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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Two-A-Days: South Carolina Gamecocks

Two-a-Days rolls on with our fourth installment, in which we take a closer look at the South Carolina Gamecocks.

To read previous entries, click HERE.

South Carolina in a flash:

Head Coach: Steve Spurrier, sixth year
2009 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC), lost to Connecticut in the Bowl
2009 Stats: Total offense, 347.38 ypg (9th SEC, 82nd nationally); Total defense, 300.69 ypg (3rd SEC, 15th nationally)
Coaching Changes: Former Appalachian State assistant Shawn Elliott takes over for departed O line coach/running game coordinator Eric Wolford, who left to head up Youngstown State's program. Spurrier will also be more involved this season, calling 100 percent of South Carolina's offensive plays.
Starters Returning: Offense (8), Defense (7), Special Teams (2)
Key Player Losses: LB Eric Norwood, DE Clifton Geathers, WR Moe Brown
Big Games: Georgia (9/11), Alabama (10/9), @ Florida (11/13) and @ Clemson (11/27)
Non-Conference Slate: Southern Miss (9/2), Furman (9/18), Troy (11/20) and @ Clemson (11/27)

The late-season trials and tribulations continued for South Carolina in 2009 and after five full seasons on the job, Steve Spurrier hasn't been able to get the Gamecocks over the hump. But with one of the calmer offseasons among its Eastern Division rivals -- QB complaints aside -- South Carolina has become a chic pick to earn its first trip the the SEC title game in 2010.

To get the low-down on how serious a contender the Gamecocks really are, I checked in with South Carolina beat writer Seth Emerson of The State. Here's what he had to say...

David Hale: So it sounds like Steve Spurrier isn't the biggest Stephen Garcia fan in the world. What is the potential impact of Spurrier's public flogging of his QB, and is there any chance we might see Connor Shaw as the starting QB at some point this season?

Seth Emerson: Yeah, it emerged as the storyline of camp, partly because there weren't any better stories, but also because it moved a bit beyond the normal Spurrier carping about his quarterback. In a nutshell, Garcia isn't getting it quite done off the field - still misses some meetings, things like that - and on the field still makes what the coaches think are dumb mistakes - like the wrong read on a route - which the coaches trace back to not being as committed off the field.

Garcia didn't take the public criticism too lightly, saying it "upset" him but would make him more committed to prove Spurrier wrong. Will he? That's anyone's guess.

When push comes to shove, I don't think we'll see Connor Shaw starting against Southern Miss, unless Spurrier really wants to send a message. The kid's still a true freshman. That said, Shaw impressed me in camp, a dual-threat quarterback who seemed a pretty heady kid. So you never know, especially with Spurrier.

DH: How much better has Stephon Gilmore gotten since Georgia last saw him, and where might we seem him on the field come September? Will he be a regular part of the offense in addition to his CB duties?

SE: He's gotten better as a cornerback, but he wasn't that bad to begin with. He was hardly a true freshman, having enrolled early, and the coaches raved about him. He'll cover the boundary side of the field for the Gamecocks for the foreseeable future.

As for quarterback, we'll see. The results were mixed for that, especially throwing, but he gives them an added dimension running wise. He didn't do too great in the spring game in the one series he got - he was picked off. It'll be interesting to see in August how much they take a true look at him there, but with Garcia and Shaw both being mobile quarterbacks, that kind of takes away the pressing need to put him in there.

DH: Bigger issue at this point: How good the D line might be or how concerning the O line might be? How has new O line coach Shawn Elliott tweaked what was a big problem for the Gamecocks last year?

SE: Oh, it's the O-Line by a mile. The D-Line should be fine, the only concern in the spring was that three starters were sitting out, all with precautionary reasons. Cliff Matthews could lead the SEC in sacks, the other end (Devin Taylor) is an athletic specimen, and the two DTs are veterans.

The O-Line, once again, is a work in progress. They were OK in the spring, and add six recruits who arrive this summer. Elliott has done some tweaking, as part of an inside zone running scheme you'll see more of this season. But will this line improve? I'll believe it when I see it.

DH: Most pundits seem to view South Carolina as perhaps the most settled team in the division (which granted, is a rather dubious honor). What do you see as the main concerns after spring practice? Were there any surprises in terms of who really stood out during the spring?

