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2008 South Carolina Preview - Offense
South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley
South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 16, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - South Carolina Gamecock Offense

South Carolina Gamecocks

Preview 2008
- Offense

- 2008 CFN South Carolina Preview | 2008 South Carolina Offense
- 2008 South Carolina Defense | 2008 South Carolina Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN South Carolina Preview | 2006 CFN South Carolina Preview

What you need to know:
Steve Spurrier Jr. will call the plays and run the offense. Really. He needs the line to come through with a far better, and far healthier year so everyone else can work. The big issue is the quarterback situation with Tommy Beecher, Chris Smelley, and troubled, suspended Stephen Garcia all being considered for the job, and it won't be settled until fall. Kenny McKinley might be the SEC's best receiver, and Jared Cook is growing into a top tight end and a key No. 2 target. Mike Davis and Brian Maddox aren't speed backs, but they'll be productive if the line is better.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Chris Smelley
92-162, 1,176 yds, 9 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Mike Davis
114 carries, 518 yds, 5 TD
Receiving:
Kenny McKinley
77 catches, 968 yds, 9 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Kenny McKinley
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Tommy Beecher
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Hutch Eckerson
Best pro prospect: Junior TE Jared Cook
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McKinley, 2) Cook, 3) RB Mike Davis
Strength of the offense: Tight end, line experience
Weakness of the offense:
Running back speed, settled quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Junior Tommy Beecher will be the starting quarterback ... maybe. Sort of. The 6-2, 227-pounder saw time in every game last season as the holder on kicks, and he got some work in at quarterback completing 14 of 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He's very smart, has a nice arm, and is the most consistent option going into the year, but he's the least talented of the three quarterbacks fighting for a job. Steve Spurrier has been Beecher's biggest supporter, liking his quick decision making ability, but that doesn't mean there won't be a quick hook if things aren't clicking.

Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 216-pound sophomore Chris Smelley completing 57% of his passes for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns with seven interceptions last season, but he has the talent to do far more. The one-time superstar recruit has been given several chances to take the starting job by the horns, starting in six games last year, but he hasn't come through. He had a good spring, but ended with a clunker throwing five picks in the spring game. While the final scrimmage doesn't mean the world, it wasn't a plus. When he's on, he's the team's best passer and the one who can take the offense to where Spurrier wants it to go. When he's on.

6-2, 221-pound redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia has a cannon for an arm, tremendous running ability, and a big-time, all-world knuckle-head. Booted off the team last year after being arrested twice, he got back in the coaching staff's good graces and redshirted. He showed off his talents early in spring ball and was well on his way to being the starter before getting nailed for underage drinking. There's still a chance he could be back on the team early on with a zero-tolerance policy.

True freshman Aramis Hillary isn't out of the hunt. The 6-2, 205-pound all-around playmaker is the best rushing option, even better than Garcia, and he's just decent enough that he could take over the starting job if Beecher and Smelley don't shine. Fellow true freshman Reid McCollum is an even better overall prospect with a live arm and pro-style passing ability, but he'll redshirt.

Watch Out For ... the starting situation to never, ever be settled. No one is taking the job and making it his own. Expect to see everyone throughout the year.
Strength
:
Options. There might not be a Blake Mitchell to rely on anymore in a pinch, but Smelley and Beecher have seen enough time to start, while Garcia and Hillary might be even better options.
Weakness
:
Steady production. The passing game was third in the SEC averaging 258 yards per game, but it was hit or miss on when it came through and it was rarely efficient. With all the turmoil, things might not be better right away.
Outlook: The quarterbacks under Steve Spurrier are always in the spotlight, and now it's the case more than ever with several players vying for time. If one could step up and consistently produce and be a steady leader, the job is his. Now, who's that going to be? Beecher is the safe choice, Smelley is the one the team is waiting on, Garcia is the best player right now if he's on the team, and Hillary is a dangerous emergency option.
Rating: 6.5


