2013 South Carolina Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - South Carolina Gamecock Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The offense is more efficient and effective than dangerous and explosive, but there's enough speed at receiver and enough quickness at running back to change that a bit. While Marcus Lattimore might have been an elite talent before getting hurt, the new rotation of running backs could combine to become more effective and more dangerous. There's no questioning the speed and athleticism at receiver, but the consistency has to be there to help out the quarterbacks. Connor Shaw is the starter, but Dylan Thompson is No. 1A with the experience and talent to do even more in a rotation. The line is huge and experienced, but it's not going to pass block against the quicker lines and has to start consistently playing up to its bulk.
Star of the offense: Senior QB Connor Shaw
Passing: Connor Shaw
154-228, 1,956 yds, 17 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Connor Shaw
131 carries, 435 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Bruce Ellington
40 catches, 600 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Redshirt freshman C Cody Waldrop
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Mike Davis
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Corey Robinson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) TE Rory Anderson, 2) OT Brandon Shell, 3) WR Bruce Ellington
Strength of the offense: Experience, Quarterback
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Consistent Yards
It's been an interesting ride for senior Connor Shaw, starting out as a big-time talent who stepped in when Stephen Garcia was being Stephen Garcia, and he did a nice job at times showing off good passing skills and the running ability that got him recruited by Georgia Tech to handle the option. But he had a problem with interceptions, as a sophomore even though he was generally accurate and a good all-around playmaker. Last season he showed what he could do with a full season completing 68% of his passes for 1,956 yards and 17 touchdowns, but while he spread out his seven picks, two came in the loss to LSU. The 6-1, 209-pounder also managed to take off from time to time, finishing second on the team with 435 yards and three touchdowns. He might have to split duties a bit, but he's used to it by now and hasn't been fazed by the situation.
With Shaw out with a foot problem this offseason, junior Dylan Thompson got the chance to run the show, and he looked the part. The 6-3, 218-pounder isn't the runner that Shaw is, but he's a more dangerous downfield passer who can stretch the field. What he isn't is accurate – at least compared to Shaw – completing 52% of his throws for 1,027 yards and ten touchdowns with two picks in a relief role, and he showed what he could do in the key win over Clemson chucking for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Against Michigan he proved he could come through in the clutch, leading the way late finishing with 117 yards on a 7-of-10 day with two touchdown passes including the game-winner.
6-1, 220-pound redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch appears to be the future with good running skills and tremendous passing abilities. He got lots of work in this offseason with Shaw out, and he should rise up to be the No. 2 man – which means No. 1A in the Spurrier offense – next season. A Parade All-American, he came up with a phenomenal prep career throwing for 9,249 yards and 106 touchdown passes as a Pennsylvania record-setter, but he's a dual-threat playmaker.
Watch Out For … freshman Connor Mitch. Is there a more Steve Spurrier/South Carolina quarterback-sounding name than Connor Mitch? The 6-3, 219-pound freshman has the size and downfield bombing ability, but he's not the runner like most of the recent lot of Gamecock quarterbacks. He could've gone anywhere in the SEC, but he's going to be the future of the USC passing game.
Strength: Two starting quarterbacks. This would be a problem for anyone other than South Carolina. There's no controversy – Shaw is the starter and Thompson is the backup. However, both are proven winners and either one can take over the reins at any time and produce.
Weakness: Interceptions. There were only nine on the year, but there was at least one in each of the last six regular season games with two coming against LSU and one in the disastrous loss to Florida. The picks weren't a mega-problem, but the difference between winning the East and going to another New Year's Day Orlando/Jacksonville bowl might be one ill-timed throw.
Outlook: The quarterbacks are going to have to carry the offense a little more than usual. It's an ultra-efficient, ultra-effective attack with two quarterbacks who can each play at a high SEC level. The scary part is that Shaw and Thompson probably aren't the most talented quarterbacks on the roster – Nosovitch and Mitch will get their turns soon enough.
