5 Thoughts - South Carolina Is Legit
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
Posted Sep 12, 2011

It might be early, but South Carolina appears to be the real deal.

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5 Thoughts, Sept. 12

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Week 2 Thoughts  2010 5 Thoughts | Week 1

- Fiutak: The business on the field matters more than ever
- Cirminiello: The Big Ten's disaster 
- Zemek: Coaching evaluation after two weeks
- Sallee: South Carolina is legit
- Zemek: What's with all the Irish mistakes?   
By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

When you read the term "SEC East power," you don't think South Carolina. You may recall Florida under Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer, Tennessee during the Phil Fulmer years or Georgia's success early in the 2000s. But you don't think South Carolina.

Well, at least until now.

South Carolina backed into its first SEC East title last season due in large part to the massive steps back taken by the rest of the conference. But that same group of Gamecocks is back for an encore - with another year of seasoning under their belts.

For its coach and for its season aspirations, Saturday's game between South Carolina and Georgia between the hedges was a must-win game for the Bulldogs - and they came out fighting. But it became apparent during that game that, while the Bulldogs were desperate and had a fire lit beneath them, they simply aren't as talented or well-coached as the Gamecocks.

So how did it get to this point?

It all starts with recruiting. South Carolina is not known as a top tier high school football state. Slowly but surely, Steve Spurrier has been able to keep the state's top players in state to play for the Gamecocks. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney all signed to play for the Gamecocks on (or after) three consecutive National Signing Days. All three were the top player in the state at the time.

The coaching staff is willing to adapt. Steve Spurrier doesn't want to play grind-it-out football, he wants to sling it all over the field like he did when he was the head coach at Florida. But with Lattimore in the mix at running back, he has put his ego aside and done what's best for his team based on the talent on the roster. Urban Meyer had a hard time doing that at Florida, and Georgia seems to run the same five offensive plays no matter who's on the field. It's no coincidence that the Gamecocks have risen to SEC East prominence as coaching staffs at two previous division powers have become stagnant and/or made changes.

The 436 total yards given up to Georgia should certainly concern South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, but sometimes games get a little whacky - and that's what happened Saturday night. The Gamecocks have so many weapons on both sides of the ball to be able to win games in various fashions, and that's a trait that champions must have.

South Carolina only has one, 10-win season in its entire history. The second is probably coming this year, and a shot at some special hardware may come with it.