2008 CFN South Carolina Preview |
2008 South Carolina
2008 South Carolina
2008 South Carolina
2007 CFN South Carolina Preview |
2006 CFN South
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.
Passing: Chris Smelley
92-162, 1,176 yds, 9 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Mike Davis
114 carries, 518 yds, 5 TD
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
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
Strength of the offense: Tight end, line experience
Weakness of the offense:
Running back speed, settled
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.