2014 South Carolina Preview: What To Know
South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About South Carolina (Getty Images)
2014 South Carolina Preview
What You Need To Know...
South Carolina Preview
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense:
Co-offensive coordinators Steve Spurrier Jr. and Shawn Elliott have a lot to work with, but they'll mainly rely on Mike Davis and a pounding running game that should be dominant at times. Offensive line has been a huge problem in the Spurrier Sr. era, but not this year – this should be the best one yet by far. It's big, talented, and full of NFL upside, and it has to keep starting quarterback Dylan Thompson upright.
There's experience, explosion, talent and depth across the board, except at quarterback. The backup situation is sketchy, but Spurrier will bring the reserves into the mix early. Ultra-efficient last year, the passing game might not be quite as sharp, but it'll be more dangerous with defenses needing to pay so much attention to the ground attack.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: There's work to do after finishing 19th in the nation, but the production should come even if the star power isn't. Gone are Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles off the line and Victor Hampton, Chaz Sutton and Jimmy Legree from the back seven, but there's plenty of speed and lots of athleticism across the board. The linebackers in the 4-2-5 alignment aren't huge, but they can fly, while Sharrod Golightly at the hybrid Spur position is a star in the making. DT J.T. Surratt is the only returning starter up front, but there's plenty of size inside and burst outside. The secondary might need a little while to come together, and there could be a step back before taking a leap forward. Teams will bomb away early, but if the pass rush improves despite the losses up front, this should still be among the nation's 20 best defenses.
Players You Need To Know
1. RB Mike Davis, Jr.
After gaining a little bit of weight to go from 215 pounds to 223 pounds, the 5-9 junior is built to take a little more of a pounding with the ability to pound away on the inside to go along with a fantastic burst to break things off on the outside. The Second Team All-SEC performer ran for 1,183 yards and 11 scores while catching 34 passes for 352 yards, doing a little of everything for the offense. He took over the UCF game, handing the Knights their only loss of the season with 167 yards and three scores, but he was fantastic throughout the first nine games of the season with seven 100-yard games before starting to wear down. He didn't have quite the same pop over the final few games, held down by Florida, Clemson and Wisconsin, but when he's on, he's a six-yard-a-crack force.
2. OT Corey Robinson, Sr.
A massive human being, the 6-8, 344-pound veteran has a huge frame that's impossible to get around, and he's a dominant force for the running game when he gets his mitts on a defender. While he doesn't have the best feet, and he's going to be a right tackle at the next level, he has rare size, is smart, and he knows what he's doing at a high level.
3. OT Brandon Shell, Jr.
While he's the smallish of the top offensive tackles, he's still gigantic at 6-6 and 333 pounds on the right side. An NFL-caliber blocker, he'll end up getting paid someday as a guard, but for now he'll hold his own as one of the SEC's top tackles. A huge recruit a few years ago – literally – he's a good athlete considering his bulk and could be tried out on the left side if needed.
4. QB Dylan Thompson, Sr.
It's his turn. The 6-3, 219-pound veteran saw his share of time over the last few seasons, getting a start and rotating in with Connor Shaw last year completing 58% of his passes for 783 yards and four scores after throwing for 1,027 yards and ten scores in 2012. While he's not a runner like Shaw is, he can take off from time to time when needed to keep drives alive. He's at his best, though, as a passer with the ability to stretch the field a bit more than Shaw did. Proven, he pitched for 310 yards and three scores in the win over Clemson two years ago, and he knows what he's doing and how to run the attack. Now he has to make sure he keeps the mistakes to a minimum, throwing three picks last year in just 89 attempts.
5. LB/S Sharrod Golightly, Sr.
Part linebacker, part safety, Golightly took over the Spur position in the 4-2-5 alignment. Fast, he's like a nickel back against the pass breaking up four passes, but he's at his best as a do-it-all playmaker for the front seven making 47 stops with 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. The 5-10, 187-pounder is too small to be a regular linebacker, and he'll have a tough time holding up – he's trying to get over a knee injury – but he's an active, talented defender with all-star potential.
6. WR Shaq Roland, Jr.
While he didn't exactly bust out as expected, he was still a dangerous deep threat averaging 18.2 yards per grab catching 25 balls for 455 yards and five touchdowns including two scores against Mississippi State and 112 yards in the bowl win over Wisconsin. The 6-1, 185-pound veteran has all the tools and all the skills to be a superstar with great speed and next-level abilities. South Carolina's Mr. Football, he was a top recruit who'll now be Dylan Thompson's No. 1 target.
7. LB Skai Moore, Soph.
A good recruit, he turned into a great producer as a true freshman getting four starts and seeing time at every game making a team-leading 56 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and four picks. At 6-2 and 213 pounds he's not big on the weakside, but he can fly around the ball and became a terror in pass coverage, picking off three passes in the final two games including two against Wisconsin. A steady tackler throughout the season, he should be one of the SEC's top all-around defenders.
8. DT J.T. Surratt, Sr.
Big and tough on the inside, he's the only returning starter up front with good quickness off the ball and the ability to get behind the line from time to time making four tackles for loss and 33 stops. He slimmed down a wee bit to get to 310 pounds on his 6-2 frame, and now he has to be the main man. While he's not necessarily going to occupy double teams on a regular basis, he'll be a key run stopper.
9. RB Brandon Wilds, Jr.
The No. 2 man in the mix could easily take over and be the main back if something happens to Mike Davis. A tall, tough back, he's 6-2, 218 pounds and brings some good power on the inside to go along with decent hands. 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. He sat out all of 2012 to keep his eligibility, but last year he missed most of the year with a dislocated elbow running for just 221 yards and three scores.
10. S Brison Williams, Sr.
One of the key veterans in the back seven, the 5-11, 208-pound senior overcame a broken arm early in his career to be one of the team's leading tacklers, making 108 stops over the last three seasons with three picks. The strong safety is a big hitter who can work like an extra linebacker against the run, but he has to do more when the ball is in the air – he's not a free safety.
- 2014 South Carolina Preview