Monthly Archives: August 2010
Twenty-five days ago we had the idea to count down the days to the season using the jersey numbers of random, and not so random, former Gamecocks. Here is a recap of 25 through 2. Check back tomorrow for #1.
#25 – Mike Reddick; #24 – Tony Watkins; #23 – Terry Wilburn; #22 – Derek Watson; #21 – Zola Davis; #20 – Bobby Fuller; #19 – Troy Hambrick; #18 – Steve Taneyhill; #17 – Vic Penn; #16 – Jamacia Jackson; #15 – Matthew Thomas; #14 – Phil Petty; #13 – Erik Kimrey; #12 – Toby Cates; #11 – Rashad Faison; #10 – Blake Williamson; #9 – Todd Ellis; #8 – Teddy Crawford; #7 – Mike Rathe; #6 – Tommy Beecher; #5 – Dondrial Pinkins; #4 – Sidney Rice; #3 – Cory Boyd; #2 – Sterling Sharpe
First, let’s establish parameters for our analysis. When it comes to Gamecock defensive squads, Joe Lee Dunn’s Fire Ant Defense of 1987 is the gold standard (allowing a mere 12 points per game). Conversely, the worst Gamecock defense of the modern era has to be Wally Burnham’s Heisman candidate creating machine of 1995 (with an unbelievable 36 points per game). Even under a best case / worst case situation, I’m going to assume that those examples are the two extremes ( <====famous last gamecock words).
Best Case: Cliff Matthews motors through offensive linemen on his way to multiple post season awards. Chaz Sutton learns from the master, and increases his own horsepower to match. Devin Taylor makes us forget about Clifton Geathers (actually, that will be fairly easy). Travian’s knees hold out and opposing centers come to dread the sound of his breathing. We all learn how to pronounce Olufemi Oladipupa Ajiboye, because Ladi asks us to (and you do what All-SEC D-tackles ask). Melvin Ingram plays solid backup snaps. Aldrick Fordham redshirts as our dominant DT of the future. The cheer of “Geau Jerideau” takes off among the student body as our third string DT becomes a short-yardage specialist.
Worst Case: Brad Lawing goes full Wally and insists his boys are only there to eat up blockers. Pass rush becomes nil. Ladi becomes Doughty. Matthews starts tuning his motor down to Sutton’s. Travian hobbles through the year in pain and with little impact. Devin Taylor reminds us each week of Clifton Geathers.
Best Case: Paulk, Wilson, Dickerson, Straughter, and Smith all sprout antennae and take on the determination and ferocity of the Fire Ants of old. Shaq doesn’t lead in tackles this time around, instead he edges out Matthews in sacks. Paulk takes his intensity level DOWN a notch and allows his body to survive a whole season.
Wally Case: Shaq’s hamstring keeps him limited, Paulk blows out his lungs with his first great barbaric yawp of the season and takes the medical hardship waiver. Dickerson struggles with the mental aspect of the job, and slows until he appears to have Burnham Wood (or Burnham’s son) strapped to his back. Straughter’s name starts reminding us of speech impediments instead of bloody massacres
Spurs / Defensive Backs
Best Case: Demario Jeffrey, Devonte Holloman, and D.J. Swearinger become the Three Ds of D(estruction, ominance, efense, etc.) and shut down TE and FB around the league. Stephon plays like Stephon, i.e. you don’t notice him moving but he’s already making the play. Culliver’s shoulders fuse into an anvil. Auguste and Whitlock successfully navigate passed the numerous organic temptations out there in route to solid seasons.
Wally Burnham is a Tool Case: Alonzo Winfield is forced to play numerous journeyman snaps (and for numerous reasons), including an entire series at Commonwealth Stadium as the spur, strong safety, and boundary corner simultaneously. Stephon loses interest in football and decides instead to solve the Israeli/Palestinian issue (which he does, but no one even notices).
