South Carolina's All-Decade Team: Dynamic pass-catchers highlight potent offense
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs.
What a difference a few years makes in the big-picture view of a decade.
At the start of the 2010s, South Carolina was on an upward swing never seen in program history. Before Steve Spurrier’s run of 3 consecutive 11-2 seasons, the Gamecocks had only registered 1 double-digit win season, a 10-2 mark in 1984 under Joe Morrison.
The Gamecocks went to 8 bowl games and won 5, including 4 in a row from 2011-14. Overall, they went 82-59 entering the Clemson game this season.
Here’s the All-Decade Offensive Team with stars from several of those squads:
QB: Connor Shaw
Why? Simply put, the winningest quarterback in school history. Shaw went 27-5 as a starter, including 17-0 at home. In his final season, 2013, he completed 63.4 percent of his passes (180-for-284) for 2,447 yards with 24 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
He was a finalist for the Unitas Award and a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award. At or near the top of the charts in pass efficiency, Shaw had a school-record 177 passes without an interception. He was responsible for 74 touchdowns, the most in school history. Shaw became the first player in school history with over 4,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards, and that rushing mark (1,518) is 20th all-time with the program.
Backup: Dylan Thompson: He picked up where Shaw left off with more big numbers. and in 2014, set a school record and led the SEC with 3,564 passing yards. He also led in the league in passing yards per game (274.2) and was 3rd in total offense (268.6). His 3,492 yards of total offense was a school record.
RB: Marcus Lattimore
The key back on the 2010 SEC East champion team, Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards, and also earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors. His sophomore and junior seasons were abbreviated after sustaining major knee injuries. Despite the injuries, he set the school record for career rushing touchdowns with 38 and ranked 6th with 2,677 career rushing yards.
He set the South Carolina single-game rushing record of 246 yards against the Naval Academy in 2011 and set the South Carolina all-time record with 41 career touchdowns scored. He was a 4th-round pick in 2013.
Backup: Mike Davis: Amazingly, Davis is still the last Gamecock to rush for 1,000 yards as he had a 1,183-yard season in 2013 with 11 TDs. Similarly to Thompson following Shaw, Davis picked up from Lattimore and tacked on another solid season in 2014 with 982 yards and 9 TDs.
WR: Bryan Edwards
This has been a record-breaking season for Edwards, who holds school records in career receptions (234), consecutive games with a catch and all-time receiving yards (3,045).
He’s been steady and spectacular, most notably earlier this season at Tennessee when made a one-handed catch on a pass thrown by Ryan Hilinski and fell out of bounds near the pylon.
Backup: Pharoh Cooper: In 2015, earned first-team All-SEC honors by the league’s coaches as both a wide receiver and as an all-purpose back. He was also an AP first-team All-SEC wide receiver and a second-team all-purpose back.
WR: Alshon Jeffery
He was named 2nd-team All-SEC as a junior in 2011, and selected a Biletnikoff Award finalist and unanimous 1st-team All-SEC honoree as a sophomore in 2010. In 39 games, he had 183 receptions (2nd in school history) for 3,042 yards (then a school-record) and 23 TDs (tied for 1st in school history). He was a 2nd-round pick in 2012.
Backup: Deebo Samuel: Appeared in 30 games (27 starts) in 5 years at South Carolina (2014-18) and registered 148 receptions for 2,076 yds. and 16 TDs. As a senior in 2018, earned 1st-team All-SEC with 62 catches for 882 yards and 11 TDs.
TE: Hayden Hurst
Hurst was the first sophomore in school history to be named a permanent team captain, Hurst played in 38 games (27 starts), and made 100 receptions for 1,281 yards and 3 TDs. He set the school record for a tight end and is 2nd among Gamecock TEs for career receiving yards (1,281). During his 2 years (2016-17) as a starter, he never missed a game and racked up 92 catches for 1,195 yards and 3 TDs.
He was a 2-time permanent team captain and in 2017 was 1st-team All-SEC by media and league coaches.
Hurst was the only Gamecocks offensive player drafted in the 1st round this decade.
Backup: Jerell Adams: Caught a TD pass all 4 years, and was named an SEC All-Freshman honors. Overall, he was a 4-year letterwinner who finished his career with 66 catches for 977 yards and 7 scores. He played in 47 games, with 15 starts.
OT: Rokevious Watkins
He was a 1st-team all-SEC pick in 2011, Watkins started his career as a guard, but finished with 13 games at right or left tackle. He was a 5th-round pick in 2012.
OT: Brandon Shell
A 3rd-team All-SEC coaches pick in 2015, he started every game at left tackle his senior season. He made 47 consecutive starts dating to 2012, mostly at right tackle before shifting. He was a 5th-round pick in 2016.
OG: A.J. Cann
A 4-year starter at left guard, he made 51 starts, the 2nd-most in school history behind only T.J. Johnson (53). The 2-time team captain earned 1st-team All-SEC honors by the coaches and ESPN.com and was a 2nd-team pick by the AP. He was a 3rd-round pick in 2015, the earliest by an offensive lineman this decade.
OG: Zach Bailey
One of the more versatile linemen throughout a career that ended in 2018, Bailey played in 46 games over 4 seasons, and made 38 starts (27 at left guard, 8 at right tackle and 3 at center). He was recognized as a 2nd-team All-SEC player by the Associated Press and by SEC coaches.
C: T.J. Johnson
Johnson started a school-record 53 games. He was a 2nd-team All-SEC selection and is the only Gamecock in history to start in 4 wins over Clemson. He was a 7th-round pick in 2013.
Backup: Alan Knott: In 2017, Knott was the only member of the offensive line to start in the same position (center) in all 13 games, and he started 42 games during his career. He served as a game captain against Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia and Wofford.
Placekicker: Elliott Fry
In 2016, Fry, who is the Gamecocks’ all-time leading scorer with 359 points, made 13-for-17 on field goals and 31-for-31 on PATs, for a team-leading 70 points. His game-winning kick in the Vanderbilt victory was a career-high 55-yard effort to lift South Carolina to a 13-10 win. The 55-yard field goal was the 2nd-longest in South Carolina history and matched the 2nd-longest in FBS that season.
Backup: Parker White: Last season, White had 84 points scored, which ranked in a tie for 10th on Carolina’s all-time single-season scoring list with George Rogers’ Heisman Trophy season of 1980. Entering the Clemson game this year, White is 17-for-21 on field-goal attempts and made all 25 extra-point attempts.