SEC Subplots: Can South Carolina avoid the inevitable letdown game?

NCAA Football: Florida at South Carolina

SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2014. Next up: South Carolina Gamecocks.

SEC Subplots 2014:

1. Avoiding the letdown
What does South Carolina have to do to get back to Atlanta under Steve Spurrier? On the heels of three straight 11-win seasons, the Gamecocks didn’t return to Atlanta in any of the three, despite beating the SEC East division champ all three seasons. In fact, USC beat the winners of the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl last season. That’s incredible. The only reason they haven’t gotten to Atlanta the last three years is losing to a letdown team. Last year it was Tennessee 23-21. The year before it was Florida 44-11 (certainly the least of the letdowns), and the year before that it was Auburn 16-13. If the Gamecocks can get by the unranked teams on their schedule, they could be packing their bags to Atlanta come December.

2. Third and Connor
One of the biggest losses from last year’s team was obviously Connor Shaw. Maybe he wasn’t an elite quarterback, but he played at an elite level and was a complete gamer. Most noticeably, Third and Connor won many football games, and third and mediums were no problem, because Shaw had the wheels to pick them up. Now, Dylan Thompson takes the full reins of the offense, and knowing he’s a pocket passer with limited mobility, where will the third and mediums come from this season? Thompson has proven he’s more than capable of making big throws and being a leader, but can he lead them to the promise land? We’ll find out week one.

3. A new No. 1
With the loss of wide receiver Bruce Ellington, the Gamecocks absolutely have to have Shaq Roland develop into the player he was recruited to be. The former Mr. Football for the state of South Carolina has caught just 30 passes for 535 yards and six touchdowns. We’ve seen the flashes, and we all know the potential. Now, with Damiere Byrd alongside Roland, it’s time the two become a feared duo in the SEC. Roland could be the biggest catalyst and make the most headway under new quarterback Dylan Thompson.

4. Tinkering with the scheme
South Carolina tinkered with a 3-4 scheme through spring practice and will tinker with it in some situations this fall. The reason the scheme perks Lorenzo Ward’s attention is because of the linebacker depth and talent; however, it’s interesting, because usually when coaches move to a 3-4 it’s because of the defensive tackle depth, not linebacker depth. Although there’s no Jadeveon Clowney or Kelcy Quarles, there’s certainly enough talent and emerging players to help make the defense ‘good enough’ to win the East. Ward knows what he’s doing, and the Gamecocks have been consistently very good during his tenure.

SDS Takeaway: South Carolina is my favorite to win the Eastern division in 2014, because they have the least amount of questions. Thompson’s proven he can make plays (he did it in 2012), and I would be incredibly remiss should I not mention Mike Davis’ name in this entire article; he’s a beast. Despite coming so close the last few years, this should be Steve Spurrier’s best chance at winning an SEC Championship.

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  • An SEC championship is great and all, but USC is focused on winning the national championship. Our schedule should be cake to make the 4 team playoff. Auburn will be tough but every other game USC will win by 10 points or more. An 11-1 season makes us a LOCK for the playoff whether we win or lose the SEC championship. My guess is Bama, Auburn and USC all make the playoff with maybe FSU. Go COCKS!

    • No biased here, guys, move along.

    • One of the outcomes the Gamecocks do not control and that is what other teams do. It’s a distant memory now, but this time a year ago Auburn and Missouri were picked to finish 6th and 7th in the conference. With so much hatred toward the SEC from outside the conference, in my opinion, in order to have 2 SEC teams in the 4 team playoff, both teams going into the SEC Championship would have to be undefeated, the final score would have to be 1 or 2 point win, and the remaining 5 or 6 of the top teams in the country would have to have a bad loss. We also have to remember there are 5 power conferences and 4 slots for the playoffs. It is a possibility that a 2 loss SEC Champion could be excluded from the playoff depending on what the other conferences do. Now, I don’t think that will happen, but it could. So to ensure that doesn’t happen, the Gamecocks are just gonna have to get through the schedule undefeated and then beat whoever ends up in Atlanta. They do that and then they could care less what everyone else does. Go Gamecocks!

    • I hope the players aren’t going into the season with this mindset. I’ll have what you’re having! :)

  • Carolina will miss Shaw much before the seasons end.Looking forward to the Georgia linebackers getting to introduce themselves to Thompson.Georgia will end the streak at WB and win the East.

    • Id have to disagree south carolina will be fine but will not make it to the Sec championship game they will lose to Florida and auburn not Georgia. Carolina will have a very good offensive line to protect Thompson but road games will kill any hope of getting to Atlanta but you can always have hope

    • Curtis Lowe, you can’t “really” be looking forward to Georgia coming to Williams Brice. The last visit was pretty ugly……

  • Just wanted to say that most of Gamecock nation would be ecstatic to win the SEC. And his cake comment sounds like something a Bama fan would say. But we do agree on one thing. Go Chicks!

    freaking awesome and no one but this guy b.

    thinks winning the east would be a cake walk
    much less making the four team play off. In Carolina in spite of a few years of limited
    success we remaIn somewhat humbled for fear that the chicken curse may raise its ugly head at anytime.


  • I think A&M is going to be a tough out next week. The offense, which Manziel never fully grasped, is meant to get your best athletes in space.

    People like to point out the A&M loses the “Heisman winner” and the 1st rounder, but lets look at the starting line-up more closely.

    QB Johnny Manziel (3-star prospect, 6′ 205 lbs.)
    WR Mike Evans (3-star prospect, 6’5″ 225 lbs.)
    WR Travis Labhart (walk-on, 5’9″ 182 lbs.)
    WR Derel Walker (3-star prospect, 182 lbs.)

    and trading it for

    QB Kenny Hill (Texas Player of the Year and 4-star prospect, 6’1″ 215 lbs.)
    WR Ricky Seals Jones (#1 ATH in the Nation and 5 star prospect, 6’5″ 235 lbs.)
    WR Speedy Noil (#1 ATH/WR in the Nation and 5-star prospect, 5’11” 185 lbs.)
    WR Josh Reynolds (#5 JUCO/WR in the Nation and 3-star prospect, 6’4″ 190 lbs.)
    and/or Frank Inheanacho (#14 WR in the Nation and 4-star prospect 6’6″+ 220 lbs.)

    –This is potentially a humongous upgrade in talent.

    • Talent and “star” ratings don’t mean a whole lot I mean sc has had very limited “talant” and have played very good look at the Seattle seahawks and what they have done with mostly 5rd draft picks

      • Talent and “star” ratings don’t mean a whole lot I mean sc has had very limited “talant” and have played very good look at the Seattle seahawks and what they have done with mostly 5th round draft picks

    • Those 2 things have literally nothing to do with each other.

  • Wrangler,
    No I would much rather be playing you guys in Athens,I am of the opinion that WB is one of if not the toughest place to get a W in the SEC.Ive gone to a couple of games there and the fans and atmosphere is what college football is all about.This game is usually decided by one score and I expect that to be the case this year with Gurley and crew hopefully being the difference.