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…