South Carolina Preview 2006 - Offense
South Carolina Gamecocks
Posted Aug 8, 2006

South Carolina Gamecocks Preview 2006 - USC Offense

What you need to know ... The Gamecocks threw out of necessity last season, but there should be more balance with Mike Davis and Cory Boyd forming a good 1-2 rushing punch behind a line that can't be much worse. The front five had an awful season, but there's good size and several good incoming talents to challenge for positions. Sidney Rice leads a good receiving corps that could use more game-breakers, while solid Blake Mitchell should be a fine quarterback in his second year, but won't be anything special.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Blake Mitchell
186-315, 2,370 yds, 17 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Mike Davis
146 carries, 666 yds, 5 TD
Sidney Rice
70 catches, 1,143 yds, 14 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Sidney Rice
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior G Thomas Coleman and junior G James Thompson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Gurminder Thind
Best pro prospect: Rice
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Rice, 2) RB Mike Davis, 3) Thind
Strength of the offense: Running back, receiver
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line

All of a sudden, the quarterback situation went from Blake Mitchell and, well, Blake Mitchell, to possibly a controversy after Cade Thompson had a solid spring. It's Mitchell's job and it'll be a major shock if he's not the opening day starter, but Thompson showed flashes of greatness in practices and incoming freshman Chris Smelley, the future of the program, will get every shot to grab the job by the horns. At the very least, there's more depth to rely on than last year.
The key to the unit: Mitchell has to reverse the interception trend that kicked in at the end of last year and he must prove he's the sure-thing starter. If he struggles at all, it'll open up a can of worms with a quarterback race.
Quarterback Rating: 7

Projected Starter
- Blake Mitchell, Jr. - 186-315, 59%, 2,370 yds, 17 TD, 12 INT, 1 rushing touchdown
The 6-3, 206-pound Mitchell got bigger this off-season and should be able to take more of a pounding. More importantly, he knows what he's doing in the Steve Spurrier attack and should be a better decision maker. He had a brilliant opening game throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns against UCF, but he didn't hit the 300-yard mark the rest of the year and struggled with interceptions over the final two games throwing three against both Clemson and Missouri. He's a proven passer who is entrenched as the number one, but he'll have to keep producing to hold off Cade Thompson.

Top Backups
- Cade Thompson, RFr.
While Thompson still has work to do to understand the offense, he had a strong enough spring to establish himself as the firm number two quarterback. Consistency is still an issue, but he has the arm, the talent, and the upside to soon challenge for significant playing time if he can hold off incoming freshman Chris Smelley. 
- Chris Smelley, Fr.
If you're looking for the next, great Spurrier-molded quarterback, Smelley should be it. The 6-3, 210-pound Alabama state player of the year threw for 4,120 yards, 59 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his senior season and will get plenty of chances to see playing time this fall. He's an old freshman (20 once the season starts) and has all the tools.

Running Backs
While Mike Davis had a strong freshman year, the South Carolina ground game finished 11th in the SEC and 110th in the nation. Part of the problem was the awful offensive line, and part of the problem was a lack of work with only 365 carries. The return of Cory Boyd from missing last year due to suspension should provide a huge boost, while speedy Bobby Wallace will be an interesting third option to work with.
The key to the unit: Up the yards per carry. Davis averaged 4.6 yards per pop, but the team only averaged 3.1 with a mere 13 touchdowns.
Running Back Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Mike Davis, Soph. - 146 carries, 666 yds, 4.6 ypc, 5 TD, 15 catches, 136 yds, 9.1 ypc
Davis got some work here and there over the first seven games, and then he turned into a workhorse and a key cog with 111 yards in the regular season finale against Clemson and 125 yards and two scores against Missouri. At 5-9 and 210 pounds he provides a little bit of power to go along with exceptional quickness. He has the hands to do more in the running game.

- Fullback Lenard Stafford, Jr. - 1 catch, 4 yds
The 5-9, 242-pound former offensive lineman is a pure blocking back. The former walk-on won't get any carries, but he might see a pass or two out of the blue. Mostly he'll be in charge of opening up holes.

Top Backups
- Cory Boyd, Jr.
Boyd was the team's leading returning rusher and receiver going into last year, but he missed the entire season after violating team rules. Now he's back as a jack-of-all-trades as a physical runner, an occasional fullback, and a part-time receiver with 541 career rushing yards and 492 receiving yards. While he's not going to take over the number one job, he'll have several games where he takes over the ground game.
- Bobby Wallace, Soph. - 41 carries, 135 yds, 3.3 ypc, 8 catches, 42 yds, 5.2 ypc
Wallace started against UCF but only ran for five yards. The 5-7, 179-pound scat back can catch as well as run making him a dangerous third down option. He started to get used more late in the season, but now he'll have to fight to get carries with Cory Boyd back in the mix.
- Taylor Rank, RFr.
Rank appeared to be on the verge of getting into the rotation as a true freshman before having problems with an ankle injury. He's a talented 206-pound back who was the Washington state high school player of the year in 2004 rushing for 2,018 yards and 33 touchdowns for Evergreen High.
- Fullback Clark Gatson, Fr.
The 6-2, 233-pound freshman will look to provide more of an offensive threat at fullback. He'll need time to figure out what he's doing, but he's talented enough to get some offensive work.

