2009 South Carolina Gamecocks Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 4-4)
2008 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa (L 10-31)
Coach: Steve Spurrier (28-22 at South Carolina, 170-62-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Steve Spurrier
Defensive Coordinator: Lorenzo Ward
Other Key Returnees: C Garrett Anderson, RB Eric Baker, DE Clifton Geathers, DE Cliff Matthews, DT Nathan Pepper, S Darian Stewart
Key Losses: LB Jasper Brinkley, S Emanuel Cook, TE Jared Cook, RB Mike Davis, DE Jordin Lindsey, WR Kenny McKinley, OT Jamon Meredith, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LB Marvin Sapp, K/P Ryan Succop, CB Carlos Thomas, CB Stoney Woodson
South Carolina always seems to be on the edge of something great. Coach Steve Spurrier certainly brought those expectations with him when he headed to Columbia. Moving into year five of the Coach Spurrier era, the fan base would have expected more by now. However, the Gamecocks tend to hang around for a little bit and then hit a rough spot in the schedule and turn into a mediocre club.
South Carolina's Strengths:
It is not like the SEC was very pass happy at all last year, but South Carolina had the second best pass defense in the nation, allowing a mere 159.2 yards through the air per game. Yet, can the Gamecocks keep their secondary together without corners Captain Munnerlyn, Carlos Thomas and Stoney Woodson and safety Emanuel Cook? That is a lot of lost talent. Senior linebacker Eric Norwood is the new leader of the team taking over for the departed Jasper Brinkley and he will have to hold together the defense for a while until the new pieces are in place. The good news is the front four does not have much rebuilding to do. Ends Clifton Geathers and Cliff Matthews both had productive sophomore campaigns and could emerge as very dangerous pass rushers now that they have more experience.
South Carolina's Weaknesses:
Coach Spurrier always has some tricks up his sleeve on the offensive side of the ball, but the productivity has just not been there lately. Quarterback Chris Smelley left the team to play baseball at Alabama and that leaves Stephen Garcia as the lone experienced quarterback on the roster. Garcia threw six touchdown passes last year and, like everybody else in the carousel of quarterbacks, threw way too many interceptions. He is the guy for now, but if he does not improve South Carolina will try and find somebody else. Making matters worse is the fact that running back Mike Davis is also gone. Sophomore Eric Baker is tops on the depth chart after rushing for 182 yards last year, but junior Brian Maddox and a handful of freshmen will also be in the mix.
The Bottom Line for the Gamecocks:
But even if Garcia turns into a quality quarterback and the backs hold their own, it will not mean much if the offensive line does not improve. The team gave up three sacks per game last year and that was with Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen. Now the line is in even worse shape and somehow the offensive line has to find a way to build around center Garrett Anderson and turn into a cohesive unit or the offense is going to go nowhere.
By Joel Welser
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