TIGER RAG PREVIEW: South Carolina Gamecocks

Today is the ninth installment of a 15-part series in which Tiger Rag previews LSU's opponents and other members of the SEC. This afternoon, we spotlight South Carolina. Tomorrow, we focus on the Tennessee Volunteers.

Entering the third season under coach Steve Spurrier, the South Carolina Gamecocks have emerged as a legitimate power in the Southeastern Conference Eastern division, winning seven regular season contests before topping Houston in the Liberty Bowl last season.

 

In 2007, Spurrier, who turned the Florida Gators into a national powerhouse in the 90s, and the Gamecocks will need to replace five starters on an offense that emerged as the third-best in the country at 395 yards per game last year, while the defense will remain largely in tact, welcoming back ten starters this fall.

 

With the amount of experience returning, South Carolina could put itself into a position to make a run at the SEC title game in Atlanta, but it will be an uphill battle, as South Carolina owns one of the toughest schedules in the country, playing on the road against Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas and hosting contests against rival Clemson and defending National Champion Florida.

 

As an offensive unit, the Gamecocks managed 5,135 total yards, one of only four teams in the conference to eclipse the 5,000 mark.

 

Returning this fall to spearhead the South Carolina offense will be senior tailback Cory Boyd, who led the Gamecocks on the ground last year with 823 yards and eight touchdowns. Also reappearing in this season's backfield will be junior Mike Davis, who had six rushing touchdowns as Boyd's backup in 2006.

 

At fullback, senior Lanard Stafford comes back as the starter, though he will not get many touches, as South Carolina uses the position largely as a blocker. As a junior, Stafford had no carries and three receptions for 28 yards.

 

Senior Ryan Brown may also play a role for the Gamecocks at fullback after making the switch for his starting defensive end position during the off-season.

 

South Carolina's receiving corps welcomes back one starter from last season, but will need to find a replacement for the now-departed Sidney Rice, one of the most productive players for the 2006 Gamecocks with 1,090 yards and 10 touchdowns on 72 receptions.

The likely replacement for Rice at wide out will be junior transfer Larry Freeman, the man atop the spring depth chart.

 

Starting at the opposite receiver spot will once again be Kenny McKinley, a junior who was second on the team last year with 51 catches for 880 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Tight end Andy Boyd will also serve as a veteran in the passing attack after recording one touchdown as the starter last year.

 

Quarterback Syvelle Newton will be missed as the Gamecock starting signal caller this season, but senior Blake Mitchell is a more than capable replacement to fill in as the offensive leader.

 

As the second string quarterback last year, Mitchell saw time in nine games, but led the team in passing completions, attempts and yardage, finishing the season with 1,789 yards, 10 touchdowns and an average of 198.8 passing yards per game.

 

The biggest question facing the South Carolina offense in 2007 will be who will fill the front line, which lost three starters from a year ago.

 

Coming back to the front five will be experienced junior tackles Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen, both regulars last year, while the center and both guard positions will see new faces this fall.

 

Looking to step in on the offensive line will be senior William Brown, a three year lettermen at center, senior James Thompson at the right guard and sophomore Garrett Anderson at left guard.

 

On the defensive side of the ball, South Carolina returns nearly fully loaded, welcoming back the entire line, all three linebackers, and three of four members of a secondary which combined to allow 18.7 points and 336.8 yards per game last year.

 

The defensive front will once again consist of juniors Joel Reaves and Nathan Pepper at the tackles, while the ends will feature new but experienced players in sophomore Eric Norwood and senior Jordin Lindsey due to last years regulars making position changes.

 

Norwood was one of the team co-leaders in sacks last seven with seven, while Pepper and Lindsey each managed an interception in 2006.

 

At linebacker, senior Jasper Brinkley will serve as the defensive leader in the middle, totaling 107 tackles to lead the Gamecocks during his junior year.

 

Joining Jasper in the linebacker unit will be his twin brother, Casper Brinkley, and sophomore Rodney Paulk.

 

Casper Brinkley made the jump to linebacker from defensive end, where he managed 44 tackles and seven sacks last season.

 

Paulk recorded 36 tackles while playing in every game as a freshman in 2006.

 

South Carolina's secondary will return both safeties from last year in senior Chris Hampton and junior Stoney Woodson, who was third on the team with 47 tackles and led the Gamecocks with three interceptions last year, though neither player was No. one at their position on this year's spring depth chart.

 

Penciled in as the alternate starters in the defensive backfield are sophomore Emanuel Cook at strong safety and senior Brandon Isaac at free safety.

 

Junior Carlos Thomas will return as one of the team's starting cornerbacks after accumulating 27 tackles and two interceptions last year.

 

The other corner will be filled by a new starter this season after the departure of Fred Bennett, with the leading candidate for the job being sophomore Captain Munnerlyn. A year ago, Munnerlyn managed 36 tackles and a pair of interceptions in 12 appearances.