Unit Rating: 8.5
The Gamecocks appeared to have found their next great running back in sophomore Mike Davis, a compact 5-9, 215-pound tough back who can barrel inside and crank out big plays outside with a terrific burst. He didn't get in much work last season rushing for 275 yards and two touchdowns on just 52 carries, but he took off on an impressive 50-yard scoring dash against UAB and proved this spring that he's ready to handle a full workload. With good hands, he can also be used as a receiver who can make things happen in the open field.
Davis might have been the main man coming out of the offseason, but 6-2, 218-pound sophomore Brandon Wilds will get more of his share of time. A physical runner and good blocker, he got his chances a few years ago when thrown into the spotlight rushing for 137 yards as the starter against Tennessee before adding 120 yards against Florida and 109 yards and two scores against Citadel to help the cause when Marcus Lattimore was out. Last year he sat out the entire year to keep his eligibility, and now he'll combine forces with Davis.
Redshirt freshman Kenric Salley will be the third man in the equation, finally getting healthy after a knee injury and getting into the mix this offseason. At 5-9 and 220 pounds he's built for the job with a low center of gravity and the body to become a workhorse. Sophomore Shon Carson is another good back who fits the mold, but the 5-8, 219-pounder can't stay healthy, having knee problems of his own.
When the offense uses a fullback, it'll be 6-0, 237-pound junior Connor McLaurin, a walk-on who will never carry the ball, but is freakishly strong and can grow into a whale of a blocker. Mostly a special teamer so far, he'll do more for the offense.
Watch Out For … David Williams, the next great South Carolina running back. The 6-1, 200-pound freshman from Philadelphia is a slippery runner with just enough power to get by, tearing off 1,904 yards with 23 scores last season. A home run hitter, get him a little bit of room and he's gone.
Strength: Tough, quick options. Davis is a talent, Wilds is fresh and Salley and Carson should finally be healthy enough to make some noise. There's no shortage of good backs to feed the ball to.
Weakness: Life without Marcus Lattimore. Yes, the team moved on and did a great job with the running game after No. 21 blew out his knee, and yes, there's talent to potentially bring more rushing production with a better rotation, but Lattimore was had the potential to be a top ten overall pick before getting hurt. Even with the injury happening with still four games to go, he led the team with 11 of the 19 rushing scores.
Outlook: Great. It might not be a true running back-by-committee approach, but it wouldn't be a bad idea with so many good options to play around with. Throw in the rushing abilities of the quarterbacks, and after finishing with 1,800 yards on the ground, 2,000 isn't out of the question.
Unit Rating: 8
The receiving corps is long on great-looking prospects, but short on production and proven playmakers. Junior Bruce Ellington is the best veteran on the lot finishing with a team-leading 600 yards on 40 catches with seven scores. The 5-9, 196-pound point guard on the basketball team was also the best deep threat on the gridiron, blowing up for 101 yards and a score against Tennessee and 104 yards and a score the game after against Arkansas. Fast, he's a dangerous kickoff returner who can take the top off the defense, but now he has to run a bigger route tree.
Junior Damiere Byrd has the potential and speed to be another big-time deep player, showing off a little of it averaging 26.1 yards per grab on 14 catches for 366 yards and three scores. One of the team's fastest players, he can make big plays from anywhere on the field, but he was missing in action for most of the second half of the season. He'll combine at one spot with sophomore Shaq Roland, a superstar talent and a top recruit last year coming in as South Carolina's Mr. Football. With 6-1, 190-pound size, great speed and elite skills, he has next-level ability, but he has to start to show it on the field. It's all there, but the production has to follow after making five catches for 80 yards and a score.
5-7, 174-pound junior Nick Jones turned into a nice producer late last year finishing up with 12 catches for 197 yards, and while he might not have the tools or the talent of some of the other starting receivers, he works his way open and should grow into a reliable target. Adding more size at the third spot is 6-4, 212-pound redshirt freshman Kwinton Smith, an interesting prospect with the size to go along with good hands and upside. He could've gone anywhere, and now he'll be fully focused on the football team after not making the USC baseball squad.
