Monthly Archives: August 2012
South Carolina overcame a very rocky start last night – two turnovers in their first three offensive plays – to take a 10-0 lead over Vanderbilt. After the field goal that gave us points 8, 9 and 10, we barely missed an opportunity to get a stranglehold on the game as the Vandy kick returner fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Alas, a Commodore fell on it, but not to worry. On the next play Jordan Rodgers was dumped for a two yard loss, and for the first time during the game I allowed myself to actually sit back on my couch and relax a little. Things were looking good.
On the next play, Rodgers hit Jordan Matthews for a 78-yard touchdown. The dogfight was on.
This, my friends, is Carolina football.
We all like to think Carolina football is a 34-13 thrashing of CTU, or a 30-13 New Year’s Day bowl romp over Nebraska, but that’s just not the case. Carolina football is much better represented in wins like 24-21 win over Navy, 14-12 over Mississippi State, 14-3 over Tennessee, or 17-12 over Florida.
Ugly, grind ‘em out wins. But wins nonetheless.
Don’t take that the wrong way, because it’s a good thing. I grew up around Carolina football when we would lose those games. So close, but just not good enough, mixed in with an occasional blowout loss.
Now, more often than not we are just good enough, mixed in with an occasional blowout win.
So curb all the bitching and moaning for just a brief moment and let’s take stock of where we are. A close, sloppy 17-13 win over Vandy on the road is not necessarily predictive of what we’re going to do against Georgia or LSU or Florida or Arkansas or CTU.
It’s a long season. Enjoy the ride. We’re 1-0, which is a lot better than 0-1.
With that said, here are some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from last night’s 17-13 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores:
Game balls. Connor Shaw was a warrior last night, and without his return to the game I’m not sure we could’ve moved the ball past the 50. I was certain based on the pain he looked like he was in that he had a broken collarbone, separated shoulder, or something that would keep him out for the rest of the game, if not for multiple games. His stats won’t get him on any Heisman ballots any time soon, but he refused to let us lose, and that’s the kind of guy you want as your quarterback.
Honorable mention to Marcus Lattimore. He looked like he might still be a step slow, but Marcus at 80% is better than 95% of the running backs in the country. Welcome back 21.
And honorable mention to Lorenzo Ward. His defensive backfield looked a little shaky at times, and his blitz call on 4th and 7 on Vandy’s last offensive play was questionable, but overall this squad looks solid. Vandy seemed like they were perpetually on our 40-yard line in the second half, and to only give up 3 points in the last 30 minutes was quite an accomplishment.
A tale of two lines. While not exactly running free in the backfield all night, our defensive line lived up to billing. I saw a lot of guys in the rotation, and as expected 7 and 98 were in on a ton of plays. Unexpectedly, Chaz Sutton appeared to have a pretty good game as well, which was very good to see.
The o-line on the other hand was a little disappointing. Maybe having a 35 lb. weight advantage over the Vandy d-line wasn’t such a good thing. We ran the ball fine, but Vandy’s combination of blitzes and straight four-man rushes left very little time for Shaw to look downfield.
I believe we’ll see some extra conditioning drills for these guys in the next couple of weeks.
Paging Mr. Adams and Mr. Roland, please report to the offense. I saw Jerrell Adams on the field once (and I looked for him a lot) and did not see Shaq Roland at all. After all the preseason hype surrounding these two guys, particularly Adams, I expected to see them on the field a little more. Maybe Spurrier will bust out Roland at some point a la Alshon Jeffery against Kentucky three years ago.
Paging any receiver not wearing #1, please report to the offense. Ace Sanders had a few balls thrown his way but only had two catches. Dameire Byrd had one catch. No other receiver had a catch, and I can only recall D.L. Moore being thrown to. Granted, Shaw didn’t have a lot of time to throw, but we’ll have to do a lot better than 67 yards passing to beat the big boys.
Paging Brenden Nosovich to 2nd string QB. For all the talk of Dylan Thompson’s improvement during the offseason, last night he simply looked lost or scared or both. For the HBC to pull him in favor of Seth Strickland so quickly tells you he saw the same thing.
Nosovich, based on his high school career, is a similar player to Shaw. Maybe it’s time to get him a limited play package ready and move him up the pecking order. Nosovich can’t be much worse than what we saw last night.
On a side note, a little surprised we didn’t see Bruce take a single snap at Wildcat last night.
