2007 South Carolina Gamecocks

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 South Carolina Gamecocks Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 South Carolina Gamecocks

Recap: On Oct. 19, South Carolina was 6-1, ranked No. 6 in the country, and playing as if it planned on contending for a national championship.  A little more than a month later, the Gamecocks were 6-6 and completely out of the bowl picture after taking the collar in the final five games.  In August, Steve Spurrier proclaimed his program fit to contend for SEC supremacy; however, an inability to run the ball—or stop the run—got in the way of the coach's preseason prophecy.      

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Kenny McKinley

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Eric Norwood

Biggest Surprise: Undercutting No. 11 Georgia in Week 2, 16-12.  Although it may not have been pretty, it was effective, as Spurrier maintained his mastery of the Bulldogs.  The ‘Cocks got three field goals from Ryan Succop and a big effort from the defense, instantly altering expectations for a program that started the season unranked.    

Biggest Disappointment: The complete malfunction down the stretch of the usually stingy defense was too much for the Gamecocks to overcome.  Over the final four games, opponents almost abandoned the run, averaging 38 points and 273 yards rushing a game versus the South Carolina D.         

Looking Ahead: What now?  Last season was supposed to be a breakthrough year for South Carolina, but instead, it'll be remembered for the breakdown in November.  While the defense should rebound, especially if LB Casper Brinkley is afforded a medical redshirt, the offense is still searching for a quarterback that can consistently perform at a high level.

- 2007 USC Preview
2006 USC Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 6-

Sept. 1 UL Lafayette W 28-14
Sept. 8 at Georgia W 16-12
Sept. 15
S Carolina St W 38-3
Sept. 22 at LSU L 28-16
Sept. 29
Mississippi St W 38-21
Oct. 4 Kentucky W 38-23
Oct. 13 at No Carolina W 21-15
Oct. 20 Vanderbilt L 17-6
Oct. 27 at Tenn. L 27-24 OT
Nov. 3 at Arkansas L 48-36
Nov. 10
Florida L 51-31
Nov. 24 Clemson L 23-21

Nov. 24
Clemson 23 ... South Carolina 21
Mark Buchholtz made up for two misses with a 35-yard field goal as time ran out for the two-point win. The Tigers took a ten-point lead in the first quarter helped by a blocked punt for a score, but South Carolina came back with a  19-yard touchdown catch from Kenny McKinley, who became the school's all-time leading receiver. He later scored on a 40-yard touchdown in the third, and Blake Mitchell's third scoring pass, a four-yard play to Dion Lecorn, gave the Gamecocks a one-point lead late. Clemson went 61 yards in nine plays, needing a fourth down catch from Aaron Kelly to help get into position for the final field goal. Clemson outrushed USC 214 yards to 80.
Player of the game: Clemson WR Aaron Kelly made nine catches for 134 yards
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 18-31, 284 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 19-74. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 8-125, 2 TD
Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 28-38, 229 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
James Davis, 23-122. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 9-134
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Carolina never came up with the one big play needed on defense over the last five weeks to halt the brutal slide. The offense didn't get the running game going, but Blake Mitchell, while inconsistent, put the team in a position to beat Clemson. Now a one-time huge season might not finish up with a bowl. Injuries killed the team, but if Steve Spurrier is supposed to be an all-timer of a coach, he needs to start pulling out wins when things aren't looking their brightest. Is it possible he could be on a hot seat next year? Another season like this might make it so.

Nov. 10
Florida 51 ... South Carolina 31
Tim Tebow ran for a school-record five touchdowns and threw for two more as Florida won in a rout. South Carolina held a 13-7 lead in the first quarter on a two-yard Cory Boyd run, and then Tebow took over with three short scores for a 34-14 Gator lead. Andre Caldwell had a huge day for the Gators with 11 catches for 148 yards and a 21-yard touchdown catch late to seal the win. Boyd ran for three scores for the Gamecocks, but it wasn't nearly enough. Florida outgained USC 537 yards to 384.
Player of the game: Florida RB Tim Tebow completed 22 of 32 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 26 times for 120 yards and five scores
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 26-42, 316 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 17-44, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 7-95
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 22-32, 304 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Tim Tebow, 26-120, 5 TD. Receiving: Andre Caldwell, 11-148, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Carolina looks like a team that flat ran out of gas. The Tennessee loss appears to have taken the life out of the team, as the run defense has gone bye-bye and the offense can't keep up. This was a team that found ways to win before, and now it's getting steamrolled over with Arkansas and Florida doing whatever they wanted to on the ground. Clemson is all about balance now, but in two weeks when the showdown comes to Columbia, it might be the James Davis and C.J. Spiller show if the USC run defense doesn't make some quick adjustments.