Best Case: The 2010 defensive squad has the potential to better the 2009 edition, and could even challenge the Fire Ants in notoriety. I expect, however, that the best case for 2010 is somewhat more in line with the 2009 squad, which means we can anticipate around a 18-19 ppg average.
Worst Case: Georgia pounds the rock all day. So does Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Clemson. We give up a ton of yards on the ground, so our DBs don’t get to see much action, other than in clean up tackles. A “Miss Me Yet?” bumpersticker with a photo of Tyrone Nix is seen floating around Columbia.
Sterling Sharpe was the greatest South Carolina football player of all time.
There, I said it. And I mean it. And yes, I’m well aware George Rogers won the Heisman. I didn’t have the benefit of seeing Big George play very much as I was 11 years old and only on the verge of beginning to realize my undying love for college football. Plus, unfortunately there were no 24-hour sports networks to broadcast his exploits day and night. Nonetheless…
I was a freshman at South Carolina when Sterling Sharpe was a senior. I can assure you I’ve never seen a player quite like him in a Gamecock uniform, and I have my doubts I ever will again. He had the ability to dissect defenses with his speed and ultra-smooth moves. By the time he was a senior his work in the weight room had given him an additional element of power not many could match on the college level. “Ellis to Sharpe” was a staple of every Gamecock’s vocabulary.
Sharpe was drafted in the first round by the Packers, and went on to be an All-Pro in five of his six seasons with the team. In 1992 he broke the NFL single-season receptions record, and then for good measure broke his own record in 1993.
Sharpe’s career was unfortunately cut short by a severe neck injury suffered in 1994. Had that injury not occured he would surely be an NFL Hall of Famer, and I believe he would be mentioned shortly after Jerry Rice in conversations about the greatest receivers of all time.
Sharpe caught a little flack last year for refusing to “unretire” the #2 and allow Alshon Jeffery to wear it. Personally, I would be more concerned about a high school player who chooses his college based on the number he wears (which thankfully Alshon did not). Sharpe’s loyalty to the university has been questioned on occasion because he doesn’t give us “shout outs” from his broadcasting gig, doesn’t hit the recruiting trail for us, and rarely shows up for USC alumni-type events.
That stuff really doesn’t bother me so much. He’s my favorite Gamecock of all time, and I hope he’s the last #2 I ever see in a South Carolina football uniform.
Why let facts get in the way of a good story? That’s evidently what every crackerjack reporter covering Whitneygate must be thinking. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit. They may not be thinking at all. In various stories we’ve read, the outstanding room balances could be deemed an “extra benefit” by the NCAA. What exactly is an extra benefit? Well, here’s the definition, which frankly, was very easy to find (ever heard of Google?):
An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., foreign students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability (NCAA Bylaw 16.02.3)
A student-athlete may not receive a special discount, payment arrangement or credit on a purchase (e.g., airline tickets, clothing) or a service (e.g., laundry, dry cleaning) from an institutional employee or a representative of its athletics interests.
So, it turns out that the institution or an individual connected to the athletic interests of an institution must provide the benefit in order for it to be considered an “extra benefit.” That’s interesting, as we at TRC don’t recall one instance where a reporter covering Whitneygate made the effort to actually match the facts to the definition. Maybe the Whitney is owned or operated by a bunch of Gamecock Club members, or maybe not. No one has made that connection. By now, you would think that such a connection would have been uncovered and plastered all over the front page. The fact that it has not is a pretty good indication that there is no connection, or that the reporters covering Whitneygate have no clue.
The first game week of the 2010 season is here, and over the next three days leading up to the season opener TRC is going to be giving you the best and worst case scenarios for the Gamecocks offensive, defensive and special teams units. These are not predictions, mind you, just some scenarios that could lead to a special season, or a disastrous season, for the ‘Cocks. Besides, predictions are pointless and stupid. So we’re saving them for game day.
Now, on to the offense. (I personally am not going to assume any new injuries, although we know that will happen at some point.)