Paging a kicker, any kicker. We made a field goal and two extra points, yay. But kickoffs and punts were shaky. Gots to get a lot better fellas.
Plays of the game. I have four: 1) Shaq Wilson interception, a real momentum killer for Vandy. 2) the Justice Cunningham catch – you know the one, the only one. That was SportsCenter top 10 worthy and put us in position to score the go ahead TD. 3) Dameire Byrd running down the Vandy kick returner after we took the lead. Huge play, and glad to see a WR make a contribution. 4) the play where Connor Shaw came back into the game.
ESPN Coverage. I have to say, I was OK with the coverage of the game last night. Rece Davis is top-notch, at least as good as Chris Fowler and 75% less smug. I know a lot of people have issues with Short Tie Palmer, but he doesn’t bother me that bad. The big surprise was David Pollack. I listened to him on Atlanta radio for a couple of years and he was borderline dumb jock abysmal + he always seemed to hate USC. He was quite insightful last night. I think I’ll give him another chance.
Good win fellas. Go Cocks, beat ECU!
Buck: First thought: thousand bucks says Lattimore gets the first touch tonight on offense.
Tbone: Good call.
Gman: Nope, Shaq on a reverse – recruiting promise.
Tbone: I’ve got it: Shaw under center, surveys field, calls timeout. Coming out of timeout we have a delay of game. Then a false start. /begins sobbing.
Buck: Play action to 21, then deep to Byrd. Would be money.
Gman: The HBC does like the bomb early. Anyone remember his first playcall at SC?
Tbone: Whitesides, deep.
Gman: Bingo. So its something to watch for.
Tbone: How bout we come out in standard 2 TE set, but flex Buster out wide. Seam route for 6.
Gman: Or that TE drag route he likes so much. I love that play.
Tbone: That or PA and sneak 21 out into the flat. That’s an HBC fav.
Buck: We’ll run at least one jet sweep to 3 in each half. Mark it down.
Tbone: But what about defense? How is Whammy gonna call it?
Buck: Heat. Early and Often.
Tbone: Naw, I say wait and see how we do with just the front 4.
Buck: [word omitted, roughly translates as "whimp"].
Tbone: Hey, wait! I thought we were in the nest? Are we not?
[. . . this segment redacted as Old School quote and giggle fest follows for 10 minutes . . .]
Tbone: /clears throat /wipes eyes . . . So what else on D?
Gman: Oh, I predict at least one personal foul on DJ for a late hit.
Tbone: That’s a given. A given.
Gman: Look for Vandy to double 7, and for 98 to have a monster night.
Tbone: Man, I hope no one shows this post to the Vandy coaching staff!
Buck: Yeah, they might hurt themselves laughing.
TRC drops a surprise podcast on you this week to help you prepare for all things Vandy. We discuss:
- Why we shouldn’t be worried about Vandy
- Why we should be worried about Vandy
- And finally, why we shouldn’t be worried about Vandy
- In addition, THIS WEEK IN DABO!!!
Plus, we all choose our breakout performer this year for the Gamecocks and somehow the name Shaq Roland doesn’t pass any of our lips.
Good thing we never had any credibility in the first place, huh?
Listen up! You won’t regret it.
HEY FOLKS, ITS_DABO HERE!!! IM KINDA TRIED OF ALL THE NATIONAL MEDIA DISSING ON AND UNDERANKING MY CLEMSON TIGERS, SO I DECIDED TO RELEASE MY OWN RANKINGS!!!! CHECK EM OUT RIGHT HERE, BELOW THIS PART OF THIS THING:
1. THE ACC CHAMPIONS. THE BEST OF THE BEST. ITS THE ONLY CHAMPIONS THAT REALLY MATTER, AM I RIGHT???!!!
2. CLEMSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS. THATS ME!! WE WON IT ALL LAST YEAR AND COUD DO IT AGAIN THIS YEAR!!!?!?!