Nov. 3
Arkansas 48 ... South Carolina 36
Arkansas RB Felix Jones ran for 163 yards with touchdown dashes from 40, 72 and seven yards, out, and he only cranked out just over half the yards Darren McFadden came up with. McFadden set an SEC record with 323 yards, highlighted by a 80-yard dash midway through the fourth quarter on the first play after South Carolina had pulled within six on a one-yard Cory Boyd run. The Gamecocks stayed alive on 364 passing yards, and a one-yard touchdown run, from Blake Mitchell with two touchdown passes, but McFadden, who also threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson, and the Hog running game was too much, tearing off 541 yards. Arkansas averaged 9.3 yards per carry.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Darren McFadden ran 35 times for 323 yards and a touchdown, caught a pass for four yards, and threw a pass for a 23-yard touchdown
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 27-51, 364 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 17-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Dion Lecorn, 8-109, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 8-10, 86 yds, 2 TD
Darren McFadden, 35-323 yds, 1 TD. Receiving: Andrew Davie, 2-27

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Arkansas has two all-timer tailbacks in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and South Carolina simply got caught in the steamroller. It's not quite enough of an excuse, but this is a desperately banged up Gamecock team coming off the overtime loss to Tennessee. While Blake Mitchell threw extremely well, and shocking kept the team in it until McFadden hit an 80-yard home run, there defense didn't make nearly enough stops up front. The linebacking corps appeared to be out of position all night long. Now comes an even more physical date with Florida.

Oct. 27
Tennessee 27 ... South Carolina 24 OT
Tennessee overcame a South Carolina comeback by forcing overtime on a 48-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal, that was pushed back five yards after a Vol false start penalty that ended up bailing out a missed kick. Lincoln nailed his 27-yard attempt in overtime, South Carolina's Ryan Succop missed his 40-yard attempt wide right, and the Vols escaped. Tennessee had a 21-0 first half lead on short runs from Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty, and a five-yard Josh Briscoe catch, but South Carolina owned the second half, as Blake Mitchell, in for Chris Smelley, ran for a score and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Kenny McKinley, to go along with a 29-yard Cory Boyd scoring dash. South Carolina outgained Tennessee 501 yards to 317.
Player of the game: Tennessee's Eric Berry made 12 tackles, an interception and recovered a fumble
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 31-45, 290 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 20-160, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 14-151, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 26-44, 216 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Arian Foster, 19-75, 1 TD. Receiving:
Chris Brown, 5-19
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about your gut-wrenching losses. South Carolina gave it everything it had against Tennessee, with players getting carried off the field from cramps and exhaustion, but still came within an eyelash of pulling off the huge comeback. Cory Boyd and Kenny McKinley were magnificent, while Blake Mitchell solidified himself as the starting quarterback, at least for now. The Gamecocks might have blown their big shot at taking control of the East, but they can still stay in the race with wins over Arkansas and Florida.

Oct. 20
Vanderbilt 17 ... South Carolina 6
Vanderbilt came up with seven sacks and held USC to 26 net rushing yards in one of the shocking wins of the SEC season. The Commodores got all their points in the first quarter with Mackenzi Adams touchdown passes to George Smith from 22 yards out and Justin Wheeler from 20 yards out, to go along with a 32-yard Bryan Hahnfeldt field goal. South Carolina managed two Ryan Succop field goals in the second quarter, and that was it. The Gamecocks turned it over four times.
Player of the game: Vanderbilt CB D.J. Moore led the team with eight tackles with two interceptions and a broken up pass.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 14-24, 154 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 5-49. Receiving: Cory Boyd, 5-55
Vanderbilt - Passing: Mackenzi Adams, 8-16, 123 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Mackenzi Adams, 13-84. Receiving: George Smith, 3-53, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The South Carolina offensive line had been playing well at times, but it got blasted by the Vanderbilt defensive front. The Commodores got into the backfield early and often, pressuring both quarterbacks, and never let the Gamecock running game get going. Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell each played roughly the same game, but Smelley made the costlier mistakes. The SEC title is still there for the taking, but now there's no margin for error with the big boys coming up.