SE: Quarterback shouldn't be a concern, but now it is. The tailback situation is in flux, as stud recruit Marcus Lattimore arrives this summer. The O-Line we discussed. The defensive secondary has a potential issue, with Chris Culliver (formerly a safety, who sat out the spring after shoulder surgery) flipping positions with Akeem Auguste. The two linebackers (Rodney Paulk and Shaq Wilson) are both pretty small for the SEC.

I'd say the biggest surprises to me were Shaw, receiver D.L. Moore, and some of the younger secondary players. But no one stood up and made you say "wow."

DH: From what you saw this spring and the folks you've talked to about the team, how realistic would you say South Carolina's chances of finally grabbing an SEC East title are in 2010?

SE: Realistically, they've got a shot. But given that Florida, and to a certain extent Georgia, are merely reloading with the major talent they've recruited in recent years, the Gamecocks still need to have everything line up right. Garcia needs to have his head on straight, the running backs need to produce, the offensive line needs to at least be serviceable, the defense needs a pass rush and to avoid injuries, the special teams needs to become a plus.

If most or all of that happens, yes South Carolina can win the division. And the fact is, that hasn't been true going into past years.


Big thanks to Seth for his insight. You can read his Gamecocks coverage HERE , check out his South Carolina blog HERE and follow him on Twitter HERE.

So, how serious a contender do you view South Carolina as this year? Will you be worried about Georgia's trip to Columbia in Week 2? Or does the public fallout between coach and QB lead you to believe another 7- or 8-win season is the highwater mark for the Cocks?

And don't forget, we'll be wrapping up Two-A-Days with an in-depth look at Georgia, so if you have questions you want answered, leave them in the comments section here or send me an email at

NEXT UP: Mississippi State on Wednesday morning.


Anonymous said...

Rick owns Columbia

Anonymous said...

Do you mean Richt owns the gamecocks?

Andy said...

The Gamecocks always scare me, as they are always a question mark and they are our first SEC game. It will be interesting to see how Murray responds to an SEC road game. I think Georgia should be favored, but it definitely won't be a cake walk.

I think if we get through Carolina and Arkansas back to back, we have a legitimate shot at an SEC East title.

Anonymous said...

I hope that we win in Columbia but I think it is going to be difficult.

Most people are brushing aside the Gamecocks due to their bowl performance and Spurrier's reluctance to praise Garcia, but I think they are the laying in the weeds.

They have the most experienced QB in the division and a solid returning defense.

The big knock is that they do not have the best of schedules because they play at UF, at Auburn and have Arkansas and Alabama on the schedule.

However, if Spurrier is going to get it done at USC - this is the year. UF and UGA rarely have inexperience QB's in the same year and UT is in flux with a new coach.

If they do not win it this year, I think Spurrier retires and USC makes a BIG RUN at CPJ.

Anonymous said...

No I mean my friend Slic Rick owns Columbia

Anonymous said...

Agree with Andy, Sc really scares me coming that early and us with a new QB and defensive scheme. So getting past SC and Arky should put us in a great position to win the East. SC does have a tough row so maybe the game in Columbia will not be the tie-breaker.

Nice balanced report from the SC reporter, very realistic assessment. I do think the loss of Norwood and Geathers will make that defense a little more susceptible than he indicates, but their defense will play us hard in front of the home crowd.

Dawgfan17 said...

I think the running game for us will be the difference. Not to mention with Garcia not having any real tape to be able to see what TG will have in store for him does anyone trust that he will perform big time like he did last year against us? It is going to be a tough game as playing USC usually is but Richt's overall road record I think we will end up being ok.

Anonymous said...

At least South Carolina has Quarterbacks ready to play football. Something we don't do around here.

The way you keep a QB happy Bill King, is to properly have a QB ready. We have failed to have ANY Quarterback Ready by our Offensive Coaching Staff, now in its 10th season here, in 2006, 2009 and now again in 2010.