3. MOTHERS MILK. THE ONLY BRAND I DRINK!!!
4. KYLE PARKER. I BET THAT OLD BOY IS TEARING UP THE NFL RIGHT NOW – HECK HE WAS READY TO START WHEN I HAD HIM HERE!
5. GEORGIA. ONLY REASON I DONT RANK THEM HIGHER IS BECUASE THEY KEEP AVOIDING US ON THE CONFERENCE SCEDULE SOMEHOW!??!?
6. USC – THE ONE IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN SIDE OF AMERICA! HAHAHA BURN!
7. TERRY THE DON PHILIPS – HE GAVE ME MY FIRST REAL SHOT , WELL AT ANYTHIGN REALLY UNLESS YOU COUNT MOM, BEAR, AND THAT REALTOR I WORKD FOR IN FLORDIA!!!
8. LSU. THOSE BOYS ARE GONNA BE GOOD, AND I THINK ITS FUNNY HOW THEY CLAIM TO PLAY IN DEATH VALLEY BUT IVE NEVER SEEN THEM THERE!!
9. REALITY. ITS RANKED SLIGHTLY AHEAD OF:
10. WEST VIRGINIA. THE OLD ADAGE SAYS IT BEST: ITS BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD!!!?! AM I RIHGT??!?
11. TEAMS THAT HAVE BEEN THERE BEFORE. YOU KNOW US, MIAMI, FLORDIA STATE, OKLAHMOA AND OHIO STATE!!
12. AUBURN. MAN, DID THEY COPY EVERYTHING FROM US OR WHAT?!?!? EXCEPT FOR THAT CHICKENHAWK, I THINK THEY GOT THAT FROM A CARTOON OR SOMETHING.
13. NO THIRTEEN – ITS BAD LUCK SO NO ONE WILL BE RANKED IT!?!
14. CAROLINA. THE ONE IN WINSTON SALEM!!!! BURN, AGAIN!!!!!!
15. DOLLAR GENERAL. ONE STOP SHOPPING AND FULL OF CLEMSON GRADS. WHAT MORE CAN A MAN ASK FOR???!?!!
16. 50/50 COTTON AND SOMETHING ELSE GRAY SWEATSHIRTS. I WEAR EM ALL THE TIME, IVE EVEN GOT ONE LONG ENOUGH TO SLEEP IN. COOOO-ZY!!! OH AND THEY SALE THEM AT DOLLAR GENERAL SO ITS PERFECT!!
17. ALABAMA. MAN IM GLAD WE DONT HAVE TOPLAY THEM CAUSE THAT WOULD BE AWKAWARD!!??!! I WAS A STAR WLAK ON THERE AND MY MOM STILL HAS HER WHOLE BEDROOM DECORATED IN THAT COLOR!!?!
18. SHEEP. THEY ARE SO FLUFFY!!?!! I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY PEOPLE AROUND HERE WERE HUGGING UP ON THEM SO MUCH, SO I FINALLY TRIED IT. ITS AWESOME AND TICKLES. COURSE UNLIKE SOME I USUALLY TRY TO KEEP ON MY:
19. PLEATED DOCKERPANTS. THEY GO WITH ANYTHING. MOM BOUGHT ME A BELT WITH SILVER HANDLES ON IT AND THEY KINDA MATCH MY ORANGE NIKES. IF I WEAR A COACHES SHIRT OR A ORANGE COAT AND TIE OR EVEN A SWEATSHIRT THEY WORK JUST FINE. I CANT FIND ANY BIG ENOUGH TO SLEEP IN WHICH IS BAD BECASUE THAT BIG SWEATSHIRT KINDA LOOKS LIKE A DRESS AND MOM LAUGHS SO HARD!!!???!! SUCKS, MAN!!!
20. TCU. TOUGH GUYS TO BEAT, AND THEYVE GOT THAT REALLY COLD BLUE ASTROTURF WAY UP THERE IN IOWA. WHATS THE DEAL WITH THAT??!?!
21. THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS. THE ONE IN JACKSONVILLE!!!! HAHAHAHAHA – GOTCHA AGAIN – BURN, BURN, BURN!!!!
22. THE ROSE BOWL. ITS THE BEST BOWL EVEN THOUGH I ALWAYS SAID THE ORANGE BOWL WAS THE BEST BOWL BUT IVE KINDA CHANGED MY MIND
23. THE CLEMSON POLICE DEPARTMENT. CANT REALLY SAY MORE, BUT LETS JUST SAY THEY WATCH OUT FOR MY PLAYERS AND WILL BRING THEM TO ME WITHOUT ARRESTING THEM LIKE EVERY WEEKEND. THAT PLUS I THIN THEY GIVE THE GUYS MONEY EVERY NOW AND THEN. LIKE I SAID DONT WANT TO SAY MUCH HERE!!??!!
