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Fun With The Ol’ Ball Coach (South Carolina Gamecocks Preview)

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on August 22, 2007

Since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia a couple of years ago, he’s gone from the guy you would like to punch in the face to a guy who is quietly turning a school that, prior to his arrival, had only one bowl win in over 100 years of football, a win over West Virginia in the 1994 Carquest Bowl under former coach Brad Scott, into a possible force to be reckoned with in the SEC East and becoming the first coach in South Carolina history to take his first two teams to bowl games.

And now, as the Gamecocks enter the third year of the Steve Spurrier era after beating Conference USA champion Houston in the Liberty Bowl, the folks in Columbia are looking for continued improvement, improvement that could spring the program into contention for a potential SEC championship in 2007 and beyond.

On offense, the Gamecocks return senior quarterback Blake Mitchell, who has thrived well in Steve Spurrier’s system. In 2006, Mitchell threw for 1,789 yards and 10 touchdowns, good enough for a 66.8 completion percentage. Not only that, he cut down dramatically in his interception total, going from 9 in 2005 to only 6 in 202 attempts last year.

At receiver, South Carolina welcomes back junior Kenny McKinley, who had a great sophomore season with 51 catches for 880 yards and 5 touchdowns and will be the only starter returning to a young receiving corps that includes junior college transfer Larry Freeman, who looked great during spring drills and will more than likely have the starting job as the slot receiver when the Gamecocks open their season on September 1st.

At running back, Cory Boyd will return for his senior season after rushing for 823 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2006, backed by juniors Mike Davis and Bobby Wallace.

On defense, the Gamecocks return 9 starters to a defense that was ranked 29th in the country in total defense, allowing 16.7 points per game and 336.8 yards of offense. The key returnees on defense are junior tackle Nathan Pepper, who will also see some time at deep snapper, something that happened two years ago when he filled in for regular deep snapper Scott Morgan while he was on suspension, and all-conference linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who led the team in tackles with 107 and tackles for loss with 14.5. Other notables on defense include cornerback Carlos Thomas, linebacker Rodney Paulk, and senior linebacker Casper Brinkley, who will make the switch from defensive end to linebacker with his brother Jasper.

Final analysis: It was only ten years ago when South Carolina dismissed Brad Scott after a 1-10 season, one of the worst records in the history of the program and replaced him with Lou Holtz, who resurrected the program from its darkest moments to their first bowl win in school history as well as respectabilty in the SEC. When Spurrier came in from his dismal stint in the NFL, he took the program to a new level with consecutive bowl games in his first two seasons and also created a sense of excitement around Columbia. On paper, conventional wisdom would tell the average college football fan that these guys would contend for the SEC East championship, but from a realist’s standpoint, the Gamecocks won’t be in that discussion this year.

Projected record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)

2007 South Carolina Gamecocks

Sept. 1st Louisiana-Lafayette

Sept. 8th @ Georgia

Sept 15th South Carolina State

Sept. 22nd @ LSU

Sept. 29th Mississippi State

Oct. 4th Kentucky

Oct. 13 @ North Carolina

Oct. 20th Vanderbilt

Oct. 27th @ Tennessee

Nov. 3rd @ Arkansas

Nov. 10th Florida

Nov. 24th Clemson

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7 Responses to “Fun With The Ol’ Ball Coach (South Carolina Gamecocks Preview)”

  1. Steven said

    A lot of your facts are wrong in your blog.

    While USC’s history is certainly dismal, the 2001 Outback Bowl was NOT our first bowl win. Our first bowl win was in the 90’s and was a win against West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.

    Also, Spurrier is nowhere near the first to take the Gamecocks to back to back bowls as you stated. We won back to back bowls over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl during the Lou Holtz tenure.

    I think the fact that you were trying to quote in your blog is that Steve Spurrier is the first head coach at USC to ever take us to back to back bowls IN HIS FIRST TWO YEARS AS OUR HEAD COACH.

    All in all, I have no issue with your opinion on how USC will finish. Personally, I think we finish at 9-5 with a win in a bowl and that will likely be around 3rd or maybe even 4th in the East. I think the talk about winning the East are a little premature.

    Visit my website if you are interested in discussing USC athletics with some real fans:
    http://www.gamecocksportsforum.com

  2. Doc Hancock said

    Thanks, Steven, I clarified everything and fixed it up. I apologize for the misinformation on South Carolina football.

  3. Steven said

    No problem Doc.

    As I mentioned, our history is very dismal and we know it, but have to get credit for every win we can.

    Thanks for joining my website and I hope you and some of your readers will visit, join and even post as we enjoy hearing from not only USC fans, but also fans from all SEC and even ACC teams.

    I have also encouraged my posters to visit here and get your take on LSU coming up tomorrow. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  4. Matt said

    Thanks, Steven, for your professionalism in correcting the honest mistake; we’re just college amateurs and by no means perfect so that stuff might happen from time to time.

    Not all of the disagreeing comments are as nice…

    Anyways, I am adding your link to the “Frinds Of” and I was at your site and enjoyed how you guys were SEC people and not JUST South Carolina fans. Rooting for and educating yourself about the other SEC teams is what makes the SEC the best sports conference in America.

    I am still a Kentucky fan…so we’ll have to agree to disagree come October 4… ;)

  5. Steven said

    Being a Kentucky fan, you certainly know USC’s pain (and then some usually). ;)

    I like what y’all are doing here as I am an avid college football fan. I would love for y’all to come to my website and occassionally write articles or allow me to continue C&P’ing some stuff from here so we can share honest viewpoints from non-USC fans.

    Matt, join up if you will. Feel free to advertise y’alls site and share some thoughts with us as I will continue to encourage my staff to come here and do the same.

  6. Nice blog Doc..I think my Gamecocks are going to shock the SEC and Lee Corso by winning the SEC east and with a few lucky bounces of the pigskin maybe the SEC championship.

  7. Matt said

    Thanks for the comment, Greg, as well as the interest.

    Check out what else we have to offer including “Doc’s” other SEC previews.

    We have a lot of great writer so browse around…we REALLY REALLY REALLY appreciate the positive comments.

    Thanks, man.

    Matt
    Editor TNB

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