Sidney Rice makes an average group of receivers special. The question early on will be the health of some key targets with Syvelle Newton trying to come back from an Achilles' tendon injury, Noah Whiteside looking to be 100% after struggling through an ankle problem, and tight end Andy Boyd trying to return from a torn ACL. Kenny McKinley is a blossoming number two receiver, but he'll be pushed with the expected emergence of Freddie Brown and lightning-fast O.J. Murdock.
The key to the unit: A second scorer needs to emerge to take the pressure off Rice, who caught 12 of the team's 21 touchdown passes.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Sidney Rice, Soph. - 70 catches, 1,143 yds, 16.3 ypc, 13 TD
The 6-3, 200-pound sophomore still needs some polish, but he's still one of the nation's top receivers and a top-flight pro prospect. He missed the opener with a broken finger, and then blew up as the team's main weapon with five 100-yard games in his final six highlighted by a brilliant 12-catch, 191-yard, one touchdown performance in the Independence Bowl loss to Missouri. The only question is his durability suffering a knee injury in 2004, the broken finger last year, and a thumb injury this season that kept him out of spring ball. 

- Kenny McKinley, Soph. - 25 catches, 291 yds, 11.6 ypc, 1 TD
The quick sophomore turned into the team's third leading receiver despite only catching three passes in the first four games of the year. With the moves to be one of the team's leading punt return options, he should blossom after a year of learning what he's doing at the Z position. A former quarterback, the coaching staff isn't afraid to use him on trick plays. 

- Tight end Andy Boyd, Sr. - 1 catch, 12 yds, 1 touchdown
Purely a blocker, the 6-4, 271-pound senior is looking to return after suffering a torn ACL last year, his second in three years. When he does catch passes, he makes them count with two career grabs for 29 yards and two touchdowns.

Top Backups
- Noah Whiteside, Sr. - 7 catches, 131 yds, 18.7 ypc, 1 TD, 1 carry, 3 yds
Never right last season with an ankle problem, the speedy Whiteside struggled through the season not doing much of anything after catching three passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in the opener against UCF. Back healthy, he should be more explosive behind Kenny McKinley.
- Syvelle Newton, Sr. - 27 catches, 297 yds, 11 ypc, 2 TD, 21 carries, 150 yds, 7.1 ypc, 2 TD
Newton started his career as a receiver catching 22 passes for 277 yards, moved to quarterback where he threw for 1,093 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions, and then moved back to receiver where he finished second on the team in receiving despite missing the last five games with a torn Achilles' tendon. He saw time as a running back last season as well as at receiver and quarterback, but now his season is a question mark as he tries to return healthy.
- Freddie Brown, RFr.
At 6-3 and 199 pounds, Brown is a big young receiver with tremendous upside. While not a burner, he has decent speed and should grow into a factor behind Kenny McKinley. He was a star high school basketball player with tremendous athleticism.
- O.J. Murdock, RFr.
He didn't see the field last year, and now the coaching staff is hoping for Murdock to provide a bolt of lightning in the mix behind Sidney Rice. Considered one of the fastest recruits from the state of Florida last year, he should quickly be used as a deep threat. 

- Mike West, Jr. - 47 tackles, 3 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
A steady defender who has the explosiveness and athleticism to see even more playing time, West can play outside linebacker or safety. He had a decent season at linebacker starting out hot before seeing his playing time and workload diminish. Now he'll have to battle hard to get work at Rover if he doesn't spend this season as a slotback.

- Tight end Jared Cook, RFr.
With Andy Boyd trying to recover from a knee injury, the former wide receiver will get plenty of work at tight end. He's not nearly the blocker Boyd is, but at 6-5 and 229 pounds he has the size to be a big target. He has excellent hands and should add another dimension to the offense.

Offensive Linemen
The line will be a work in progress all season long after an awful 2005. Several new recruits are expected to come in an push for playing time right away with 6-7, 320-pound mid-year JUCO transfer Clarence Bailey expected to make the most immediate impact. Chris White is a rock at center and Gurminder Thind is an emerging star at tackle, and all of the other spots are open. If nothing else, this is a big group, especially in the middle, where the projected starters average around 320 pounds per man.
The key to the unit: Pass protection. The USC line allowed 30 sacks and never gave quarterback Blake Mitchell enough time to work. A little bit of improvement could mean a world of difference to the attack.
Offensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- OT Gurminder Thind, Soph.
Expected to be one of the new stars of the offense, the 6-4, 286-pound sophomore had a terrific spring at left tackle after seeing a little bit of time last year. He's a tremendous athlete who has been great in practices at finishing off his blocks well.
- OG Thomas Coleman, Sr.
The 6-3, 315-pound former walk-on got the starting nod four times last year and was mediocre at best. He can play tackle if needed, but he's far more suited at guard where he'll start on the left side.
- C Chris White, Sr.
The versatile senior overcame a neck problem earlier in his career to be a steady force in the middle starting in every game. He could play either guard spot if needed, but he'll be a strong, 316-pound anchor in the middle. As the quarterback up front, he needs to blossom into an All-SEC caliber performer if the line is going to make a big overall improvement.
- OG James Thompson, Jr.
Originally groomed to be a tackle, Thompson ended up moving to guard starting in three games. At 6-3 and 323 pounds, he's a big, strong blocker who should grow into the position on the right side if he doesn't get knocked out of a spot by an incoming recruit.
- OT Jamon Meredith, Jr.
The 6-4, 290-pound junior will step in at right tackle and needs to blossom into a steady pass protector. He saw a little bit of starting time at the end of last year, but he'll have to be more consistent.

Top Backups
- O
T Justin Sorensen, Soph.
One of the team's biggest linemen at 6-7 and 309 pounds, he has the frame to grow into a good pass blocker. He saw a little bit of time on the right side, but he'll have to fight off several incoming recruits for playing time.
- OL Clarence Bailey, Jr.
Expected to be an immediate option somewhere on the line, the 6-7, 320-pound mid-year transfer will join the team this fall with too much size and athleticism to not be a major factor.

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