24. THE MARYLAND TERIPINS. THOSE UNIFORMES ARE CRAY-CRAY, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN???!!!??! (NO REALLY DO YOU KNOW WHAT ‘CRAYCRAY’ MEANS I HOPE I USED IT RIGHT???)
25. BALL STATE. MAN I CANT QUIT LAUGHING ABOUT THERE NAME – A STATE FULLS OF BALLS!!!???!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! BURN!
Now that we’ve heard about the offense, defense, and special teams, I’m here to lay out for you the best and worse cases for the season in terms of wins and losses. T-Bone and Buck know I’m pessimistic by nature, so the best case is going to be kind of hard for me. As I am traditionally used to seasons where we struggle, writing about the worst case comes easy.
Best Case: 10-2 regular season, 12-2 overall. I know that some folks want to go all 12-0 or 11-1 on us, but I’m going to be a bit more realistic and project a best case regular season record of 10-2. Whammy comes through and proves to be at least as effective as Ellis. Shaw protects the ball. A couple of receivers, including Shaq Roland, emerge. And Clowney and Devin Taylor create havoc all season long.
Projected Wins: Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Wofford, CTU. The Georgia and CTU wins are the sweetest of the bunch for obvious reasons. After the UGA win, CMR decides to abandon his holier than thou persona and return to his true Miami alum colors. He starts things off by declaring that no Bulldog player will ever be suspended again, under any circumstances. Dabo takes the loss in stride and decides to petition the CTU Board of Trustees to remove us from their schedule, seeking to replace us with future ACC member, Coastal Carolina.
Projected Losses: LSU, Arkansas. Baton Rouge with all those crazy drunk Cajuns is just too tough, and unlike Curly Hallman, Les Miles has a horseshoe permanently situated where the sun don’t shine. Arky continues to have our number as they eke out a 27-24 victory in Columbia. Later it is learned that Bobby Petrino was on the Arkansas sideline the whole game, disguised as a water boy. A careful review of the video shows that John L. Smith was unusually thirsty throughout, especially when Arky was on offense.
This would put us at 6-2 in the SEC East with a win over Georgia. Coupled with Georgia’s loss to Missouri this puts us back in the SEC Championship Game where we meet LSU again. LSU plays atrocious offense (sound familiar?), and they don’t have Tyronne Mathieu…ok, the “Honey Badger”, to bail them out this time. Adam Yates boots a 45-yard field goal as time expires and we escape with a 17-14 win. Lattimore is the MVP after running for 215 yards on 45 carries. He scores both TD’s on 4th down one-yard plunges. So there it is, our first SEC Championship.
We nonetheless finish 3rd in the BCS as both Oklahoma and Wisconsin (have you seen their schedules? an absolute joke) go undefeated. We end up in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan — and beat them to a pulp.
We get our first SEC Championship and BCS Bowl win.
Worst Case: 7-5 regular season, 7-6 overall. Last year’s close wins become this year’s close losses. Auguste never recovers and other injuries pile up on D. Shaw’s scrambles are contained and he has to force the ball into tight zone coverages, not his strong suit.
Projected Wins: Vandy, ECU, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Wofford, CTU. Coach Boom figures it out on D and Florida beats us in an ugly 14-13 slugfest where most of the points result from turnovers and special teams blunders. Murray and Bray light it up against a weakened Gamecock secondary. We predictably fall to LSU and Arkansas in ugly fashion. The only real bright spot of the season is another win over lowly CTU.
Projected Losses: Georiga, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.
With a 3-5 SEC record, we fall way down in the bowl pecking order. We end up in the Music City Bowl against North Carolina State, another 7-5 team. Uninspired and slowed by a large night in Nashville the night before, the Pack dispatch us by a score of 24-17.
So there you have it, the best and worst case scenarios for the 2012 Gamecock football team. But just remember, we are mere bloggers, and the truth probably lies somewhere intertwined in our message.
All I know is, right now, we’re undefeated.
We’re almost finished with our Best Case/Worst Case previews for 2012 Gamecock football, and today with focus on the third, and obviously least important, phase of football – special teams. Oh, come on, you’re not really falling for that bunk that the coaching and media elite are spouting about special teams is just as important as offense and defense are you? If so you’re watching too much Fox News. Or MSNBC. Or NFL Network. Or Alec Baldwin.
