2012 South Carolina Gamecocks Football Preview
2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier, eighth season (55-35 at South Carolina) (197-75-2 overall)
Projected Returning Starters: 14
Spring Game: April 14th (Black 38 Garnet 24)
Notes: The Old Ball Coach is back for his 23rd season coaching college football. All of those seasons have been with southern teams, with all but three being SEC teams. As many know, Spurrier led the Duke Blue Devils to the 1989 All-American Bowl – Duke has only been to one bowl game since that time. In fact, Coach Spurrier’s teams have only once had a losing record – his first year at Duke, in 1987 – 5-6. Since then, 21 straight seasons of non-losing records, with 18 of those seasons resulting in bowl appearances (8-10 in those games). The Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida enters the 2012 season a bit more talkative than he has been in Columbia – a sign he thinks this team is a good one.
BVTSB Take: Quarterback play haunted South Carolina the past few years, though the Gamecocks still averaged 10 wins per season the past two years. For the first time under Spurrier at South Carolina, the Gamecocks won six conference games in 2011. It was South Carolina’s best overall record since 1984, when they were 10-2 (“Black Magic”). The Gamecocks return Connor Shaw at quarterback for his sophomore season. After Coach Spurrier kicked Stephen Garcia off the team, Shaw became the starter. South Carolina was 7-1 in games he started last season, with the lone loss coming at Arkansas. Last season he threw for over 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Shaw has a much better arm than Garcia and should be poised for even better numbers in 2012. A huge loss for South Carolina last season was running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore tore a knee ligament on October 15th against Mississippi State – he missed the rest of the season. He didn’t play in the Spring Game as he is recovering, but South Carolina will need him if they are going to contend for an SEC title. Lattimore rushed for nearly 1200 yards in 2010, along with 17 touchdowns, and over 800 yards in and 10 touchdowns through 7 games in 2011. Assuming he would have played the full season in 2011, Lattimore was on pace to easily eclipse his 2010 numbers. When Lattimore played, the Gamecocks averaged 198 yards on the ground, with four of the seven games going over 200 yards rushing as a team. Without Lattimore, the team averaged 222 yards on the ground, with four of those six games going over 200 yards rushing as a team. South Carolina opponents were a combined 46-43 with Lattimore and 46-30 without (including FCS Citadel). South Carolina loses wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey to the NFL’s Chicago Bears – he had 762 yards receiving and 8 of the 19 receiving touchdowns last season. Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington are back though, combining for nearly 600 yards receiving and three touchdowns last season – though they had a similar number of receptions, combined, as Jeffrey did. South Carolina has won three straight against Clemson, after losing 10 of the previous 12 meetings. South Carolina will travel to Death Valley to finish the year, but will also play East Carolina, UAB, and Wofford in non-conference. At the very least, South Carolina should be 3-1 in non-conference. An opening season game against SEC East foe Vanderbilt could be tough if the Gamecocks aren’t ready – Jordan Rodgers has a good arm and the Gamecocks pass secondary, who lost Stephon Gilmore and Antonio Allen, could be in for real trouble if they don’t improve upon their performance from the Spring Game. South Carolina will also face Kentucky, LSU, and Florida on the road. The Gamecocks won the last meeting at Gainesville, 36-14 in 2010, but that was South Carolina’s first win at Florida since joining the SEC in 1992. Home games against Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas could be tests, as well. The health of Lattimore will determine the success of South Carolina. If he’s healthy and capable of putting up 2010 numbers, Shaw and the passing game should benefit and they could win the SEC East.
2012 Early Projection: 9-3
To see the 2012 SEC composite schedule, click here.
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