For nearly a decade Coach Steve Spurrier has built his hall of fame career on his one of a kind charisma and potent high scoring FUN ‘N’ GUN offenses which won him 2 national championships, 7 SEC conference titles, and a 72% winning record after twenty-two years of coaching.
After an unsuccessful head coaching stint in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, Coach Spurrier returned to a new SEC conference, no longer was his once potent offense enough to compete with the new dominant teams who have represented the SEC in the BCS: Alabama, LSU, UGA, and Arkansas. After two seasons of stubbornness and mediocrity the Ol’ Ball Coach began to revise his offensive philosophy and began to place a huge emphasis on a dominant defense and a dominant run game.
Although his change in philosophy did not yield immediate dividends it helped Spurrier attract the attention of top in state recruits who at one time chose UGA or Tennessee of the home-state Gamecocks. Before injuries to starting running back Lattimore and the dismissal of starting quarterback Garcia the Gamecocks were the favorite to win the SEC East and offer a sizeable challenge to Alabama or LSU in the title game. Although the Gamecocks still have yet to win a SEC title they appear poised to make some noise and potentially garner a BCS invite for the first time in the program’s history
On offense the Gamecocks will lean heavily on Marcus Lattimore who was a Heisman front-runner before tearing his ACL against Mississippi State last year. Lattimore was a workhorse who averaged nearly 30-carries per game. In order to make life easier for Lattimore this year it will be vital for starting quarterback Connor Shaw to capitalize on the single coverage he will get when defenses put nine in the box to stop the run.
Although Alshon Jeffrey is now playing for the Chicago Bears the cupboard at wide receiver and tight end is far from bare. Conner Shaw will lean heavily on might mite, Ace Sanders to beat man coverage, also expect incoming freshman Shaq Rolland at wideout and Mike Davis at running back to log some key minutes this season.
The Gamecocks will rely heavily on their dominant defense to offset an inconsistent offense. Despite losing key cogs Melvin Ingram and Steven Gilmore to the NFL little drop off is expected from a defense that ranked third in total defense in the NCAA. Preseason All-American defensive ends Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor will terrorize the offensive back fields of their opponents and make quarterbacks and opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep at night.
These future NFL bookends will attempt to cover for a secondary with gaping holes. The outcomes of many games this year will be determined by the focus and discipline of the talented but inexperienced defensive secondary. With their former defensive coordinator leaving for head coaching gig, how quickly the defense is able to pick up the new schemes and sets of new their new DC will determine a lot.
It has taken eight years for the Ol’ Ball Coach to bring the Gamecocks out of the cell of mediocrity and with each year expectations continue to grow. No longer are the Gamecocks remembered for the nation’s longest losing streak, but how they are remembered this year will rest on the reconstructed knee of Marcus Lattimore and play of their defensive secondary.
Will Marcus Lattimore’s knee be 100% healthy? Will play-makers arise on defense and at wide out? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (follow me on twitter@eatdrnkslpsprtz