in the 4th quarter, but he came in and threw two interceptions).
  • Seven starters return on defense. The defensive line is in good shape, at least on the ends.  They are the ones credited with leading South Carolina to a 12th ranked rushing defense and 7th in that nation in sacking the quarterback.  Even though they lose DE Cliff Matthews, they add freshman Jadeveon Clowney, who was one of the top recruits in the country and  should help ensure they continue to put pressure on the quarterback and also defend against the run.
  • The problem last year really was the passing defense. They finished with the 97th ranked passing defense (one of the worst in the nation) and it’s somewhat unclear how that happened.  In 2009 they had a top 10 passing defense (ranked 8th in the country and 2nd in the NFC).  The only area they had to really work on was their interceptions gained and that was a concern since they lost their only two players last year that had multiple interceptions.  But they had many of their defensive backs return and they actually improved from 111th to 30th in interceptions gained last year.
  • But statistics don’t always tell the entire story, so what exactly caused the poor passing defense numbers?  Was it  poor play of the secondary? Or perhaps they had such a strong rushing defense that teams chose to take their chances passing instead of running against the Gamecocks? Opponents had 460 passing attempts against them last year.  Only 16 defenses in the country were subjected to more passing attempts (and 5 of those teams are in the Big 12 where all they do is pass).  According to the Blue Ribbon Preview,  South Carolina’s defensive linemen had trouble getting to the quarterback by themselves.   I can only take their word for it and assume they watched the film to make that statement.  But this is where the statistics get tricky.  South Carolina’s defense was #7 in the nation when it came to sacking the quarterback.  If the four-man rush (i.e., the Defensive line) wasn’t putting pressure on the quarterback (sacks are a huge indicator of that), then one might assume that the linebackers were helping with that?  However, the linemen accounted for 75% of the sacks in 2010.  Is it possible they were not good at putting pressure on the QB despite the high sack number (as Blue Ribbon suggests)?  Actually, yes.   Because their opponents passed so often, the defense had many more opportunities to sack the quarterback.  I don’t know how this ranks with other teams (#sacks compared to #sack opportunities), but THIS is why people never run out of sports topics to debate.
  • This year they have three defensive backs return and they move Akeem Auguste from safety to corner, which should be a more natural position for him.
  • The good news is that when they play Auburn and Arkansas, both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks. And the best news is that South Carolina’s schedule doesn’t include Alabama this year.  Games to watch out for:  Mississippi State on October 15th and depending how they do with their 2011 changes Florida on November 12th and Clemson on November 26th.