Preview 2017: South Carolina Gamecocks

Preview 2017: South Carolina Gamecocks


Preview 2017: South Carolina Gamecocks


Preview 2017: South Carolina Gamecocks

Previewing and looking ahead at the South Carolina Gamecocks season – and what you need to know.

Contact @PeteFiutak

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2017 South Carolina Preview: Win Close Games, Or Else
2017 South Carolina Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– South Carolina Previews: 2016 | 2015

What You Need To Know About The South Carolina Offense

Everyone knew the offense was going to have to be tough, opportunistic, and efficient, but the defense it was still disappointing.

On the plus side, ten starters are back with a far better situation than head coach Will Muschamp walked into last season. However, where are the playmakers?

QB Jake Bentley was terrific over the second half of last season and needs to be the accurate, consistent leader who starts making everyone around him better. With every reception from 2016 returning, Bentley has plenty of options.

Now someone has to block for him.

Four starters are back up front, but the USC O line allowed 41 sacks and 102 tackles for loss, paving the way for a mere 3.7 yards per carry. Almost all of the running back rushing yards return, and North Carolina transfer Ty’Son Williams should provide more pop.

Of course, all the experience and all of the upside doesn’t matter unless the O can finally …

Biggest Key To The South Carolina Offense

Score. Oh, sure, rolling up 39 on a bad USF defense was fun, and putting up 44 on Western Carolina and 34 against UMass were moments, but it was as if USC had no real interest in scoring.

The offense finished 115th in the nation in total yards, struggling to keep the chains moving, not producing enough points in the red zone, and scoring 24 or fewer nine times.

In a perfect Muschamp world, the defense is dominating, the special teams are great, and the O is cranking out long drives that control games and come up with timely scores. That didn’t happen – the Gamecocks have to start scoring more than ten points a game more than they did last year. Yeah, it doesn’t work like this, but they’ve have been 10-3 if they scored 30 a game.

What You Need To Know About The South Carolina Defense

Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson had a ton of work to do in his first season, and it was a rocky run for a D that allowed over 400 yards and 26 points per game, struggling mostly against the run and not coming up with enough key spots against the decent offenses.

Fortunately for USC, there weren’t a lost of great attacks on the slate, but late in the year, Clemson and South Florida exposed the defense for being mediocre.

Five of the top nine tacklers are gone, but there’s hope for the linebacking corps with three-year star Skai Moore coming back from a neck injury to go along with Bryson Allen-Williams. If Moore is back to being Moore, the overall production should take a big step up.

The secondary returns good tacklers in S D.J. Smith and CB Chris Lammons to a veteran group, but they need help from more of a pass rush despite the loss of both starting ends. The tackles are back, but the depth overall across the front four is a concern. Again, though …

Biggest Key To The South Carolina Defense

The pass rush had better show up. Darius English is gone after coming up with nine sacks, and three more sacks are done from other former USC defenders. There were just nine sacks coming from the rest of the D, and a mere 70 tackles for loss overall.

The pressure into the backfield went bye-bye in key stretches, with 12 of the 21 coming in three games and with none or one in nine games. But the pass rush has been awful for years – the 21 were the most since 2013, but a far cry for the Jadeveon Clowney-fueled 43-sack 2012 run.

South Carolina Will Be Far Better If …

The special teams have to rock. The offensive firepower isn’t in place, and the defense isn’t quite yet up to Muschamp snuff. Considering all the close games the Gamecocks will play, the team just isn’t good enough not to dominate in the third phase.

The punting game was just okay, and Elliott Fry his 13-of-17 field goals, but the kickers have to be replaced. WR Deebo Samuel was great on kickoff returns, but the kickoff return team was a disaster, the punt return team was lousy, and considering field position is a big deal, it all has to be better.

Best South Carolina Offensive Player

QB Jake Bentley, Soph. – It’s a bit simplistic to say he saved the season, but he at least provided the spark needed to go on a clutch run of four wins in five games to get bowl eligible.

The 6-4, 223-pounder was a good recruit, but he was expected to sit out all of last season as the now-transferred Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth getting most of the early work. But Bentley was sharp from the start – hitting 66% of his passes for 1,420 yards and nine scores with four picks – and was brilliant in wins over Tennessee and Missouri. So what’s missing? He’s not a runner, and he needs better receivers to throw to.

2. WR Deebo Samuel, Jr.
3. RB Rico Dowdle, Soph.
4. TE Hayden Hurst, Jr.
5. RB Ty’Son Williams, Soph.

Best South Carolina Defensive Player

LB Bryson Allen-Williams, Sr. – Skai Moore is expected to return to help the cause, but Allen-Williams is the only returning starter from last year’s linebacking corps. The 6-2, 229-pounder was second on the team in tackles with 75 with two sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and two picks.

While he could be more of a pass rusher, that’s not his role. He’s a good tackler who can get behind the line when needed and be a force against the run – highlighted by a 12-stop game against Clemson – and now it he’s paired with a healthy Moore, the Gamecocks have something good in the middle of the D.

2. S D.J. Smith, Sr.
3. LB Skai Moore, Sr.
4. CB Chris Lammons, Sr.
5. DT Taylor Stallworth, Sr.

Key Player To A Successful Season

LB Skai Moore, Sr. – Can he return and be the playmaker he was over the first three years of his career? If the 6-2, 221-pounder is back to 100%, he’s the team’s best defensive player and All-SEC star who can change around the defense. But is he going to be back to normal?

There was an off-the-field issue that went away this spring, but the major neck issue that cost him all of last year is the bigger problem. Before that, he led the team in tackles for three straight seasons as the leader and star for the front seven. For a defense that gave up 203 rushing yards per game, his healthy return would be a massive plus.

The South Carolina Season Will Be A Success If …

It’s an eight-win campaign. It seems like a bajillion years ago when Steve Spurrier was winning 11 games a year, but it was only 2013 when his club went 11-2. Since then, USC is 16-22 with two losing seasons in the last three. There might not be enough talent to win the East, but the experience is in place to improve by the six-win first season under Muschamp by two victories.

Missing Alabama, LSU and Auburn from the West is a mega-break, but having to deal with NC State and Clemson from the ACC is awful, and needing to deal with Louisiana Tech is a problem.

Even so, win at home against Kentucky, La Tech, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Wofford, and there’s a base of five wins – if everything goes right. Come up with two others, win the bowl, and it’s a good year. It would be a big help to win …

Key Game To The South Carolina Season

Sept. 9 at Missouri – To have any prayer of a good SEC season, the Gamecocks have to win the 50/50 games against teams in the division. That includes Kentucky and Vanderbilt, too, but beating Mizzou in the first game of the conference season will likely set the tone for everything else.

Granted, USC beat Vandy to start last year, and it only really mattered to get to six wins and a bowl game, but this time around, coming off what should be a nasty game at NC State, lose in Columbia, MO, and it’ll be an uphill climb to come up with a winning season.

2016 South Carolina Fun Stats

– On the season, USC was outscored in every quarter and OT
– Penalties: Opponents 83 for 730 yards – South Carolina 65 for 606 yards
– Sacks: Opponents 41 for 268 yards – South Carolina 21 for 170 yards

2017 South Carolina Preview: Win Close Games, Or Else
2017 South Carolina Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– South Carolina Previews: 2016 | 2015

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