On special teams, junior Ryan Succop will be back this fall as South Carolina's go-to man on both punts and kicks.

 

As a sophomore, Succop made 16 of 20 field goal attempts, including two longer than 50 yards, and was 37 for 39 on extra points. On punts, he averaged 43.7 yards on 29 attempts.

 

Kenny McKinley will be back as the Gamecock's punt return man after averaging 8.9 yards per return last year, while Carlos Thomas and Captain Munnerlyn will likely split the kickoff return responsibilities once again. Last year, the two combined for 562 yards on 27 tries.

 

- Matt Dearman

 

 

QUICK FACTS

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

 

All-Time Series: 14-2-1

First Meeting: 1930, LSU 7, South Carolina 6

Last Meeting: 2003, LSU 33, South Carolina 7

 

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Williams-Brice (80,250)

Head Coach: Steve Spurrier, 15-10 at USC, 2 years; 157-50-2 overall, 17 years

 

 

2006 IN REVIEW

 

2006 Record: 8-5, 3-5 SEC (5th East)

Final '06 Ranking: Not ranked

Returning Starters: 17; 6 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter

Last Bowl Appearance: 2006 Liberty Bowl – South Carolina 44, Houston 36

Last Conference Championship: 1969, Atlantic Coast

 

 

2006 STAT BREAKDOWN (SEC/NCAA)

 

Total Offense: 295.0 ypg (3/28)

Rushing Offense: 144.3 ypg (6/52)

Passing Offense: 250.7 ypg(4/24)

Scoring Offense: 26.6 ppg (6/44)

Total Defense: 336.8 ypg (9/46)

Rushing Defense: 146.8 ypg (9/77)

Pass Defense: 190.0 ypg (8/22)

Scoring Defense: 18.7 ppg (6/29)

 

 

RETURNING LEADERS

 

Rushing: Cory Boyd – 164-823, 8 TD, 5.0 ypc, 68.6 ypg

Passing: Blake Mitchell – 202-135, 1789, 10 TD, 6 Int., 198.8

Receiving: Kenny McKinley – 51-880, 5 TD, 67.7 ypg

Tackles: Jasper Brinkley – 107

Interceptions: Stoney Woodson – 3

Sacks: Casper Brinkley – 7

Tackles for Loss: Jasper Brinkley – 14.5

 

 

2007 SCHEDULE

 

Date                    Opponent                                 '06 Result

S-1                  LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE          ---

S-8                  at Georgia                            L, 0-18

S-15                SOUTH CAROLINA ST.             ---

S-22                at LSU                                 ---

S-29                MISSISSIPPI STATE               W, 15-0

O-4                  KENTUCKY                           W, 24-17

O-13                at North Carolina                   ---

O-20                VANDERBILT                         W, 31-13

O-27                at Tennessee                       L, 24-31

N-3                  at Arkansas                         L, 20-26

N-10                FLORIDA                              L, 16-17

N-24                CLEMSON                             W, 31-28

 

 

Offense at a glance:

 

Questions still remain on the offensive line and at the wide receiver position. USC must replace the three interior starters and fill the void left by All-SEC receiver Sidney Rice's departure to the NFL.

 

The Gamecocks will feature one of the better backfields in the league with fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell and an experienced running back tandem in Cory Boyd and Mike Davis.

 

If Carolina can develop some chemistry along the line early on, and find a few receivers to complement returning starter Kenny McKinley, the offense, which averaged more than 450 yards and 32.6 points per game over the final five games of last season, has the potential to build on its success from the end of the 2006 campaign and become one of the top offenses in the SEC.

 

 

Defense at a glance:

 

The South Carolina defense returns nine starters from a unit that surrendered only 18.7 points per game a year ago.

 

Led by All-SEC middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, Freshman All-America defensive end Eric Norwood and a host of athletic newcomers on the defensive line, the Gamecocks figure to improve on their struggles against the run in 2007 and generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks with what looks to be a much improved pass rush.

 

Highly-touted freshmen Ladi Ajiboye, Travian Robertson and Clifton Geathers made their presence felt on the defensive front in the spring, and will be joined by 5-star defensive end signee Cliff Matthews in the fall. The USC secondary also looks improved with the return of starting free safety Brandon Isaac from injury, the continued improvement of returning Freshman All-SEC strong safety Emanuel Cook, and the maturation of cornerbacks Carlos Thomas, Stoney Woodson and Captain Munnerlyn during the offseason.

 

The Gamecocks have featured a bend-but-don't-break style of defense over the past two seasons, but with more depth, experience and playmakers across the board in 2007, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix will look to get his unit off the field quicker and force more turnovers in an effort to get the ball back to the offense more often.

 

- Jonathan Jolley, GamecockAnthem.com


Tiger Blitz Top Stories