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2007 South Carolina Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 30, 2007


Is this the year South Carolina turns the corner under head coach Steve Spurrier and becomes a major player in the SEC race? Cory Boyd and the running game will be solid, but it'll be the improvements in the passing game that'll make the Gamecocks dangerous.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Preview 2007


By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 USC Offense Preview | 2007 USC Defense Preview
-
2007 USC Depth Chart | 2006 CFN South Carolina Preview 

Just imagine what Steve Spurrier could do at South Carolina if he had a slew of top-flight talent. 

We’ll all know in a few years, once his tremendous 2007 recruiting class matures, but for now the Ol’ Ball Coach will have to keep cranking out ultra-competitive teams, despite being outgunned at most positions by the SEC heavyweights. Even with fans expecting to wait a little while longer for USC to make its big run, it might not take much for the Gamecocks to shock the world this season and represent the East in the SEC championship game for the first time. 

Head coach: Steve Spurrier
2nd year: 7-5
17th year overall: 149-45-2
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 30, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best USC Players
1. LB Jasper Brinkley, Sr.
2. RB Cory Boyd, Sr.
3. QB Blake Mitchell, Sr.
4. RB Mike Davis, Jr.
5. PK/P Ryan Succop, Jr.
6. WR Kenny McKinley, Jr.
7. DE Eric Norwood, Soph.
8. LB/DE Casper Brinkley, Sr.
9. SS Emanuel Cook, Soph.
10. OT Jamon Meredith, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4

Sept. 1

UL Lafayette

Sept. 8

at Georgia

Sept. 15

South Carolina St

Sept. 22

at LSU

Sept. 29

Mississippi State

Oct. 4

Kentucky

Oct. 13

at North Carolina

Oct. 20

Vanderbilt

Oct. 27

at Tennessee

Nov. 3

at Arkansas

Nov. 10

Florida

Nov. 24

Clemson

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2006 Record:
8-5
Preview 2006 predicted wins

8/31 at Miss State W 15-0
9/9 Georgia L 18-0
9/16 Wofford W 27-20
9/23 Florida Atlantic W 45-6
9/28 Auburn L 24-17
10/7 at Kentucky W 24-17
10/21 at Vanderbilt W 31-13
10/28 Tennessee L 31-24
11/4 Arkansas L 26-20
11/11 at Florida L 17-16
11/18 MTSU W 52-7
11/25 at Clemson W 31-28
12/28 Liberty Bowl
Houston W 44-36

The program has been agonizingly close to turning the corner before, but it hasn’t been able to come up with a streak of wins to make it happen. Last year was the epitome of frustration, losing to Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, and most painfully, to Florida, by a touchdown or less. The hope is for a more mature, more experienced team to start finding more ways to win the tight games.  

After stunning two of the SEC East’s big three in 2005 (beating Florida and Tennessee and losing to Georgia by two), USC found out once again just how hard it is to be consistent in the toughest conference in the country. It didn’t get the same big breaks and key plays of a year earlier, but this year’s team should be good enough to make its own good fortune.

With the exception of corner Fred Bennett, all the key starters return to a defense that was better than the statistics might show, while the offense has a veteran backfield, decent tackles, and enough promise to expect better overall production.

And then, of course, there’s Spurrier, who’s been relegated, somewhat, to the back burner when it comes to attention (outside of having to fire out an Under Armour “Click, Clack” now and again), considering all the SEC’s big coaching stories. He’s still one of the elite of the elite college coaches, and now he has his guys in place. If he works his coaching magic, USC should be the SEC’s big sleeper for the title.

What to watch for on offense: Blake Mitchell is in his third year in the Spurrier system, and if the end of 2006 was any indication, he should be ready to break out despite the loss of top target Sidney Rice. The recruiting class, led by JUCO transfer Larry Freeman, is loaded with ready-made receivers to help out Kenny McKinley, so if Mitchell can be remotely consistent and can make the newcomers better, the Gamecock offense should finally start funnin’ ‘n’ gunnin’.

What to watch for on defense: The front seven. The offense will get all the attention from the fans and media, but the SEC coaches will worry more about Jasper Brinkley and the Gamecock defense that’ll attack from game one. The D will give up yards, but it’s stingy when it comes to giving up points. The secondary is full of unknowns that’ll quickly get recognition as the season goes on..

The team will be far better if … it gets more out of the return game. There’s a razor-thin margin between a good season and a great one in the SEC.  A team like South Carolina, which might not be quite as talented as teams like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, must do all the little things right, including returns. After only averaging 7.74 yards on punt returns and 19.16 yards per kickoff return last year, the Gamecocks could reap great rewards from improvement here.

The Schedule: It would be nice if there were more tough games at home early, but the games against UL Lafayette, South Carolina State, Mississippi State and Kentucky should form a nice base of wins, if all goes according to plan. Florida and Clemson come to Columbia to close out the season, after a brutal two-game road run at Tennessee and Arkansas. The two early road games, at Georgia and LSU, certainly aren’t easy, but a date at North Carolina should make up for it.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Cory Boyd. Mitchell might be the star of the offense this year, but Boyd is the best all-around player. After spending all of 2005 off the squad after violating team rules, Boyd got back in the mix early last season and finished as the team’s leading rusher with 823 yards while finishing third on the team in receptions. He’s a tough between-the-tackles runner who should be the workhorse of the ground game. If he can take advantage of defenses geared up to stop the Gamecock passing game, he should be a lock for 1,000 yards.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Jasper Brinkley. If he’s not one of the three best linebackers in America, he’s not far off. The former JUCO transfer had a tremendous first year with 107 tackles, often doing the job by himself. He’s a hard-nosed hitter in the middle who’s also an elite pass rusher when he gets an opening.

Key player to a successful season: Junior WR Kenny McKinley. Sidney Rice put up most of his big numbers against the dregs on the schedule, but he finished his career with a flourish and was the number one concern of every defensive coordinator. Now it’ll be up to McKinley to be the number one target. He has the hands and the experience to shine in the Spurrier offense, but he’s more likely to be a steady go-to guy than an explosive star.

The season will be a success if ... USC wins nine games. This team is going to be far better than it’s been over the last several seasons, but forget about winning the East, given the brutal SEC road slate. Getting to the nine-win mark is possible, even though it might take a bowl win to do it, as long as there aren’t any slip-ups against the mediocre and there’s at least one major win over a team like Georgia, Tennessee, LSU or Florida.

Key game: Sept. 8 at Georgia. The Gamecocks have battled Georgia hard over the last several years, but have lost five straight in the series. With a nightmare at LSU coming up next on the SEC slate, USC has to pull off the win between the hedges to likely avoid an 0-2 start and show that the program has made the turnaround under Spurrier.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- South Carolina 1st quarter scoring: 59; 2nd quarter scoring: 125
- Third down conversions: South Carolina 72-151 (48%); Opponents 60-163 (37%)
- Third quarter scoring: South Carolina 75; Opponents 26

 

Related Stories
2007 South Carolina Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 9, 2007
2007 South Carolina Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 29, 2007
2007 South Carolina Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 29, 2007








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