Oct. 13
South Carolina 21 ... North Carolina 15
South Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on two Chris Smelley touchdown passes, with a three-yard strike to Dion Lecorn and a 30-yard play to Kenny McKinley, and was up 21-3 at halftime on a 12-yard Jared Cook touchdown catch. And then the Gamecock offense couldn't put any points on the board, while the Tar Heels got a touchdown pass and run from T.J. Yates to pull within six with three minutes to play. Yates had one last shot, getting to the South Carolina 31, but couldn't get any closer as time ran out. Durrell Mapp made 14 tackles for the Tar Heels.
Player of the game: South Carolina QB Chris Smelley completed 17 of 26 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 17-26, 172 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 20-95. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 5-64, 1 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 22-42, 285 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Johnny White, 6-37. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 8-114

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Carolina just keeps finding ways to get the job done, but it wasn't all that impressive against North Carolina. The offense failed to move the ball enough in the second half, and as good as Chris Smelley was, the offense was awful on third downs, only converting one of 12 chances. Getting outgained 398 yards to 282 by a team like UNC isn't a good sign with the meat of the SEC season starting to kick in.

Oct. 4
South Carolina 38 ... Kentucky 23
South Carolina forced four Kentucky turnovers, with Eric Norwood taking two of the three fumbles for touchdowns, opening the scoring with a two-yard recovery and getting what turned out to be the winning score on a 53-yard return in the third quarter. UK got three Lonas Seiber field goals, and two Andre Woodson touchdown passes, including a six-yarder to Steve Johnson to pull within eight with seven minutes to play, but the Gamecocks marched 69 yards in seven plays, capped off with a 27-yard Cory Boyd touchdown run to seal the win. Kentucky managed five sacks, South Carolina got to Woodson three times.
Player of the game: South Carolina's Erick Norwood made five tackles, a tackle for loss, broke up two passes, and recovered two fumbles for touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 17-30, 256 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Mike Davis, 17-62, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 5-68
Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 23-40, 227 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rafael Little, 25-135. Receiving: Keenan Burton, 7-76

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Against Kentucky, the offensive line got Chris Smelley hit time and again, and the running game only managed 86 net yards, but those were the only big issues. The defense did a great job of swarming over the Wildcat receivers, not allowing QB Andre Woodson to find anything deep. He was able to dink and dunk, but USC was able to keep the yards after catch to a minimum. Smelley, even under pressure, was excellent, keeping the chains moving on four excellent scoring drives, but the real story was a defense that kept the high-powered Cats under wraps. With North Carolina and Vandy ahead, being 7-1 is a must.

Sept. 29
South Carolina 38 ... Mississippi State 21
Down 21-17 late in the third quarter, South Carolina turned it on with 21 unanswered points on a 27-yard Kenny McKinley touchdown catch, his second score of the game, and two of Mike Davis' three touchdown runs. MSU hung around on a 28-yard Aubrey Bell touchdown catch and a two-yard Anthony Dixon score, but two late drives stalled, and another was stopped by an interception. The two teams combined to commit 20 penalties for 181 yards.
Player of the game: South Carolina RB Mike Davis ran 18 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 19-37, 279 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mike Davis, 18-59, 3 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 4-107, 2 TD
Mississippi State - Passing: Josh Riddell, 9-21, 101 yds, 1 TD
Anthony Dixon, 22-83, 2 TD. Receiving:
Co-Eric Riley, 3-20
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Considering the new quarterback situation, the injury to star LB Jasper Brinkley, and the overall issues with the offense this year, to crank out 402 yards of offense against a good Mississippi State defense is a huge step for the team. This is an aggressive, opportunistic Bulldog defense that feasts off mistakes, but USC QB Chris Smelley didn't provide many chances with a good, effective game with only one interception. Next week, Smelley will have to open things up even more, and the offense will have to be even more effective, to get by Kentucky.

Sept. 22
LSU 28 ... South Carolina 16
Through a rainstorm, LSU pounded its way to 290 rushing yards, while holding South Carolina to 17. Trindon Holliday tore off a 33-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, to answer a long Gamecock drive and a one-yard Mike Davis touchdown run, as part of a 28-point run with Colt David running it in from 15 yards out, Jacob Hester running for a nine-yard score, and Richard Dickson catching a one-yard scoring pass. The Gamecocks got late points on a field goal and a one-yard Kenny McKinley scoring catch, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Player of the game: LSU RB Jacob Hester ran 17 times for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina - Passing: Chris Smelley, 12-26, 174 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 18-17. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 6-25, 1 TD
LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 8-19, 70 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jacob Hester, 17-88, 1 TD. Receiving: Richard Dickson, 4-39, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Steve Spurrier is always going to change around quarterbacks to try to find the hot hand, so there's no reason to look too much into the benching of Blake Mitchell against LSU in favor of Chris Smelley. However, it's not like either one produced, meaning the quarterback situation will likely be a weekly issue for the next several weeks. The run defense might have struggled against the Tigers, but the LSU offensive line is playing phenomenally well and is going to blast just about everyone. If there are problems against Mississippi State next week, then it'll be time to worry.

Sept. 15
South Carolina 38 ... South Carolina State 3
South Carolina State got up 3-0 on a 37-yard Aaron Harie field goal after Markee Hamlin picked off a Blake Mitchell pass and returned to the South Carolina 12, but that would be it for the drama. The Gamecocks ripped off 38 unanswered points as Mitchell threw three touchdown passes, Cory Boyd ran for a 29-yard touchdown, and Nathan Pepper returned an interception 19 yards for a score. SCSU turned the ball over four times and committed 14 penalties for 98 yards.
Player of the game: South Carolina RB Cory Boyd ran 11 times for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for ten yards
Stat Leaders: South Carolina State - Passing: Cleveland McCoy, 9-18, 62 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: William Ford, 17-112.  Receiving: William Ford, 3-15
South Carolina - Passing: Blake Mitchell, 14-21, 147 yds, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
Cory Boyd, 11-132, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 4-36, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Chalk up the win over South Carolina State as a go-through-the-motions sandwich game between Georgia and LSU, but there still has to be some concern about the offense. Blake Mitchell might have thrown three touchdown passes, but he also three three picks and struggled a bit on third downs. The ground game was more than fine, with Cory Boyd and Mike Davis rumbling at will. However, to have a shot against the Tigers, Mitchell has to not only be on, he has to be mistake free.

Sept. 8
South Carolina 16 ... Georgia 12
South Carolina got Ryan Succop field goals from 41, 35 and 34 yards out after starting off the scoring with a nine-yard Cory Boyd touchdown run, and then hung on late as a last gasp Georgia pass was kicked into the hands of Jasper Brinkley. The Bulldogs got four Brandon Coutu field goals and outgained the Gamecocks 341 yards to 314, but Coutu missed an early 48-yarder and the offense failed to go on any long drives after the second-quarter march to set up Coutu's first field goal. The two teams combined to convert four of 29 third down chances.
Player of the game: South Carolina K/P Ryan Succop scored 10 of his team's 16 points, going 3-of-3 on field goals, and averaged 40.7 yards a punt, landing two inside the 20.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina
- Passing: Blake Mitchell, 20-31, 174 yds
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 14-76, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 7-102
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 19-44, 213 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 14-104. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 4-44
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense held firm when it had to against Georgia, making up for an offense that lacked much in the way of pop. Getting the early Cory Boyd touchdown meant everything, considering the Dawgs couldn't finish off drives like they wanted to, and not turning the ball over certainly helped. Considering this was Blake Mitchell's first game of the year after being suspended for the opener, going one of 11 on third down conversion attempts wasn't a shock. Now he needs to sharpen up against South Carolina State next week to be ready for the top to LSU. One touchdown and 314 yards of offense isn't going to get it done in Baton Rouge.