Wait, what? The punt return? That’s considered special teams?!? Ah, geez. Well, that changes things, but only a little. It’s not like we have the next Boo Williams, Chavez Donnings or Matt Thomas on the team. Or, at least I hope we don’t…
On to the BC/WC:
Best Case: Adam Yates is at least as good as the guys in our recent run of average to very good kickers. He makes kicks consistently from inside 40, and hits a few beyond 40, which means the HBC has the confidence to let him try. He gets us a few touchbacks on kickoffs, but even when he doesn’t he hits high kickoffs inside the five to give our coverage guys time to get down and make a big hit. We give up zero kick returns for touchdown. Nick St. Germain gets to redshirt and build leg strength so he can be our main guy for the next four. Bonus Best Case: I don’t have to walk out of the room every time we kick a field goal.
Worst Cast: Adam Yates misses early and often. Low kicks, wide kicks, short kicks, you name it. St. Germain is given a chance and shows a powerful leg but is terribly inconsistent. Nobody can go deep on kickoffs, resulting in long returns against us. So we resort back to pooch kicks, giving away a minimum 15 yards of field possession on every kickoff. Bonus Worst Case: I continue to leave the room during field goal attempts. Which is probably what I’ll do anyway.
Best Case: Mike Williamson or internet legend Tyler Hull grabs the job by the short hairs in the last week of practice and doesn’t let go. Williamson/Hull is a pleasant surprise, with consistency of length and hang time for an entire season. We don’t give up a punt returns over 20 yards all season, and the average against us is single digits.
Worst Case: Neither Mike Williamson nor internet legend Tyler Hull distinguish themselves. Joe Robinson plays wheel of punter with those two guys as they produce poor punt after poor punt. We still do well on returns against average because the punts are so bad the return teams can’t get to the ball. We hear players yelling “FIRE” a lot.
Best Case: Bruce Ellington breaks the no-kickoff-returns-for-TD streak early in the season, and just for good measure does it a couple more times. Joe Robinson gets return schemes into place that allow for Ellington to use his natural skills to give the Gamecocks great field position time after time. People start resorting to the pooch kick against us. And we catch them 100% of the time.
Worst Case: Ellington continually mistakes opponents jerseys for open running lanes. Poor schemes lead to missed assignments lead to big hits on Ellington leading to turnovers. Despite our dearth of high school kick return superstars, we can’t seem to find anybody to bust a big one. Matt Thomas’ streak is alive for another season.
Best Case: Ace Sanders was good last year (outstanding if you want relative to recent history) and has improved immensely. He’s Joe Adams dangerous, and sets a single season record for Gamecock punt returns for TD (which is what, two?)
Worst Case: Ace has trouble fielding punts, and despite being dangerous once he gets the ball, we can’t risk the turnovers. Vic Hampton would be an option, but it’s too risky to put him back there since he’s our best corner. Shaq Roland becomes our designated fair catch machine.
Best Case: Consistently good snaps.
Worst Case: Consistently bad snaps.
Hey, what do you want from me? Analyze snap RPMs or something? It’s a freakin’ snap, hit the man in the hands with it.
Coming up: In our final Best Case/Worst Case preview, the Gman will take a look at our schedule and let you know how we can make it to the BCS Title Game…or the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
With the season less than two weeks away, just wanted to send a reminder of the HBC’s “LOI” to Dabo:
Buck laid down the funky offensive beats for yesterday’s Best Case/Worst Case analysis, so today it falls to me to answer with some defensive BC/WC thoughts:
Let’s start, just like a quarterback reading the pre-snap alignment, with the defensive backs and work our way down:
Best Case: DJ Swearinger translates his offseason grind-hype into even 10% of its potential. Opposing B and Y receivers become B and Mers at the very sight of him. Brison Williams develops from the dependable practice player that all the coaches love, to the gamer that all the fans adore. One of either Kadetrix Marcus or Sheldon Royster develops into the next E. Cook or D. Stew as the season progresses. Between the hash marks at Williams Brice is a bitter no man’s land for anyone who dares to try a post or crossing pattern.
