The Gamecocks have enjoyed about as much success in the six-year Lou Holtz era as in any in South Carolina history. He has recruited well and he has coached well. This year the Gamecocks have defeated Vanderbilt on the road and lost to Georgia at home and taken easy home wins over South Florida and Troy. Thus, the 3-1 overall record and 1-1 Southeastern Conference mark.
While Alabama is struggling to develop one quarterback, the Gamecocks seem to have two quality athletes at the position. Although Dondrial Pinkins (6-2, 245, Sr) has missed some work, he's expected to start. He's not only the top passer for South Carolina, but also the top rusher. In his absence, sophomore Syvelle Newton (6-2, 196) did well and is expected to continue to share quarterback duties. Both players are very athletic, very dangerous running or passing.
Pinkins has rushed 38 times for 124 yards and completed 30 of 49 passes (61.2 per cent) for 469 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Newton has completed 25 of 39 passes (64.1 per cent) for 438 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
When the Gamecocks pass, they have an excellent receiver in Troy Williamson (6-2, 200, Jr), who has 19 catches for more yards (545) than Alabama's entire receiving corps (437 yards). He averages 28.7 yards per reception and has four touchdowns. And the Gamecocks' second-leading receiver, running back Cory Boyd (6-1, 210, Soph), has 16 receptions for 140 yards.
Early in the week Holtz said that South Carolina running back Demetris Summers (6-1, 205, Soph) might not play because of a high ankle sprain. On Tuesday the Gamecocks' coach said Summers was getting better. (Which Holtz do you believe?) Summers has averaged a glittering 7.7 yards per carry. Even if he's out or limited, the Gamecocks have other running weapons, notably Gonzie Gray (5-11, 186, Sr), who has 27 carries for 120 yards and Boyd with 22 carries for 93 yards.
The Gamecocks' offensive line has some experience, led by left tackle Jabari Levey (6-7, 330, Jr), an all-star candidate. Right guard Jonathan Alston (6-5, 302, Sr) and center John Strickland (6-5, 304, Sr are also top hands. The offensive line averages 6-5 and has no man under 302, averaging 310.
The Gamecocks have high hopes for new tight end Brian Brownlee (6-3, 247, Sr), who hasn't had a breakout game…yet.
The Gamecocks have been more impressive on defense than on offense, ranking among the nation's top teams defensively. Although the safeties and linebackers make most of the tackles, the key is a big, tough, experienced defensive front. Leader of that up-front group in the 4-3 package is end George Gause (6-5, 270, Sr). The front four includes three seniors and a junior and averages 6-4, 281.
Two seniors, Marcus Lawrence (6-3, 236) and Rodriques Wilson (6-2, 217) and junior Ricardo Hurley (6-3, 233) comprise a linebacking corps that South Carolina believes to be the best in the SEC. Lawrence has 21 tackles, Hurley 19, and Wilson 18.
The Gamecocks have an outstanding secondary that leads the SEC with six interceptions and in pass efficiency defense. A mix of the old and young, the defensive backfield features senior strong safety Jamacia Jackson (6-1, 210), the squad's leading tackler with 22, and freshman sensation safety Ko Simpson (6-2, 180), who has 20 tackles. Jackson has an interception return for 98 yards and Simpson has two interceptions for 57 yards.
South Carolina leads (with Alabama) the SEC in turnover margin with plus four.
Josh Brown started the season as both punter and placekicker and may continue to hold both jobs. He averages just under 40 yards per punt. Freshman Thomas Hooper of Montgomery has been pushing for the job of placekicker. Troy Williamson has great potential as a kickoff return man. Noah Whiteside runs back punts.
One indication that Holtz was not satisfied with last year's 5-7 South Carolina record: There are five first-year members of this staff. And one of the holdovers would probably have hit the road, too, except his name is Skip Holtz. The son of the head coach was demoted from offensive coordinator, although he holds the positions of assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.