Sept. 1
South Carolina 28 ... UL Lafayette 14
In a game of runs, South Carolina scored the first 14 points on an Andy Boyd two-yard catch from Chris Smelley and a 19-yard Kenny McKinley catch from Tommy Beecher. UL Lafayette came back on touchdown runs from Michael Desormeaux and Chance Roberson, and then the USC defense took over and Cory Boyd scored on runs from two and four yards out. Jasper and Casper Brinkley combined for 15 tackles for the Gamecocks.
Player of the game ... South Carolina QBs Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley combined for 21 of 29 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns with an interception
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette - Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 12-19, 63 yds
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 21-116, 1 TD  Receiving: Phillip Nevels, 4-9
South Carolina - Passing: Tommy Beecher, 11-15, 137 yds, 1 TD
Mike Davis, 15-94   Receiving:
Kenny McKinley, 6-44, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Considering all the injury and suspension issues the Gamecocks have gone through, just getting through the first game with a win is all that matters. It might not have been pretty against an overmatched opponent in UL Lafayette, but the defense did a good job of not letting the Ragin' Cajuns back into the game in the second half and the offense got decent balance. With Blake Mitchell out, Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley got some good work in and looked more than capable of running the team. Now it'll be interesting to see how Mitchell fits back in against Georgia next week.

Sept. 1 - UL Lafayette
Offense: The nation's seventh best rushing team two years ago, and 11th best last year, ULL will run more than ever with the return of two-time 1,000-yard back Tyrell Fenroy, speedy Deon Wallace, and running quarterback Michael Desormeaux. The receivers aren't used much, but they're experienced enough to make plays when they get the chance. The offensive line isn't deep, but the starting five will end up fine. The team will hope for around 2,500 rushing yards, and around 60% completion percentage throwing it.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Kevin Fouqueir won't change too much from one of the Sun Belt's better defenses. Five starters return, along with a few others with starting experience, to form a solid run defense that needs to be tighter against the pass. The secondary will give up completions, but it's not going to get beaten too often. The front seven should be great with a nice blend of talents and depth to form a good rotation almost everywhere. If ULL doesn't lead the league in run defense, it'll finish second.

Sept. 8 – at Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Sept. 15 – South Carolina State

Sept. 22 – at LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Sept. 29 - Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.

Oct. 4 - Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

Oct. 13 – at North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.

Oct. 20 - Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Oct. 27 – at Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Nov. 3 – at Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Nov. 10 - Florida
Offense: Now it's time to see how this baby runs. Now the Urban Meyer spread offense will do what it's supposed to with Tim Tebow at the controls full-time, and with a slew of speedy players around him. The offensive line isn't going to wow anyone, but it's experienced, and good enough to win with. The receiving corps has explosion, led by Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, and some tremendous tight ends, and the running backs, with the emergence of smallish speedster Chris Rainey, will have more pop. Now it's up to Tebow to not only shine, but stay healthy with two true freshmen behind him.
This is what's called giving Florida the benefit of the doubt. Anyone else replacing nine starters, needing a slew of true freshman to play big roles right away, and/or had the issues the Gators have on the line and at corner, would be instantly dismissed from any SEC East title talk much less the national championship discussion. The recruiting classes have brought in a ton of ultra-fast, ultra-athletic player for the back seven, but there isn't enough size up front, or developed depth anywhere, to hope for any sort of consistency. No, things won't fall off the map after finishing sixth in the nation in scoring and total defense, but there will be some major growing pains to fight through.

Nov. 24 - Clemson
Offense: Clemson had the ACC's best offense last season, but it didn't get nearly enough from the passing game. Expect more of the same. The 1-2 rushing punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller is among the best in the country, and while the line loses four starters, there's enough experience and talent up front to pave the way for a big rushing year. The receiving corps has potential, but a quarterback has to emerge to consistently produce. Cullen Harper has the job to start the year, but superstar recruit Willy Korn will likely take over at the first opportunity. No matter who's under center, and despite all the bells, whistles and formations of the Rob Spence offense, it'll be all about the running game.
Defense: As long as the corners are fine, this will be one of the nation's best defenses. The line, even without Gaines Adams, will be amazing, thanks to the emergence of Ricky Sapp and a great rotation of tackles. Assuming Tramaine Billie (broken ankle) and Antonio Clay (family tragedy) are back, the linebacking corps will fly around and make plays all over the filed. The safety situation is one of the ACC's best with Chris Clemons, Michael Hamlin (broken foot and all) and DeAndre McDaniel all potential all-stars, and the corners should be decent, at worst.



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