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2007 South Carolina Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 10, 2007


Preview 2007 South Carolina Gamecocks Offense

South Carolina Gamecocks

Preview 2007
Offense

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

What you need to know:
This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Blake Mitchell
135-202, 1,789 yds, 10 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd
164 carries, 823 yds, 8 TD
Receiving:
Kenny McKinley
51 catches, 880 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Blake Mitchell
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior C William Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Garrett Anderson
Best pro prospect: Mitchell
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Mitchell, 2) WR Kenny McKinley, 3) RB Cory Boyd
Strength of the offense: Running back, quarterback
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line, proven number two receiver

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
In a strange season, senior Blake Mitchell was mediocre out of the gate, got hurt/benched for the more effective Syvelle Newton, and then came off the bench to rip it up over the final five games of the year as the proverbial light went on. He started making better decisions, and despite throwing three picks in the win over Clemson, found his accuracy finishing the year completing 57% of his throws with 1,789 yards and ten touchdowns with six interceptions despite only getting six starts. Now he's in his third year of being coached by Spurrier and is expected to be a heady leader who'll make everyone around him better. He doesn't have a rocket arm and he's not going to look like Vince Young running it, but he's mobile enough to gain positive yards from time to time and can make all the throws needed. Despite a bad spring game, he looked like a star all off-season and should be special this year.

Projected Top Reserves: While Mitchell is the unquestioned starter, there are two decent options waiting in the wings. 6-1, 221-pound redshirt freshman Chris Smelley appears to be the next, great Spurruer molded quarterback with everything you'd want in a passer except 6-3 height. He has a big arm, was a superstar recruit, and is working hard to be the number two and be ready to jump in if needed. Likely the starter going into next year, he'll get plenty of work to see more live reps after completing 9 of 15 passes last season for 112 yards before getting knocked out for the year with a heel injury. When he got his shot against Georgia early on, he was solid completing 7 of 11 passes for 64 yards.

Battling for the second string job is sophomore Tommy Beecher, a clone body-wise of Smelley's with a decent arm. A thumb injury kept him from making any sort of an impact last year, at least early on, and now he'll get every chance to be the prime backup in fall practices after suffering a sprained shoulder this spring.

Back in the coaching staff's good graces is star true freshman Stephen Garcia, who was booted off the team for a time after being arrested twice this off-season. He paid his due, is back on the team, and will get his shot at the number two job this fall. He has all the tools to be a star.

Watch Out For ... Mitchell to make a run for All-SEC honors. Everyone has all but given the first-team nod to Kentucky's Andre Woodson or Tennessee's Erik Ainge, and all eyes will be on Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Florida's Tim Tebow, but Mitchell, if he plays like he did at the end of last year and throughout spring ball, could be the most effective passer in the East.
Strength
:
Knowledge of the system. It's not like Mitchell, Smelley and Beecher have been around forever, but they've been in enough practices to know what Spurrier wants to do, or at least as much as anyone not named Wuerffel can. 
Weakness
:
Rock-solid proven number two. Smelley will be great in relief later on this year, but there isn't a Syvelle Newton to rely on anymore. Spurrier will change his quarterbacks on a whim, and Smelley and Beecher have to be ready.
Outlook: Quarterbacks don't just manage the game under Spurrier, they often are the game. Mitchell should be a difference maker this season with a premium put on limiting interceptions, making the quick, right read and connecting on the big play when it's there. Yeah, all quarterbacks have to do that, but the Spurrier passer has to do it all at a consistently high level. Smelley will be great in 2008.
Rating: 8


Running Backs


Projected Starters
:
Back in the fold after missing all of 2005 for violating team rules, senior Cory Boyd is poised for a big year after leading the team with 823 yards and eight touchdowns averaging five yards per carry. Able to catch, he was third on the team with 35 grabs for 406 yards and two touchdowns. He doesn't have a whole bunch of wiggle, but at 214 pounds he's a load to bring down.

Paving the way will be 5-9, 347-pound senior Lanard Stafford, who didn't get a carry last season but caught three passes for 28 yards. Purely a blocker, the former walk-on is physical and experienced with eight starts. He's a smart player who doesn't screw up.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Mike Davis is good enough to be a starting back and will carry more than his share of the workload behind Boyd after running for 474 yards and six touchdowns. While he's almost as big as Boyd, he's a quick back who provides a little bit of power with a nice burst through the line. While he can catch, he's not quite the receiver Boyd is.

5-9, 196-pound junior Bobby Wallace cranked out an 88-yard touchdown run against Middle Tennessee, but only finished with 107 yards on the year. He's a scatback who could be used as a third down receiver, but he has a hard time getting carries when Boyd and Davis are rumbling.

215-pound sophomore Taylor Rank got a start against Florida Atlantic and ran for 101 yards, but didn't see time the rest of the way. He's a good insurance policy and fine for garbage time.

256-pound senior Ryan Brown will back up Stafford after making 18 tackles and five tackles for loss as a defensive end

Watch Out For ... the running game to be quietly effective. Lost in all the pyrotechnics of the Spurrier offenses over the years has been a good running attach that sets up the passing game, and not vice versa. Boyd and Davis might not be flashy, but they'll carry the mail and keep defenses honest.
Strength
:
Power. Boyd and Davis are always going forward and always good at getting the hard yards. That they can also catch is a major bonus.
Weakness
:
A true speed back. Spurrier had a few at Florida (Fred Taylor being the most prominent), but he doesn't have one at USC he can rely on to turn the corner and break off a 75-yard home run to change a game.
Outlook: While the Gamecock running game isn't sexy, it's got teeth. It'll be effective at doing what it's supposed to, which is keep the safeties from cheating against the pass and providing some semblance of balance. It'll crank out about 150 yards a game and be effective in the red zone.
Rating: 7.5


Receivers


Projected Starters
:
With Sidney Rice off to the Minnesota Vikings, speedy junior Kenny McKinley takes over as the number one target. He appears to be ready. A steady producer throughout last year finishing with 51 catches for 880 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a three-catch, 112-yard, two touchdown day against Houston, he does have the consistent hands along with being a 17.3-yard-per-catch deep threat. The former quarterback is also the team's top punt returner averaging 8.9 yards per try.