Justice Cunningham is gone after finishing fourth on the team with 23 catches, and now it'll be up to 6-5, 218-pound junior Rory "Busta" Anderson to do even more at tight end. More like a big wide receiver, he only caught 14 passes for 271 yards, but he made them count with five touchdowns scoring twice against East Carolina and scores against Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee. Adding a bit more size is 6-6, 224-pound Jerell Adams, who only caught four passes for 90 yards and a score but has the skills to be terrific.
Watch Out For … Roland. Can he become the main man? Wanted by everyone out of high school, he hasn't shown yet that he can turn into a special superstar. With size, speed and ability, there's no excuse to not bust out and become an all-star caliber performer soon.
Strength: Raw speed. There might not be a faster group of receivers in the SEC. Byrd has track star wheels, and Roland and Ellington can move. Hitting the deep ball shouldn't be a problem, and that includes the talented wide receivers.
Weakness: Height. Roland is fine and Smith should become a factor soon, but the three main targets to start the season – Byrd, Ellington and Jones - are all smallish wisps who won't get physical on anyone.
Outlook: The loss of Ace Sanders is bigger for the special teams than receiving corps, but Ellington, Byrd or Roland must grow into a go-to midrange target. There's no questioning the speed or the ability, and there's a world of upside, but the talent has to translate into numbers.
Unit Rating: 7
Steve Spurrier's lines never do much in pass protection, and having running quarterbacks don't help the cause. This year, the line is full of veterans, but it has to find a new leader in the middle to replace T.J. Johnson. 6-2, 319-pound redshirt freshman Cody Waldrop has tremendous size with the versatility to play either guard or center. A nice recruit, he has the quickness and smarts to handle the position and grow into the leader of the line, but he has to prove he can be consistent in pass protection right out of the box.
6-8, 341-pound junior Corey Robinsonis a massive human being with a tough frame to get around. He took over the starting left tackle job, and while he's not great against the quicker pass rushers, he's extremely strong and good at holding his own for the ground game. The former defensive lineman brings a physical attitude up front. By comparison, 6-6, 323-pound sophomore Brandon Shell is smallish, but he's an NFL-caliber right tackle or possible guard. A huge recruit a few years ago, he has all-star upside with good athleticism and drive-blocking ability.
Junior A.J. Cann is back for his third year as a starter up front owning the left guard job. Versatile, he can play either guard spot, but he has a home with 6-4, 314-pound size and a great attitude as an anchor for the ground attack. 6-2, 315-pound senior Ronald Patrick will work at right guard after starting at the spot in every game last year. Able to play center, there's an outside chance he could end up moving in the middle, but he's solid at his current position with the smarts and toughness to be a leader up front.
Junior Cody Gibson will factor somewhere in the equation. A spot starter over the years, the 6-7, 286-pound veteran can play either tackle spot, adding a little more quickness than Robinson and Shell, while junior Mike Matulis can will likely see time at right tackle when he's healthy. Quick and athletic, the 6-5, 266-pounder isn't huge, and he has shoulder problems, but he can move.
Watch Out For … D.J. Park, the best of a nice group of linemen brought in this year. The 6-4, 335-pound tackle has NFL size, athleticism and upside, and while he'll start out working at guard, he should end up on the outside once he figures out what he's doing.
Strength: Size. This is a massive, MASSIVE line that's great for the ground game. When a 6-2, 315-pound blocker is the little guy, there's bulk up front.
Weakness: Pass protection. Always a problem at South Carolina, the line allowed 30 sacks two years ago and gave up 38 last season. The bigger problem and concern is that it's a relatively soft line for being so big. The front five needs an attitude.
Outlook: The line should be devastating next year. With three juniors and a redshirt freshman as the projected starters, and a nice group of backups waiting in the wings, the Gamecock line has talent and good prospects. However, you know what you're going to get – decent run blocking, inconsistent pass protection, and calls during the season to be better.
Unit Rating: 7
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