Worst Case: Swearinger’s offseason grinding results in stripped gears when it comes race time. We get used to seeing the safeties pointing at each other post-touchdown in the age-old “no-you-had-inside-leverage” debate. Opponents convert on various iterations of 3rd and 10, 3rd and 20, 4th and 23, etc., etc. And run support? Yeah, but here it’s of the “run-down-from-behind-after-twenty-yard-gain” variety. What I’m describing here is the “Bad Cully” part of good old #17’s schizophrenic career.
Best Case: Auguste is back to his 1987 form (What? He’s been around that long, right?) Victor Hampton takes his flashes of brilliance from last season and turns them into one season-long klieg light of shutdown domination. Ahmad Christian and/or Jimmy Legree develop into solid backups – kind of like a more physical, cerebral, focused, and athletic version of Kevin House.
Hey, all any of them really need to do is keep the pattern covered for 3 seconds, as we will further explain in the Defensive Ends section, below.
Worst Case: Since the TRC editorial ground rules prohibit discussing injuries during a BC/WC post, I’ll just quickly mention Akeem Auguste again and post this picture of a teddy bear:
Oh, and in a worst case scenario, Vic Hampton goes back to hanging out with known human organ traffickers and loses his place on the depth chart.
Best Case: Wilson, Smith, Bowens, Jeffrey, and Holloman, seniors all, play the best football of their careers. Run fits and coverage drops are second nature to these guys, and our veteran corps wrecks havoc on opposing running backs and tight ends. Young guys like Cooper and Lewis look like young Brinkleys in mop up duty, as we prepare them for the 2013 season.
Worst Case: Wilson, Smith, Bowens, Jeffrey, and Holloman, seniors all, play like senior . . . citizens. Slow and out of position, these guys make us long for the days when Shane Burnham roamed the area immediately back and to the left of the right hash mark on the 42 yard line (you know the spot where he was trying to unload the piano). By midseason we are forcing things with the younger guys, who make up for their lack of experience by running in the wrong direction, but faster.
Best Case: Jadeveon Clowney is the Best Case Scenario. <—-that is a period, so read it that way.
Worst Case: We move #7 around between DT, DE, Will, and Mike so much that he gets frustrated and just starts eating people. This includes, unfortunately, all the other defensive ends as “Don’t Say Nothing” can’t summon the presence of mind to yell for help. Chaz Sutton manages to get two penalties called on him in the same punt return (wait – that already happened, see the third quarter of the Capitol One Bowl)
Oh and we waste Darius English’s redshirt year by accidentally playing him on the punt team during the Wofford game.
Best Case: Byron Jerideau Fever sweeps the nation as the svelte happy one becomes the feel-good story of CFB. All the attention just makes him mad, so he plugs the gut of the Dline like an all-meat diet. Kelcy Quarles develops into a premier run stopper in the mold of what we thought Stanley Doughty was gonna be, but never became. Opponents give up trying to run up the middle, and can’t run around the end, for the reason we explained in the Defensive Ends section, above.
Worst Case: Kelcy Quarles, Philip Dukes, and however many Gerald Dixons we may or may not have on the roster get beat out on the depth chart by Aldrick Fordham. I know, I know, he’s a heck of a ballplayer and we love him, but he’s got the frame of linebacker to go with his heart of a lion. Byron Jerideau notices the Bojangles beside the stadium and starts trying to eat his way happy again.
We grew to love Travian, but all too late.
Next up, Gman analyzes Special Teams . . . or something.
You smell that?
No, not that.
That’s the smell of football in the air people. We’re speeding towards Thursday, August 30 like a Silver Bullet train, and expectations for Gamecock football have never been higher. An SEC Championship Game appearance is a reasonable expectation. And a 9-3 regular season feels kinda…meh.
Over the next week we’ll show you what a SEC Championship season looks like, and what 9-3 or worse looks like with best case/worst case scenarios for Gamecock offense, defense and special teams.
And we begin with…The Offense. (Note: In the best case/worst case scenarios, we cannot, will not, and do not assume injuries.)
Best Case – Connor Shaw picks up where he left off in 2011 and becomes the poster boy for dual-threat quarterbacks in the NCAA. He runs the offense with complete confidence. As a passer, he makes good decisions with the ball, goes through progressions, and only takes off running as a last option. As a runner, he picks up first downs, and knows when to get down to preserve his health. He’s a white Charlie Ward, but finishes as third-team SEC because of the brilliant smiles of SEC poster boys Aaron Murray and Tyler Wilson. Dylan Thompson gets very few meaningful minutes and a few kneel downs, and Brendan Nosovitch gets to redshirt as God intended.