On the other side of McKinley will be sophomore Moe Brown, who'll be even more of a field stretcher than Rice ever way. One of the best athletes on the team, and with decent size at 6-0 and 180 pounds, he has the potential to be the team's breakout star.

Senior Andy Boyd is one of the SEC's better tight ends once he's healthy again from a shoulder problem that limited him. He only caught two passes for 63 yards with a touchdown, making a long scoring grab against Middle Tennessee, but the 267-pounder is mainly a blocker, and a great one. He got a sixth year of eligibility after having a variety of injury problems, most notably a torn ACL a few years ago.

Projected Top Reserves: While McKinley is the number one target, things could soon change if JUCO transfer Larry Freeman turns out to live up to the hype. He's a big, physical receiver who has the athleticism to crank out big yards after the catch and can play a little quarterback if needed after getting four starts last year at Pearl River CC. One problem: he appeared lost this spring. He needs to grasp the offense faster to be a major factor early on.

219-pound senior Mike West was never healthy throughout last year having problems with his hamstring, but he still managed to catch six passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns. If he's healthy, he'll be a dangerous role player behind McKinley and in three and four wide sets. He's a former linebacker who made 47 tackles and three sacks in 2005 before moving over to the offensive side.

6-5, 236-pound sophomore Jared Cook is part receiver, part tight end. For his size, he's a phenomenal athlete who was reported to have run a 4.37 40 and can block as well as catch making six grabs for 113 yards.

Also in the hunt for playing time will be 6-2, 211-pound sophomore Freddie Brown, who turned into a big contributor towards the end of the season catching 14 passes for 147 yards in the final six games. The former high school basketball superstar has the athleticism, and now he has to become more of a gamebreaker.

Behind Boyd at tight end will be 255-pound senior Robert Pavlovic, who caught four passes for 18 yards and a touchdown, but is mainly a blocker.  

Watch Out For ... the loss of Sidney Rice to not be nearly as painful as many will make it out to be. Yeah, he forced everyone to pay attention to him and allowed everyone else to see single coverage, but he mainly ripped up the bad teams last year (seven of his ten touchdown catches came against Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee). Yeah, he had a fantastic day against Arkansas and was good against Clemson, but the offense will find receivers to pick up the slack.
Strength
:
Size. This is a big, physical group that can block and isn't going to get shoved around. If Cook really is a wide receiver and not a tight end, this will be one of the bigger receiving corps in the country.
Weakness
:
A veteran number two. McKinley was a dream second receiver and will be more than fine as the main man. Brown, West, Cook and Freeman are relatively untested.
Outlook: You don't get better by losing a Sidney Rice. Those 72 catches from last year will be spread around to a variety of receivers, and the hot hands will keep getting fed the ball over and over again. McKinley should have a terrific season, and others will take turns filling in as the top second option.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
The tackles will have to be the stars early on with the three interior blockers needing to be replaced. Juniors Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen are back on the outside, but only the 6-5, 295-pound Meredith is locked in to a spot at left tackle. Easily the best player on the line, he started out at right tackle before moving to the left side where he turned into a leader up front. Sorensen's a massive 6-7, 323-pound blocker who started the final six games of last year at right tackle and will be penciled in the spot to start the year, but he'll have to fight to keep the job.

The interior is the issue with few of the questions answered after spring ball. 6-4, 300-pound sophomore Garrett Anderson appears to be a keeper at left guard. More time and more experience are needed, but he's athletic enough to be a key cog up front for the next three years.

6-3, 320-pound senior James Thompson has never played like the superstar high school prospect he was a few years ago, and while he'll start out at right guard, he's not a lock to stick. Originally considered a tackle prospect, he's now a pure guard.

Taking over for Chris White in the middle will be 291-pound senior William Brown, who isn't all that physical and doesn't have the best skills around. He makes the most of what he has and is always working, but he's limited and is still learning on the fly how to become a starting center.

Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Sorensen at right tackle will be 6-6, 286-pound sophomore Heath Eckerson, who started in five games last year at left tackle where he was great in pass protection.

Getting bigger and stronger for the running game is a must before he can be a top-level starter. 293-pound junior Gurminder Thind has the talent to become a great all-around blocker on the left side if he can be more consistent and keep the foot on the gas all the time. He could move to guard if needed.

Freshman Ryan Broadhead is a promising prospect at center, but at only 271 pounds he has to hit the weight room before he can be a regular contributor.

Watch Out For ... the line to be a work in progress all season long. The 2006 recruiting class was heavy on linemen, and now they need time to mature. The depth chart could undergo wild changes by the middle of the year.
Strength
:
Options. Unlike the past few years, there's a little bit of depth and a few versatile players who can move around and fill in the holes. Injuries wouldn't be the killer they would've been last year.
Weakness
:
Center. Brown and Broadhead have to prove they can quarterback a line at an SEC level. They have to start pushing around more than they did this spring.
Outlook: The line could be the Achilles' heel if it doesn't come together in a hurry. It took a while for last year's starting five to jell and it showed in the offensive production against the better teams. Meredith is an All-SEC caliber blocker at left tackle, but all bets are off after him. With Georgia and LSU to play in September, every practice is going to count later this summer.
Rating: 6

 

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2007 South Carolina Preview
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