Bill, you especially put hell on Logan Gray. Every one of your blog posters anointed little Aaron Murray as the Starter too and they all said Logan Gray is no good. They said the same about Zach Mettenberger to have their choice for our QB. Our QB now has never stepped under Center in his lifetime at high school or college. He is 4.7, slow by SEC standards. He is short. He does not demonstrate deeper type passes are his strength with all 5 overthrown. His decision-making has been the worst of all QB on the roster in the 3 scrimmages. And, he was caught and tackled by a high school defensive lineman, injuring himself. Since getting on campus, our coaching gurus had him throw his arm out. Still, your posters to your blog here said he was the best in practice last year as QB. BS he was. He missed 21 practices with his sore arm. I think it is still sore.

The real problem here is that Logan Gray continues to air in the press in the public how he disagrees with everything the offensive coaching staff has ever done, and continues to do with him.

Guess what ?

Logan Gray is RIGHT as rain.

Frankly we did a poor job of determining that Matthew Stafford was # 3, Joe Cox # 2 and Joe Tereshinski III is our # 1 Starting QB 2006.

If you want to know the truth, I thought DJ Shockley should not have been redshirted in 2001.

I also said strongly here too that Zach Mettenberger HAD TO PLAY last year.

He would have been a lot better than Joe Cox against Oklahoma State, to name 1 game.

Kentucky, there is another that by the time of the Kentucky game, Zach Mettenberger would have been established as an NFL Quarterback Draft Pick.

Instead, we lost to Kentucky a 7-6 team.

We also lost to the vols another 7-6 team.

Both have a Losing Record last year at 6-7 had we played Zach Mettenberger instead of flu-ridden, chronic sore arm Joe Cox who by the way went off in the sunset without so much as a sniff of after college football.

While we are discussing Joe Cox, he too was not prepared. We failed while Matthew Stafford had his 3-year NFL debut here, to put Joe Cox into any games to play at all.

We did the same with Logan Gray. Here he is in his 4th season now here in this program. He has 5 completions total. He has 0 TD passes. He has 2 interceptions. 4th year here in this system now today.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame Logan Gray one damn bit.

I totally agree with Logan Gray.

What's good for the team.

B.S. what's good for the team.

Was it good for the team for the offensive coaching staff that should have been FIRED in total before now, but instead all were told in the newspaper that Coach Richt is TAKING OVER ALL THEIR DUTIES, that we failed to let Logan Gray play in Stillwater ?

Joe Cox was 12 of 30 against Kentucky with two (2) interceptions. Where was Logan Gray or Zach Mettenberger during that disaster ?

Joe Cox threw 34 passes with his sore arm against the vols for a grand total of 146 yards on 34 passes and threw 2 more interceptions in that blow-out loss to a lousy football team who has not been ranked higher than UGA in football any season since 2001. Where was Logan Gray or Zach Mettenberger in that devastatingly horrible Loss ? Coach Richt you had Logan Gray complete 1 pass in the 19-45 Loss to the vols. Couldn't you have decided to let him try to complete more than just the 1 completion against the vols ? Or Zach Mettenberger ? The only other game Logan Gray now in his 4th season now in this "system" that you let Logan Gray have any completions in was the Tennessee Tech 38-0. You gave Logan Gray 5 pass plays in that game. Nice Coach Richt. Real nice.

Best for the team ?

I think NOT.

Best for the team now for him to stay at QB ?

Stay here.

Best for the team ? How can it be best for the team Coach Richt, when it was not best for the team to get Logan Gray or Zach Mettenberger in against for example Oklahoma State, Tennessee vols, or Kentucky in those 3 losses to 3 teams not ranked in the Top 25 Final AP Poll.

What do you mean it is best for the team Coach Richt ?

Total B.S.

Coach Richt you have not done what is best for the TEAM getting a single QB ready for 2006, 2009 and now again the 2010 season. The 1st 2 of these recent years in the last 4 years, we lost 9 games. How many are we to lose this season Coach Richt because YOU FAIL TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE TEAM, sir and have a QB ready again now for 2010 ?

EVERY GAME Joe Cox threw more than 17 passes in he threw Interceptions. And, it is not right for the team to play Zach Mettenberger last year or Logan Gray ?

B.S. Coach Richt what is best for the team.

At South Carolina, Steve Spurrier yanks his QB. Here we never get a QB ready. Logan Gray is correct Bill King of the AJ-C Bulldogs' blawg.