Best case – Stephen Garcia starts every game, goes over 3000 yards and 30 TD’s while increasing completion percentage and improving TD to INT ratio; Spurrier actually begins to compliment Garcia, albeit gingerly, as having “matured” and making better decisions; Connor Shaw plays in mop-up duty, and plays well, but not nearly well enough to supplant Garcia; Andrew Clifford takes a few victory formation snaps against Furman and Clemson (heh heh); Ryan Mallett channels Jevan Snead, and Garcia becomes our first ever All-SEC QB.
Worst Case – Garcia bumbles through the first two or three series against USM, and Shaw comes in to the crowd’s delight. Shaw realizes the lights are very bright, 80,000 sets of eyes are 160,000 actual eyes, and that Flowery Branch was never this loud; Shaw thinks he sees Rece Davis give him the evil, two-fingered “I’m watching you” motion from the press box and pees his pants a la Tommy Beecher; Garcia re-enters, but the emotional tipping point has been reached for him and he’s toast; the rest of the season becomes a Garcia/Shaw/Clifford death spiral that leads to an inordinate number of “backwards plays” and visor and/or headset and/or clipboard slams.
The Running Backs
Best Case – Marcus Lattimore is who we think he is, a freaking stud of a back whose power and speed conjure images of Adrian Peterson; Lattimore wins SEC Freshman of the Year and breezes past 1000 yards to give the Gamecocks their first 3000-yard passer and 1000-yard rusher since…since…anyone?; Kenny Miles is a more than capable second stringer that gives Lattimore rest, but that’s not enough for Miles as he busts over 100 yards a couple of times himself; Brian Maddox is a bruising short-yardage back who piles up touchdowns, while Jarvis Giles is a third-down back and slot receiver that gives defenses fits.
Worst Case – It becomes evident early that Lattimore was either over-hyped, or our offensive line is so bad that not even the top running back in the nation can help us; Miles’ hamstring issue lingers the entire season and renders him ineffective; Maddox continues to be Maddox, a decent situational back, but not much else; Giles gets viciously tackled by his hair early in the season, then validates Spurrier’s “he always has issues” statement and rides the pine for the rest of the way; Bryce Sherman continues to win accolades for his practice performances.
The Wide Receivers
Best Case – Alshon Jeffery leads the way as the Gamecocks have three receivers go over 50 catches and have one first team and one second team all-SEC receiver; Jeffery gets A-A mentions, and the rest of the squad – Gurley, Moore, Barnes, Scruggs, Bennett, and Smith – become known as one of the top two or three units in the country; despite all the buzz around Ace Sanders, he is redshirted because of the logjam of talent in front of him.
Worst Case – Jeffery’s hands become inconsistent and he has the proverbial sophomore slump; Gurley has a dozen TD’s called back in the first six games (11 illegal shifts, one offensive PI) and goes into the tank similar to last year; Barnes continues his pattern of actually getting a little bit worse every year; nobody else out of the group is able to step up in game situations either due to lack of talent or poor quarterback play.
The Tight Ends
Best Case – Wes Saunders is cleared of any wrongdoing in Saunders-gate (which is all specific allegations rolled into one); in addition, he keeps his trap shut for five months and puts up the type of numbers he is capable of and becomes a first team all-SEC tight end; Pat DiMarco makes a few plays at TE, but is primarily used more at FB where he is needed more; Justice Cunningham and Mike Triglia contribute via their blocking skills, and catch a few passes along the way.
Worst Case – Saunders is a goner for the season; the DiMarco experiment fails miserably because of his lack of size and injured forearm; Cunningham never develops in pass blocking, run blocking, or pass catching; Triglia emerges as our best option at TE.
The Offensive Line (yes, saved the best for last)
Best Case – Shawn Elliott finally cracks the code and finds five guys he can count on week after week; the zone blocking scheme helps shoot the running game to the top third of the conference, pass blocking helps reduce the number of sacks to a more manageable 20 or so; Jarriel King finishes his enigmatic career with a first team all-SEC selection, and T.J. Johnson makes the second team; only one freshman OL is pressed into action all year; midway through the season Spurrier appears to get a little teary-eyed when talking about how well the OL is playing.
