| South Carolina went on to finish a surprising 8-4 and capped the 2000 season with a decisive 24-7 win over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.
Lou Holtz looks to his senior-laden defense to carry the team in 2001. USC ranked 20th nationally in total defense in 1999 and 16th in 2000. The Gamecock defense also held the opposition to 19 or fewer points in 10 of 12 games in 2000. Kalimba Edwards, Shannon Wadley and Kenny Harney create one of the best linebacking corps in the country.
USC's secondary is also experienced. CB's Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman are talented and dangerous. The defensive line lost several starters from last season including NT Cleveland Pinkney and DT Cecil Caldwell. Returners Langston Moore, John Stamper and George Gause will look to fill the gap.
Senior quarterback Phil Petty has a good grasp of the Holtz offense and will provide a steady, if not spectacular, performance. The offensive line, once one of the worst units in the SEC has morphed into one of the best. RT Melvin Paige and Guard Cedric Williams will be the leaders up front.
The weekly drama starring troubled RB Derek Watson remains a distraction. Watson is USC's top threat on offense and special teams. He is the Southeastern Conference's top returning rusher, and he led the league in all-purpose yardage last season. As of the writing of this preview, Watson had been reinstated to the team and won't be suspended for any practice time or games.
Watson had been suspended from the team and was not allowed to attend summer school since a May 7 incident in which he was charged with simple assault and battery.
"Far too much has been made and written and talked about. This is the South Carolina football team, not the Derek Watson football team," Holtz said. "It's all anybody wants to talk about, Derek Watson. He made a mistake, the reprimand was handed out, he had certain things to do and he's done it."
The Gamecocks will not have the element of surprise working on their favor in 2001. The schedule is also more difficult, despite seven home games at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. USC must travel to Georgia, Mississippi State, and Tennessee along with the trip to Little Rock.
Can Gamecocks Hold Their Own in SEC East?
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