Running Backs


Projected Starters
:
After being the second man in the mix over the last few years behind Cory Boyd, senior Mike Davis, who finished second on the team with 518 yards and five touchdowns, and caught 23 passes for 224 yards and score, will be the main man. At 5-9 and 214 pounds, he has good power to go along with his decent quickness. He's not a speed back and he isn't Boyd as a receiver, but he's good enough to be a better than average producer.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 220-pound sophomore Brian Maddox was one of the surprises of the off-season after running for just 14 yards. While he's not the type of back who'll make things happen on his own, and he'll need good blocking in front of him, he's a nice, serviceable No. 2 runner who can catch.

Needing to play a big role right away is true freshman Eric Baker, a 5-11, 187-pound speed back who brings the wheels that Davis and Maddox don't have. While he's not going to be an every down back right away, if at all, he could grow into a specialist role getting the ball in a variety of ways after playing through an ankle injury to run for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns for Fork Union Military Academy last year.

The Gamecocks don't use a fullback all that often, so 6-1, 242-pound sophomore Patrick DiMarco will see more time as a tight end. He caught four passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, and he can block well enough to be used on short running plays.

Watch Out For ... Baker. The offense needs a back who can throw a bit of a scare into defenses, and Davis and Maddox aren't it.
Strength
:
Serviceable production. Davis and Maddox aren't going to bust off any home runs, but they're the type of backs who always gain positive yards and always keep working for the extra few inches. They can power it a bit.
Weakness
:
A proven speed back. Baker is the one who brings the wheels, but if he's not ready or if he redshirts, secondaries won't have to worry about coming up with many tackles.
Outlook: The running game was the worst in the SEC because the line stunk. Allowing 31 sacks didn't help the cause, but the average production from the backs didn't help. Davis, Maddox and Baker are fine, and Taylor Rank and Bobby Wallace can step in if desperately needed, South Carolina can't win if it has to rely on the ground game.
Rating: 6


Receivers


Projected Starters
:
Senior Kenny McKinley might be the Gamecock offense. The 6-0, 182-pound senior took over from Sidney Rice as the number one target and came through big-time catching 77 passes for 968 yards and nine touchdowns with 14 grabs for 151 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee and 8 catches for 1225 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson. The former quarterback can catch the deep ball, can be a reliable go-to target, and can make plays on little short passes; he can do it all. While he was out this spring with a foot injury, he'll be fine to start the season and he'll need to be special.

5-11, 220-pound sophomore Dion LeCorn started to shine through towards the end of last year catching 16 passes for 215 yards in the final three games, and caught 27 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns overall. He's a good-sized, tough receiver with just enough speed and good enough hands to make teams pay for focusing on McKinley.

While LeCorn might grow into the No. 2 target, 6-0, 186-pound junior Moe Brown will be used early and often. One of the team's fastest players, he's coming off a great off-season and he should do even more after making 13 catches for 168 yards. He has No. 1 receiver ability, and now he has to play like in on a consistent basis.

6-5, 242-pound junior Jared Cook had a good season finishing third on the team with 30 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and now he should be better. More of a big receiver than a blocker, he took his game up another notch this off-season and he should be the team's No. 2 target next to McKinley. He's growing into a good NFL prospect.

Projected Top Reserves: JUCO transfer Larry Freeman was a huge get for the program last year and was supposed to be the team's breakout star. It didn't happen. he caught just two passes for 30 yards and was a mega-disappointment, to put it lightly. He appeared lost all last spring, couldn't catch, and didn't grasp the offense. That all changed this year as the 6-1, 223-pound senior can hit, catch, and appears to be far more confident.

Looking to be a major playmaker will be 6-4, 202-pound redshirt freshman Joe Hills, a big, physical target who has the upside to eventually become a number one target, the he'll have to work his way into the rotation behind Moe Brown.

Junior Freddie Brown has the experience to become a key backup after making 17 catches for 195 yards. The 6-3, 209-pounder doesn't play up to his size, but he's a decent route runner who can fill in from time to time at any of the receiving spots.