Worst Case – Elliott realizes early on what John Hunt and Eric Wolford already know – despite our best recruiting efforts and coaching, there is simply a dearth of OL talent in the program.
Best Case – The offense we thought we were getting six years ago finally arrives; we have a balanced, attacking group that finishes in the top 20 in the country in scoring and total offense; The Evil Genius is back.
Worst Case – 30+ sacks, bottom quarter of the conference in rushing and scoring; more than seven illegal shift penalties; low percentage of TD’s in the red zone; in other words, something pretty similar to what we saw last year…and the year before…
Cory Boyd had quite a roller coaster career at South Carolina, but despite some pitfalls left the school as a fan favorite.
Boyd came to USC as a RB/DB out of Orange, NJ, and entered the same year as the heralded Demetris Summers. Boyd had a difficult upbringing, and to hear Lou Holtz tell it, he practically had to dodge gunfire to get to Boyd’s house on a recruiting trip. That no doubt helped drive Boyd to USC.
The lasting memory of Boyd’s freshman year (when he actually wore #4) was this scary concussion-inducing play against Virginia, which ended the career of UVA defensive back Willie Davis. Boyd was chosen the team’s Freshman of the Year despite being out-rushed by Summers, who was second on the team in total yards.
In 2004 Boyd was second in rushing to Summers, but in 2005 Boyd was suspended for the entire season for a violation of team rules after Summers had been permanently dismissed.
The 2006 season started with a bang with Boyd catching a TD pass from Syvelle Newton on a trick play against Mississippi State. But with a camera on him on the sideline, Boyd informed the viewing audience that he was “back like cooked crack”. This obviously didn’t go over well, and after a mini uproar Boyd apologized and everyone moved on.
Boyd recovered to be an undisputed team leader throughout ’06 and ’07. While he never put up all-SEC type numbers, he was highly respected around the league for his tough running style. Some memorable moments include his short ankle-breaking TD run against UGA, his great night against Tennessee in an overtime loss, and this catch and run against MTSU, probably the one play that best captures Boyd’s running style.
Boyd has yet to stick with an NFL team since departing USC, but has emerged as the feature back for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 2010.
The best receiver at South Carolina since Robert Brooks is a prime case study for the “star rankings don’t matter” crowd. There was a fierce battle for Sidney Rice (a 3-star FWIW), but it was between USC and Syracuse, and part of the battle seemed to hinge on him playing basketball in college.
Fortunately he chose the Gamecocks even though they had an anemic passing game and seemingly no quarterback on the horizon. He injured his knee in warm-ups his before the UGA game in 2004 and sat out the year recovering.
Throughout the spring and fall practices of 2005 with Spurrier at the helm, there was a buzz about this lanky receiver named Rice. But once again, he was injured in fall practice and had to sit out the ’05 season opener against Central Florida. The following week against Georgia, the fans found out what the buzz was all about. He had a handful of catches and one TD that day, but additionally he had a presence and confidence that caused fans to take notice.
Rice only played two years with the Gamecocks, but his list of accomplishments are long. And while the accomplishments are great, the memorable games and plays are even better – the leaping TD in the big win in Knoxville, the twisting catch and long catch and run against Florida, the tiptoe catch and complete abuse of Chris Houston of Arkansas, plus a whole lot more.
Looking back at Rice’s highlight videos, you sure hope Alshon and Co. can instill that kind of confidence back in the wide receiver corps.
Be sure to follow The Official ‘ The Rubber Chickens Blog’ Live Running Commentary and Nervous Energy Outlet for all 2010 football games. We will be live tweeting thoughts and analysis before/during/after each Gamecock contest.
All you have to do is follow @rubrchickens on your twitter feed, or search for #gamecocks from the twitter home page.
