2012 Media Days: Legge's Look at Carolina

HOOVER, Ala. - Dean Legge's look at the South Carolina Gamecocks.

South Carolina
October 6, 2012
Sanford Stadium
Overall Record: 46-16-2
Last 10 Meetings: 7-3
Richt vs. South Carolina: 7-4

Just when South Carolina's defense needed to step up it did. With its offense in peril thanks to the loss of its starting quarterback and running back for the season the Gamecock defense stepped up and gave the program its first ever 11-win season.

The step up on the defensive side of the ball was obvious. Carolina allowed 21 points or more in their first three games of the season. From the fourth game on it permitted over 21 points just once – in a 44-28 blowout loss at Arkansas.

Carolina's defense, which lost the bulk of its starters, is one question mark coming into the season. The other is junior running back Marcus Lattimore. The star running back tore his ACL blocking down field during Carolina's tight win at Mississippi State last year. It's hard to know just how well he will perform this season as returning from an ACL, while easier now than in the past, is still a major chore.

The bruising Lattimore hasn't been doing himself any favors the past two years in Columbia in terms of his future durability. But he's been the reason for the best two seasons of Gamecock football in the 100-plus-year history of the mediocre program.

Marcus Lattimore has already done enough to secure his spot in South Carolina history is he never plays another down of football in his Gamecock career.

Georgia, for its part, would be glad to never face him again. No player in recent history has blistered the Bulldogs the way Lattimore has over the last two years.

This season the Cocks and Dawgs will play one another in October for the first time with South Carolina joined SEC play in 1992. That could be a major factor in the build up and outcome of this game. The better team has typically won this contest, but will the middle-of-the-season placement of this contest add or take away from what has become one of the conference's most fiercely competitive series?

Jarvis Jones tackles Marcus Lattimore. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
Click the above image for Dawg Post's look at the Georgia-Carolina over the years

South Carolina player to watch:
Jadeveon Clowney
Defensive End
6-6, 254

The most anticipated recruit in the history of South Carolina football, Jadeveon Clowney didn't disappoint in 2011. The Rock Hill, SC native finished with eight sacks, 36 tackles (12 for loss) and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. With another year to get bigger, faster and stronger, Clowney will become an increasing presence in opponent's backfields in 2012.

What the Dawgs must do:
Stop Lattimore. Georgia will need to keep Lattimore in check. He wasn't the reason South Carolina won last season – turnovers were – but he cemented the Gamecock win.

Inside the numbers:
? 4
The Gamecocks will open the 2012 season on a four-game winning streak. They had not finished a season with four consecutive wins since 1958 prior to last season's finish, which included wins over Florida, The Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska.

Recruiting Implications:
Mild. Georgia has gone away from South Carolina as a recruiting destination of late… probably because the talent over there has been slightly limited the last few years. But the Dawgs have kept some recruits in the Carolinas (Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley) from playing in Columbia – and that has to matter a little.

Last year's prediction: Slow down Lattimore. If Georgia can hold Lattimore to only 140 yards rather than 180 they will stand a much better chance of winning the game. Lattimore chewed up Georgia like no other running back since Kenny Irons in 2005. Georgia's new presence at nose – John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers – is going to have to assert itself. Last year Georgia's defensive line got whipped – that can't happen again this season if they want to win.

Georgia slowed Lattimore… until the fourth quarter. By then, when the Cocks needed him most, he was too much for Georgia to handle. This was a winnable game the Bulldogs virtually handed over to the Cocks. It was one of the most disappointing losses in recent memory looking back on it.

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