Weslye Saunders is a 6-5, 273-pound tight end who can catch. He's a good blocker and a dangerous target for his size catching 12 passes for 151 yards including a 48-yard play against Kentucky. At his size and with his athleticism, he's a matchup nightmare.

Watch Out For ... Cook. A good target last year, the tight end appears on the verge of blowing up. He should clean up with everyone trying to stop McKinley.
Strength
:
Size. This is a big, physical group that can block and isn't going to get shoved around. McKinley, at 6-0 and 182 pounds, it the smallest player who'll be a regular in the rotation.
Weakness
:
A proven number two wide receiver. The team's second leading receiver last season was RB Cory Boyd. No. 3 was Cook. The chances will be there for someone like LeCorn and Moe Brown to become bigger factors, but first they have to actually do it.
Outlook: The receiving corps has to make everyone better. McKinley is the team's most dangerous weapon, while Cook is about to become a major star. With size, speed, and decent experience across the board, this has to be a group that makes it easy on the quarterback, whomever that is, and opens things up for the ground game.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
The rising star coming out of the off-season was Hutch Eckerson, a 6-6, 291-pound sophomore who started in five games two years ago and was
out last year as he got bigger and better. Always a good pass protector and a nice athlete, he's now stronger and should be better for the running game as he battles for the left tackle job.

Returning to a starting spot is Lemuel Jeanpierre, a right guard last season who'll move to the left side. The 6-3, 293-pound junior came to South Carolina as a defensive lineman, making 17 tackles two years ago, but he has made himself into a strong guard. He's still working on becoming an offensive player, but he has the potential to grow into a good one with more time.

With Eckerson blossoming on the left side, 6-5, 301-pound senior Jamon Meredith will likely move to the right side after he misses the first two games after an eligibility issue. He has been a regular on the line as the leader and best player up front, and he could move back to the left side after starting every game last year. He has the size, the talent, and the experience, but he has to keep the mistakes and the penalties to a minimum.

6-7, 308-pound sophomore Heath Batchelor stepped in at right guard late last year and ended up starting four games, and now he's on the verge of being one of the team's top blockers. A mountain of a blocker who looks more like a tackle than a guard, he's a high-motor blocker who'll be great for the ground game.

6-5, 307-pound sophomore Seaver Brown will get an early look at center until Garrett Anderson's back is 100%. A left guard at times last year, he's a good, tough all-around blocker who'll be an important part of the line rotation on the inside if he doesn't hold on to the center job.


Projected Top Reserves: Junior Garrett Anderson will get a long look at center after starting out his career at guard. A back injury has been the main problem this off-season, but if he's healthy and everything is back to normal, he'll get a starting spot somewhere with his combination of 6-5, 307-pound size and athleticism too good to keep off the field.

The right tackle position will be an interesting one with Justin Sorensen looking for his spot back even through Jamon Meredith will likely be moving over. The 6-7, 327-pound senior started every game last year and has the size to dominate at times, but he's too inconsistent in pass protection.

Watch Out For ... Eckerson. He has changed the look of the line with his emergence this off-season, and now the line is full of decent tackle options.
Strength
:
Experience. Thanks to injuries and inefficiency, the line played several difference combinations throughout last year. Now there's a ton of returning experience, several versatile players who can move around, and the overall potential to be far better.
Weakness
:
Pass protection. this group couldn't do it. It's a big, decent line that should be better for the ground game than it was last year, but it got the quarterbacks blasted by allowing 31 sacks. That number needs to be cut down to around 15 or so.
Outlook: The line has been a major problem under Spurrier, and now the hope is for experience to turn into production. The tackles should be better if Eckerson is as good as he was this spring, and if Meredith can keep his focus. The interior has size and potential with Jeanpierre and Batchelor two good ones to build around. This won't be a great line, but it could be just good enough to get by.
Rating: 7