If last year is any predictor, you should benefit from such thought-provoking comments as:
“Ouch, BIG HIT!”
“Only three scores down, EXCELSIOR!”
“What time does Dancing with the Stars come on again?”
“I’m really dissappointed with the intensity of swim move our three technique guy used in the B gap on that pass rush.”
Dondrial Pinkins, the Thrilla from Camilla, came to South Carolina in 2000. Many thought he would be the perfect Lou Holtz-style quarterback for the Gamecocks – a strong runner with the ability to make throws when the situation called for it.
Pinkins waited his turn behind Phil Petty and Cory Jenkins before getting his shot as the full-time starter in 2003. He played well in spurts, but never developed the consistency he needed to be really successful. He was fun to watch at times, like when he hooked up with Troy Williamson for the longest play in Gamecock history. Later in that game he powered a Virginia defender into the end zone to put the game away, and he paired with Matthew Thomas on the second longest play in Gamecock history (98 yards) in a loss at Ole Miss.
Pinkins’ career ended with a whimper as he battled a shoulder injury for the second half of 2004, and he didn’t suit up for the final two games that year against Florida and Clemson.
I heard some disturbing stuff on the way home this afternoon, and need to know exactly how out of touch I am. I live in the Atlanta area, and we have two AM sports talk stations that I listen to fairly regularly. Naturally, the hot topic of the day was the arrest of Georgia’s Washaun Ealey for a hit-and-run and driving with a suspended license. The following quotes are paraphrased, from the best of my memory.
First, I heard this from Beau Bock on 790 The Zone:
“Whatever happened to the days when people took care of players. Ealey is a nice young man, and that rent-a-cop should’ve let Ealey go, then found a way to get in touch with Coach (Mark) Richt personally and let him know what happened…in private. Handle all of this behind the scenes. This wasn’t even a hit-and-run, it was more like a ‘scrape and run’. It’s outrageous he could miss time because of this.”
Then, I turned to 680 The Fan, and heard this from Buck Belue, speaking of Richt:
“Richt has to consider the long-term impact on the program when he hands out the punishment. I mean, this is big buiness, 90,000 fans filling the stands every week. Suspending Ealey for multiple games could really hurt the program in what could potentially be a big year. He has to think of the program when he’s making this decision.”
Now, just to be clear for those of you who don’t live in the area – Bock has been covering Atlanta sports since the early 70’s. He’s an old man, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but he’s also a first-class boob that routinely spouts off contrarian views just for the heck of it. But I truly think he meant what he was saying this time, and it’s idiocy. To claim this should’ve been swept under the rug and “handled internally” is a throwback to the early 80’s when institutional control was just a gleam in the NCAA’s eye.
Over on 680, Buck Belue is the worst radio personality EVER. I kid you not, he is beyond painful to listen to, and most UGA grads I know will tell you the same. Never has one guy gotten so far on the strength of one play. I wish Lindsay would’ve tripped. But I digress…
That said, for Belue to imply that the long-term health of Georgia’s program should be considered when doling out Ealey’s punishment is outrageous. Ealey should be judged and punished based on the crime and the crime only, and his status as Georgia’s starting tailback or the future of the program should have zero bearing.
Beau Bock and Buck Belue have a right to their opinions, don’t get me wrong. But I also have a right to come on TRC and say they’re wrong and they’re blathering idiots that should retire and go work at a golf course, respectively. Their on-air partners and the callers I heard who gave no push back whatsoever can take a leap too. I felt like I was in a time warp.
I was fired up, obviously, but had no intention of blogging on the topic, until I reflected on the past week, and this thought crossed my mind:
What if this had happened in Columbia to a Gamecock player? What would the radio and television shows in and around Columbia have sounded like then?
NOTE: Mark Richt’s announced late in the day that Ealey is suspended for at least UGA’s opener against ULaLa. That sounds about right to me. I fully expect him to be back for our game.