Worst Case – Connor Shaw freaks out. He looks like the wild-eyed kid that opened the season against East Carolina last year. He overthrows open receivers, fumbles more times than the acceptable number of zero, and looks lost against inferior competition. The offense can find no rhythm and sustain no drives, even with a powerful rushing attack. Dylan Thompson comes in and you realize all his offseason “progress” is just internet talk, and the revolving door begins to spin. Shaw, Thompson, Clifford, even Strickland. Talk of taking the redshirt off Nosovitch begins, and the QB spot is once again a thorn for the HBC.
The Running Backs
Best Case – Marcus Lattimore is pissed. Pissed that God tested him like this. Pissed that he had to work ten times harder to get back to where he was, so he worked ten more times harder to get better than that. Pissed at SEC defenses. Pissed at me. Pissed at you. And he runs like it. He powers over people and all of a sudden has that second gear that Matt Millen said he was missing against UGA last year. He is the second coming of Adrian Peterson, and he’s glorious. Kenny Miles is glad he came back, and spells #21 more than adequately. Shon Carson gives us a change-of-pace back we haven’t had since NOBODY back in THE YEAR THAT DIDN’T EXIST. Because we only have one ball Brandon Wilds and the uber-talented Mike Davis get to redshirt. By the end of the year the USC backfield is widely recognized as the best in the SEC, if not the nation.
Worst Case – I can’t come up with a worst case scenario involving Marcus Lattimore, it’s just not in me. So let’s just say he rushes for 1200 yards and 20 TD’s but gets no help from anyone else in the backfield. Miles is the pedestrian Miles he has been for much of his career, Carson doesn’t pan out, and Brandon Wilds is more the Wilds of Clemson instead of the Wilds of Tennessee. The Mike Davis redshirt is burned, but he simply doesn’t get many carries because #21 is so good.
The Wide Receivers
Best Cast – Ace Sanders steps up and becomes worthy of all-conference talk. He finishes in the top 5 in receptions in the SEC, and while he doesn’t have a ton of yardage he’s a first down machine. Bruce Ellington kills out of the slot. Dameire Byrd becomes the deep threat we all hoped he’d be last year, getting behind defenses with his blazing speed. Shaq Roland lives up to the hype, and like Alshon, becomes our jump ball/fade guy in the red zone. (Oh, and our Hail Mary guy too.) Other receivers like D.L. Moore and K.J. Brent are solid contributors when needed. With a powerful run game to compliment it, the passing game helps the Gamecock O become the most balanced in the SEC.
Worst Case – Ace Sanders continues to be Ace Sanders, solid but not a breakout performer. Ellington dreams of early playing time for Frank Martin. Byrd has stone hands and can’t be trusted, while Roland is lost once the lights come on and the proverbial bullets start flying. Moore catches eight passes on the season, and Brent is the second coming of Moore.
The Tight Ends
Best Case – Holy moly people. Cunningham, Anderson, Adams, Owens (for half the season), Rainey. Let’s just say Justice Cunningham (an excellent blocker who can catch the ball on occasion) and Buster Anderson (an above average blocker with excellent hands and moves) play the way they did last year. And let’s just say Jerell Adams is close to what we are hearing about in practice, which if you believe the legend is a cross between Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez. And let’s just say Owens comes back from his knee injury as a contributor and Rainey redshirts. I think that will do just fine.
Worst Case – Cunningham decides blocking is for the birds and he wants to catch more passes dammit. Anderson regresses to more resemble the lightly recruited tight end we didn’t expect anything out of last year. Adams is a myth, Owens doesn’t recover from his knee injury in time to contribute in 2012, and Rainey plays like a freshman.
The Offensive Line
Best Case – The corner is turned, and we finally have an upper level SEC line for our stable to run behind. T.J. Johnson anchors the line as a veteran multiple-year starter who knows how to handle the wars. A.J. Cann, Ronald Patrick and Mike Matulis build on their solid seasons from last year, and Brandon Shell becomes the left tackle we’ve always dreamed of. The second teamers provide depth, and Sean Elliott is hailed as a savior.
Worst Case – We’ve been down this road oh so many times, do I really have to spell it out?
Next up, Tbone gives us Best Case/Worst Case for the 2012 Gamecock defense.