2010 South Carolina Preview
South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia
South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia
Posted Jul 29, 2010

Will the Gamecocks ever be great? The program has never been able to get over the hump, but there are enough weapons and there's enough talent to make plenty of noise in the SEC East. Can Steve Spurrier finally bring the school a title? Check out the CFN 2010 South Carolina Preview.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Steve Spurrier
6th year: 35-27
20th year overall: 169-63-2 Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 26, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 11
Ten Best South Carolina Players
1. DE Cliff Matthews, Sr.
2. CB Stephon Gilmore, Soph.
3. CB Chris Culliver, Sr.
4. QB Stephen Garcia, Jr.
5. RB Marcus Lattimore, Fr.
6. WR Alshon Jeffery, Soph.
7. LB Shaq Wilson, Jr.
8. FS Akeem Auguste, Jr.
9. DT Ladi Ajiboye, Sr.
10. WR Tori Gurley, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 Southern Miss
Sept. 11 Georgia
Sept. 18 Furman
Sept. 25 at Auburn
Oct. 9 Alabama
Oct. 16 at Kentucky
Oct. 23 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 30 Tennessee
Nov. 6 Arkansas
Nov. 13 at Florida
Nov. 20 Troy
Nov. 27 at Clemson

South Carolina football sucks.

That's a bit harsh. To be more accurate, South Carolina has had a serviceable football program, and nothing seems to be able to change that.

The program has defined the concept of sports mediocrity with a seemingly endless string of campaigns that hover around the .500 mark. Granted, things are a whole bunch better now than they were in the late 1990s, but the last ten-win season was in 1984, which accounts for the only ten-win season in the program's history. In fact, there have only been two seasons in school history of more than eight wins (1984 and 2001) … the same number as Vanderbilt.

How much has South Carolina football sucked (let's not dance around it)? The Steve Spurrier era has been a disappointment, yet the 35 wins from the Ball Coach represents the best five-year run in the history of South Carolina football. Meanwhile, Florida has won 35 games in the last three seasons.

Making the lack of success even more puzzling is that the talent has been flowing through Columbia. Seven players were drafted in 2009 and over the decade of the ‘00s, 28 players were picked up by the NFL. While that's not in the same ball park as the Floridas and Georgias of the world, it's still not that bad. South Carolina has had the players to do far more, and this year's team is no exception.

It seems like every year under Spurrier is supposed to be the year, and for the long-suffering fans who have been among the most patient and the most loyal in all of college football, the hope is that five years of Spurrier recruiting will finally bring some consistency and all the talent across the board will finally be enough to come through with a dream season.

With 16 returning starters, arguably the best secondary in the SEC, a loaded backfield, a terrific receiving corps, and athletes up and down the board (and young ones), there's absolutely no reason the Gamecocks can't be players in the East race. Florida is in a rebuilding mode leaving a razor-thin window of opportunity open, Georgia is still trying to figure out what it's doing, Tennessee is going to struggle to come up with a winning season, and Kentucky and Vanderbilt, well, are Kentucky and Vanderbilt. In other words, Mr. Spurrier, your table is ready.

What to watch for on offense: The zone-read. Is Stephen Orr Spurrier, the architect of one of the most devastating passing attacks college football has ever seen, going to go to a running attack?! Maybe not full-time, but Spurrier is going to call all the plays this year and he's likely to be even more aggressive. He has the quarterback in Stephen Garcia to start chucking it more, and he has a tremendous group of receivers, but he also has a fantastic backfield (helped by the addition of star recruit, Marcus Lattimore) and he has an offensive line that couldn't keep you and a few drinking buddies from getting into the backfield. Garcia might be the franchise right now, but watch out for true freshman Connor Shaw, a dual-threat quarterback, to get plenty of time.

What to watch for on defense: A special secondary. The Gamecocks were supposed to be in a rebuilding phase last year in the defensive backfield, but the young players grew up in a big hurry and the pass defense became one of the best in America. Now it should be even better, even with the loss of Darian Stewart off to the NFL, with sophomore Stephon Gilmore and senior Chris Culliver two NFL-ready corners who'd get long looks in a camp right now. Throw in free safety Akeem Auguste and rising star DeVonte Holloman at strong safety the secondary is loaded.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line could block someone from getting into the backfield. After allowing 31 sacks in 2007 and 39 in 2008, pass protection was supposed to be a priority for the offense. 37 sacks later, the offensive line is still a big question mark. The biggest knock on the Spurrier fun ‘n' gun, even when everything worked perfectly, was that it opened up the quarterback to some big shots. That's not the case here; the line has just stunk. It's a veteran front five with four starters returning and there's a new line coach, Shawn Elliott (the third O line coach in three years) to try to improve the production. Now the quarterbacks finally need to get more time.

The schedule: It's not exactly a piece of cake with ten games against teams that went bowling last year. On the plus side, four of the first five games are at home, but one of them is against Alabama. The Gamecocks catch a huge break by getting relatively lightweights Kentucky and Vanderbilt in back-to-back road games, but there's also a trip to Florida to deal with. There's a nice stretch of three home games in four weeks including interesting dates against Arkansas and Tennessee, while the Clemson showdown is on the road.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Stephen Garcia … but that could quickly change. If all goes according to plan, new recruit Marcus Lattimore will be a game-changing running back who becomes the difference maker on the ground that the offense has been desperately searching for. However, Garcia is the leader and the veteran who has been through the ringer behind a miserable offensive line, and he has lived to tell about it. A gunslinger, he has the potential to shine with a big, talented receiving corps to work with. That doesn't mean he's a lock to hold down the job, though, as Spurrier will make a change in a heartbeat to Connor Shaw or Andrew Clifford if the production isn't coming.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Cliff Matthews. Overshadowed a bit by the attention paid to Eric Norwood, Matthews turned in a fantastic season making seven sacks and ten tackles for loss as one of the team's most disruptive forces. He needs Devin Taylor or Aldrick Fordham to shine on the other side to take the heat off, or he needs linebacker Shaw Wilson to become a mini-Norwood, but he should still be solid even as the focus of everyone's blocking scheme.

Key player to a successful season: Offensive tackles Jarriel King, Kyle Nunn, and Hutch Eckerson. They're veterans who have seen more than enough starting time to be better, and while they're built to be road graders, they could be better suited for a zone blocking scheme. The rest of the pieces are in place on offense, so if they're good, the attack could be special.

The season will be a success if … the Gamecocks win nine games. Again, the program has a mere two seasons with more than eight wins in its entire history. Going 8-4 with a bowl victory is a more than achievable goal even with Alabama, Florida, and a road game at Auburn to deal with. It would also be a major plus for the Spurrier era to at least split with the Tide and Gators.

Key game: Sept. 25 at Auburn. If South Carolina is as good as it can be, it should be able to beat Georgia at home in the SEC opener. If that happens, the record will almost certainly be 3-0 (assuming wins over Southern Miss and Furman) before going to Auburn. A win over the Tigers would do wonders before hosting Alabama, and a victory could mean a 7-1 start before dealing with Arkansas and Florida.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Third quarter scoring: South Carolina 87 – Opponents 39
- Sacks: Opponents 37 for 254 yards – South Carolina 28 for 180 yards
- Fourth down conversions: South Carolina 12-of-24 (50%) – Opponents 6-of-19 (32%)

- 2010 South Carolina Preview | 2010 South Carolina Offense
- 2010 South Carolina Defense | 2010 South Carolina Depth Chart
- South Carolina Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006