Final grades

South Carolina gets graded in the classroom and on the football field. The feature returns for its second season as we take a look at each aspect of the game. Tonight we look at the results of the season-opening 17-13 win over Vanderbilt. Who made the grade and who didn't?

South Carolina gets graded in the classroom and on the football field. The feature returns for its second season as we take a look at each aspect of the game. Tonight we look at the results of the season-opening 17-13 win over Vanderbilt. Who made the grade and who didn't?


Make no mistake about it, what Connor Shaw was able to do with an injured shoulder was nothing short of remarkable. His effort level and gutsiness was off the charts. However, when grading the overall effort, it's not good. Shaw's effort and 92 yards on the ground is what kept this grade above water. Shaw was just 7-of-11 passing for 67 yards and had his first pass intercepted. On the drive when South Carolina settled for a field goal, Shaw had Bruce Ellington open on an out-route. Shaw threw it a second too late and it floated on him a bit, allowing Andre Hal to make a play and knock it away. Against good teams that is a pass that has to be completed.

When Shaw came out of the game, Dylan Thompson came in. Steve Spurrier talked all fall about how Thompson has looked good in practice and would be ready to go. Thursday night he looked bad and had that deer-in-the-headlight look the entire time. His first pass was behind Ellington on a quick slant that would have been a first down. His second pass to open the third quarter hit the turf well before it got close to Ace Sanders. His third pass to Cunningham was catchable, but it was not a good pass. He was also sacked twice. Seth Strickland came in and looked much more composed than Thompson, but his only pass was incomplete. Strickland may very well be the number two guy next week.

Final grade – B-

Running back

When one player has nearly half of your total yards of offense, it speaks volumes about his performance and the lack of performance by other players. Marcus Lattimore came back from his knee injury just to rush for 110 yards and two scores along with 21 yards receiving. Lattimore's cuts were crisp and there were several shots on the injured knee but it held up. Lattimore looked like he always has and is the only reason the offense had success. He also picked up the blitz several times to give Shaw room and delivered a great block on Shaw's draw down to the one that set up Lattimore's final touchdown.

I was looking forward to seeing what Kenny Miles could do, but his night was cut way short. He got one carry for three yards, but left with a knee injury after that play and did not return. Mike Davis looked pretty good on his only carry, stopping on a dime to avoid defenders and move forward for four yards. He has potential to be a good back.

Final grade – A+


Any time your receivers catch just three passes for 26 yards you're either Navy or you've had a horrible game. It's hard to tell if it's the receivers not getting open or the quarterback not finding the open receiver, but usually it's a combination of both. Ace Sanders caught two passes for 13 yards and Damiere Byrd had a 13-yard reception. That was it. No one else caught a pass. It will no doubt be back to the drawing board for the receivers next week. Fortunately for them East Carolina is next and they haven't defended the pass in three years.

Final grade – D

Tight ends

We heard all fall how Carolina was going to use the tight ends more this season. Jerell Adams was catching everything in sight and Rory Anderson was going to have another big year. Thank goodness for Justice Cunningham. Cunningham's unbelievable catch while getting drilled was a huge play in the game-winning drive. That was the only catch by the tight ends. However, a tight end's main job isn't to catch the ball. The main job is blocking. The tight ends did well blocking. In those two tight end sets Lattimore had some running room. That alone saves them.

Final grade – C-

Offensive line

Shawn Elliott has a lot of work to do. The main reason for the lack of passing yards was the fact that Shaw spent most of the night running for his life. By his athleticism alone Shaw was only sacked once. When the less elusive Dylan Thompson was in he was sacked twice. Elliott will have to go to work with the line this week to work on pass protection. The run protection was somewhat better. Lattimore bailed them out many times by getting something out of nothing, but on the biggest plays there were holes to run through. Brandon Shell has to work on his endurance if he is going to remain a starter. Carolina seemed to block a little bit better with Mike Matulis at left guard and Cody Gibson at right guard. Shell is capable, but he has to work harder.

Final grade – C

Defensive line

Outside of Lattimore and Shaw, the defensive line was the bright spot of the game. The line allowed very little room to run and got after Rodgers. Vandy managed just 62 yards on the ground, including limiting Zac Stacy to 48 yards on 13 carries. The defensive line was also responsible for four of the five Gamecock sacks, each by a different player. Jadeveon Clowney, Aldrick Fordham, Chaz Sutton, and Kelcy Quarles were all credited with sacks. There's always room for improvement, but Carolina's defensive line is off to a great start.

Final grade – A


Four linebackers combined for 17 tackles, but none were better than Shaq Wilson. Wilson tied Quarles for a team-high eight tackles and had an unbelievable interception with Vandy threatening to score early in the game. Reginald Bowens chipped in for six tackles. However, there were some missed tackles and Quin Smith got sucked in too far on Vandy's opening score. Still, a solid performance from the linebackers.

Final grade – B


Coming into the game the secondary was the big question mark for Carolina. After the game the secondary remains a big question. Rodgers completed 13-of-23 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Many times there was an open receiver with no defender around him. With the exception of Brison Williams' whiff on the Jordan Matthews touchdown, they did do a decent job tackling. Jimmy Legree played well in his first start at corner and Victor Hampton made some plays on the other side. There is still a lot of work to be done, but they did well when their backs were against the wall.

Final grade – C+

Special teams

Special teams still has a lot of work to do. Carolina did not get a lot of opportunities in the return game with touchbacks on kickoffs and punts with little room to return. Tyler Hull did okay in the punt game, but outkicked the coverage on one occasion and had two touchbacks where there was very little chance for it to be downed. He's got promise but still has some work to do. Landon Ard has to take advantage of the new kickoff rule and kick it through the end zone. After a touchback to start the game Ard didn't get it near the end zone the rest of the game. Adam Yates made both extra points and made the chip-shot field goal from 20 yards out. All still have some work to do.

Final grade – C

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories