Sept. 16, 2011
* The Gamecocks are off to a 2-0 start for the third time under Steve Spurrier. They were 2-0 in 2007 en route to a 6-6 season, and 2-0 in 2010 when they finished 9-5. In both of those years they won their third game (over South Carolina State and Furman, respectively) before dropping their fourth game (at LSU and at Auburn, respectively).
* Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram was selected as the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week and the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his two-touchdown performance in the Gamecocks’ 45-42 win at Georgia. Ingram scored on a 68-yard fake punt and on a five-yard fumble recovery. He also sealed the win by catching the onside kick at the end of the contest as part of the “hands” team. He was also given a “helmet sticker” from ESPN after becoming just the third Division I player since 2006 to score a touchdown on both offense and defense in the same game.
* Head coach Steve Spurrier moved into sole possession of second place on Carolina’s all-time wins list with 46, one ahead of Jim Carlen. Rex Enright is the school record holder with 64 career wins over 15 seasons.
* The Gamecocks have matched a school record by winning their last four “true” road games on their opponents’ home field. The Gamecocks won at Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson to wrap up the 2010 season, then won at Georgia last week. The only other time they posted four consecutive road wins occurred in 1914 (Wofford and Newberry) and 1915 (North Carolina A&M and Wofford).
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2011 marks the 118th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 105th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 545-541-44.
SEC HISTORY: The 2011 season marks South Carolina’s 20th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season.
VS. NAVY: This is the eighth gridiron meeting between South Carolina and Navy. The Gamecocks hold a slim 4 games to 3 advantage, but are 4-1 when playing in Williams-Brice Stadium. The series dates back to 1920, a 63-0 Navy win. In fact, Navy posted shutouts in each of the first two contests (also a 26-0 drubbing in 1955), outscoring the Gamecocks by an 89-0 margin. The game that most longtime Gamecock fans remember is the 38-21 upset win by Navy over the 9-0 and 2nd-ranked Gamecocks in the 1984 season, but Carolina has won both meetings since then, a 34-31 win in 1985 and a 19-8 win in 1988.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The heavily favored Gamecocks beat the Naval Academy, 19-8, in the final home game of the 1988 season. Placekicker Collin Mackie led the way by hitting four field goals. The Gamecock defense dominated the game, holding Navy to 161 total net yards. The Midshipmen’s only score was set up by a 50-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. Antonio Walker scored Carolina’s lone touchdown when he blocked a punt and returned it 33 yards for a score in the second quarter.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 46-33 mark in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list, one ahead of Jim Carlen, and fourth in games coached at South Carolina. He is the first coach to have a career winning record at Carolina since Joe Morrison (39-28-2) patrolled the sidelines from 1983-88. Spurrier owns a 188-73-2 mark as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Duke and Florida before his stint at South Carolina. He is signed through the 2014 season.
SPURRIER VS. NAVY: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has never faced Navy as a head coach.
PERFECT RECORD: Head coach Steve Spurrier is a perfect 42-0 all-time against schools outside of BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including a 16-0 mark since coming to South Carolina. He defeated Southern Miss, Furman and Troy in 2010 and has already defeated East Carolina in 2011.
GAMECOCKS VS. THE ACADEMIES: South Carolina is 5-5 against the three primary service academies. In addition to their 4-3 mark against Navy, the Gamecocks are 1-2 against Army, with all three games taking place in the 1950s. South Carolina has never faced Air Force.
HOME OPENERS: The Gamecocks have won their last four home openers, with consecutive wins over Louisiana-Lafayette, NC State, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss. The last team to come into Williams-Brice Stadium and defeat Carolina in its home opener was Georgia with an 18-0 win in the 2006 season.
HOME COOKIN: The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. In each of the past two seasons, Carolina has posted a 6-1 home record. The only losses came to top-ranked Florida in 2009 and to 17th-ranked Arkansas last season. South Carolina is 14-2 in its last 16 home games.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The 12th-ranked Gamecocks went into Athens and survived a wild 45-42 decision over the Georgia Bulldogs. The Gamecocks were outgained in the contest, 436-395, but came up with several game-changing plays. Defensive end Melvin Ingram rambled 68 yards for a score on a fake punt and later picked up a fumble and scored from five-yards out. Spur Antonio Allen scored on a 25-yard interception return. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore set up another TD with a 56-yard fumble return. But when it came to crunch time, it was sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore who made the difference. Lattimore rushed 13 times for 94 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 176 yards on 27 carries.
THAT’S A LOT OF POINTS: The Gamecocks and Bulldogs combined for 87 points, the most points ever scored in the 64 games played in the series. The previous high was 86 points in the 1970 contest which Georgia won by a 52-34 margin. South Carolina’s 45 points was the most points it has ever scored against the Bulldogs.
MAKING ANOTHER POINT: In the first two games of the 2011 season, the Gamecocks have logged two of the top 10 combined points games played in school history. The 93 points Carolina and ECU combined for in the opener ties for the third-highest mark, while the 87 points Carolina and Georgia scored this past week ranks ninth all time. In fact, three of the last six games played make the list, including the 69-24 win over Troy late last season.
TOPPING THE CENTURY MARK: It took the Gamecocks just two games to surpass the century mark in points scored, as they have tallied 101 points, an average of 50.5 points per game, which ranks second in the league and tied for fourth in the nation. The last time they opened with 100 or more points in the first two games was in the 1980 campaign when they blanked Pacific, 37-0, and Wichita State, 73-0, for 110 points.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: While the point production looks impressive, it certainly isn’t just the offense getting in the act. Defense and special teams have been responsible for five touchdowns. Spur Antonio Allen has scored twice, a 25-yard fumble return against ECU and a 25-yard interception return against Georgia; defensive end Melvin Ingram has scored twice, a 68-yard run on a fake punt and a five-yard fumble recovery, both at Georgia; and Ace Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return against East Carolina.
SLOW START, FAST FINISH: The Gamecocks have produced 101 points in the first two games without the benefit of having dented the scoreboard in the first quarter yet. The Gamecocks have been outscored 13-0 in the first stanza, but have outscored their opponents 28-24 in the second period, 42-14 in the third quarter and 31-28 in the fourth quarter. 73 of their 101 points have come after intermission.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: The Gamecocks came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Georgia. They trailed the Bulldogs 35-31 with six and a half minutes remaining before going on a six-play, 79-yard drive to regain the lead. The last time Carolina scored in the fourth quarter to come from behind for a win was in the 2009 season against Vanderbilt, when Alshon Jeffery caught a 43-yard pass from Stephen Garcia with 12:51 left in the contest to give the Gamecocks a 14-10 win.
FOR OPENERS: The Gamecocks spotted East Carolina a 17-0 advantage, then rallied behind senior quarterback Stephen Garcia to post a 56-37 win in the season opener played in Charlotte on Sept. 3. Carolina turned the ball over four times in the first half, leading to 17 ECU points, but the Pirates returned the favor with four turnovers in the second half, which led to 28 Carolina points. Garcia rushed for two touchdowns and threw another, while sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore pounded out 112 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. Alshon Jeffery logged five of the Gamecocks’ 10 pass receptions. Antonio Allen registered a career-high 16 tackles, was credited with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and scored his second career touchdown. Ace Sanders added a 68-yard punt return for a score. Rokevious Watkins was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts in the win.
EXTENDING THE STREAKS: The Gamecocks extended their winning streak in season openers to 12 games with the victory over East Carolina. The last loss in the opener came in the 1999 season. The win also kept Steve Spurrier’s record against schools outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences perfect at 42-0 (16-0 since coming to Carolina). Coach Spurrier is now 21-1 all-time in season opening games, with his only loss coming to South Carolina in 1989 when he was the head coach at Duke University.
POINTING TO THE OPENER: The Gamecocks and Pirates combined for 93 points in the season opener. That ties for the third-highest single game combined score in school history, but you only have to go back to late last season to find the last time it happened, as Carolina defeated Troy, 69-24, for a 93-point performance on Nov. 20, 2010. The 56 points for South Carolina matched the most they have ever scored in a season opener. They also tallied 56 against The Citadel in a 56-17 win to open the 1985 season. The 56 points was the second-highest scored by Carolina under Coach Spurrier, topped only by that 69-point effort against Troy.
GARCIA IS BACK IN THE BOX: Stephen Garcia returned to the starting duties at Georgia after his string of 28 consecutive starts was snapped in the opener against East Carolina. He entered the ECU contest in the second quarter with the Gamecocks trailing 17-0. He completed 7-of-15 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, but also ran five times for 56 yards and two scores, including a career-long 32-yard burst on his first drive. Prior to the opener against ECU, the last time the Gamecock starting quarterback was not named Garcia was Nov. 29, 2008 when Chris Smelley got the nod against Clemson. Garcia was 11-of-25 for 142 yards and a touchdown at Georgia.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: Fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia, a 6-2, 232-pounder from Lutz, Fla., ranks statistically among the top four quarterbacks in South Carolina history (see chart below). He is 18-13 in 31 career starts. Only Todd Ellis (24) and Steve Taneyhill (20) have won more games as a starting quarterback for Carolina. Garcia is the SEC active leader in total offense, touchdown responsibility, pass completions, passing yards and touchdown passes.
THIRD TO 7,000: Stephen Garcia became just the third quarterback in Gamecock history to throw for over 7,000 yards in a career. He now has thrown for 7,005 yards, ranking behind only Todd Ellis (9,953) and Steve Taneyhill (8,782).
IF NOT GARCIA, THEN SHAW: Sophomore Connor Shaw could also see playing time at quarterback. Shaw, a 6-1, 204-pounder from Flowery Branch, Ga., saw action in nine games last season, completing 23-of-33 passes for 223 yards. He got the nod as the starter in the season opener against East Carolina and completed 3-of-9 passes for 21 yards and rushed seven times for 26 yards. He did not play at Georgia. BROTHER ACT: When sophomore Connor Shaw made the start in the season opener against East Carolina, it marked a rare occurrence in college football, as Connor’s brother, Jaybo, was the starting quarterback the same day for Georgia Southern. Other more recent brother acts include the Mannings (Payton and Eli), Detmers (Ty and Koy), Hasselbecks (Matt and Tim), McCowns (Randy, Josh, and Luke), Huards (Damon, Luke and Brock), Vicks (Michael and Marcus), Glennons (Sean and Mike), Forciers (Jason, Chris and Tate) and Weatherfords (Drew and Joe).
MORE FROM LATTI: Sophomore standout Marcus Lattimore had a seemingly quiet game (for him) against East Carolina, but still finished the contest with a game-high 23 carries for a game-high 112 yards and three touchdowns. He came back with an impressive performance at Georgia, rushing 27 times for 176 yards and a touchdown. He now owns six career 100-yard rushing games, with four of the six (all against SEC Eastern Division rivals) going for 175 or more yards. It has taken him 15 games to log six 100-yard rushing games. The great Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers played 25 games before registering his sixth-career 100-yard rushing game. Lattimore has four rushing touchdowns this season and 21 in his career, eighth on the Gamecocks’ all-time list. With 23 career touchdowns (including two receiving), he has moved into the top 10 in career touchdowns in school
THIS GAME COULD BE A RUSH: Two of the top three rushing teams in the country will be getting together at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night. The Gamecocks check in at a very respectable 21st in the land, averaging 236.5 yards per game on the ground, an average of 5.84 yards per rush. However, Navy boasts the nation’s top rushing attack. The Midshipmen have rushed 116 times for 801 yards, an average of 400.5 yards per game or 6.91 yards per carry.
TRENDING ALSHON: Biletnikoff candidate Alshon Jeffery has been “held” to somewhat modest numbers in the first two games. He logged five catches for 92 yards against ECU and came back with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown at Georgia. However, the junior wideout has nearly half (10-of-21) of the Carolina receptions this season, and 65 percent (177-of-273) of the receiving yards. Nine of his 10 receptions have resulted in a first down. He has caught at least one pass in 25 straight games, and at least three passes in 24 straight contests. He ranks third on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,457 yards, trailing only Kenny McKinley (2,781) and Sterling Sharpe (2,497). He is also tied with Sidney Rice for the most 100-yard receiving games in school history with 11. Jeffery has more receptions (10 vs. 7) and receiving yards (177 vs. 146) than the entire Navy squad.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bruce Ellington has made an early impact on the gridiron after doing so on the hardwood last winter. Ellington is Carolina’s top kick returner, averaging 23.4 yards (4th in the SEC) on five returns. He also worked out of the “Wildcat” formation, rushing three times for 18 yards. The 5-9, 197-pounder from Moncks Corner, S.C. was the starting point guard for the Gamecocks’ basketball team as a freshman. He earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team after leading the squad with a 12.8 points per game average. He started all 30 games for a squad that went 14-16. He is expected to rejoin the basketball team at the conclusion of the football season. He was a standout prep athlete in both sports for Berkeley High.
STARTS ON THE LINE: The Gamecock offensive linemen have combined for 80 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 29, followed by tackles Kyle Nunn (18) and Rokevious Watkins (16). Sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell has made 15 starts. Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann made his first career start against East Carolina and has started two games.
TAKING THE FIFTH (AND THE SIXTH): Linebacker Rodney Paulk and offensive guard Terrence Campbell were both granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Paulk earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from Sporting News as a freshman in 2006. He ranked fourth on the squad with 64 tackles during his sophomore season in 2007. Paulk injured his knee in August of 2008 and saw limited action in the first four games of that campaign before sitting out of the remainder of the season. He was granted his first medical redshirt following the season. In 2009, Paulk suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening win at NC State, and was granted his second medical redshirt. He sat out the spring drills in 2010 while continuing his rehab work, and returned to the field in August. Paulk graduated in December with a degree in marine science. Campbell also came to Carolina in 2006, but suffered a season-ending knee injury early in his first camp and was granted a medical redshirt. He played in one game as a defensive lineman in 2007 before moving to the offensive side of the ball. He was a regular at right guard in 2008 then, after starting the first two games of the 2009 season, he suffered a neck/shoulder stinger that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and earned him a second medical redshirt season. He played sporadically in `10 but returns as a probable starter in 2011. Campbell earned his degree in retail in May. Paulk and Campbell are the second and third Gamecocks to have a sixth year of eligibility granted in the Spurrier Era, joining former tight end Andy Boyd.
ALLEN SPURS D: Senior Spur Antonio Allen had the best game of his Gamecock career in the season opener against East Carolina. He was credited with a game-high 16 tackles, doubling his previous career high, and the most for a Gamecock since Jonathan Martin logged 17 at LSU in the 2002 season. Allen also forced two fumbles and recovered a pair, including a strip that he took 25 yards to paydirt. He came back with six tackles against Georgia and intercepted a pass, returning it 25 yards for a score. After two games, he is Carolina’s top tackler with 22 stops. He has also been credited with an interception, two forced fumbles (tied for the SEC lead) and two fumble recoveries (leads the SEC).
ALLEN FINDS THE END ZONE: Antonio Allen can find the endzone when he gets a turnover. The senior Spur has scored in three straight regular season games, returning an interception for TD against Clemson in the final regular season game of the 2010 season, before returning a fumble for six against East Carolina and an interception for another score at Georgia this season.
DOUBLE DIGITS TACKLES: Antonio Allen (16) and Stephon Gilmore (10) were both credited with double digits in tackles against ECU. Interestingly enough, no Gamecock had 10 or more tackles in a game during the entire 2010 season.
SHAQ IS BACK: The Gamecocks welcome the return of linebacker Shaq Wilson. Wilson, a 5-11, 223-pound junior from Jacksonville, Fla. led the team in tackles as a sophomore in 2009, but saw action in just one game last season, due to a hamstring injury suffered the first day of preseason drills. He played in the regular season game at Auburn and accounted for seven tackles and recovered two fumbles, but re-aggravated the hamstring injury and did not play again. He was credited with four tackles in the opener against ECU and recovered a fumble. He had six stops in the win at Georgia.
IN THE SECONDARY: The Gamecocks feature a talented group in the secondary, led by All-SEC performer and third-team All-American Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore, a 6-1, 193-pound junior from Rock Hill, S.C., led the team in tackles a season ago with 79. He logged 10 tackles in the opener against East Carolina. He had four stops against Georgia, and also scooped up a fumble and rambled 56 yards, setting up a Carolina score. D.J. Swearinger, a 5-10, 208-pound strong safety is the other awards candidate in the secondary. He is considered the hardest hitter in the defensive backfield and recorded 66 tackles last year. He had seven stops against Georgia and has a dozen this season.
GILMORE DOES IT ALL: Gamecock cornerback Stephon Gilmore was one of only six players to earn first-team All-SEC honors by either the Associated Press or Coaches and also be named to the 2010 Fall Academic Honor Roll. The others were Alabama offensive guard Barrett Jones, Florida punter Chas Henry, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, Auburn center Ryan Pugh and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.
D-LINE AMONG THE BEST: The Gamecocks boast what many believe is one of the top defensive lines in college football. Devin Taylor, a 6-7, 260-pound junior, anchors one side of the line. Taylor was a first-team All-SEC selection a year ago after recording 13.0 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks. Fifth-year senior Melvin Ingram is listed as the starter on the other side, but can also move into the middle. The 6-2, 276-pounder from Hamlet, N.C. led the Gamecocks in sacks last season with 9.0. The man in the middle is fifth-year senior Travian Robertson. One of the strongest players on the team, Robertson has made 21 career starts among his 45 games played over the past five seasons. The nation’s top recruit, Jadeveon Clowney, joins the defensive line corps this season, and has already made an immediate impact as well.
SEND IN THE CLOWNEY: Freshman sensation Jadeveon Clowney made his much anticipated debut a success. The phenom from Rock Hill, S.C. was in the starting lineup, the first true freshman to start on the D-line at Carolina since Travian Robertson in 2007. Clowney finished the opener with seven tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. At Georgia, he was credited with just two tackles, but both were sacks, the first two of his career, including one late in the game that forced a fumble that Melvin Ingram scooped and scored, sealing the win.
COMING UP ACES: Sophomore Ace Sanders returned just one punt against East Carolina, but it paid big dividends, as he scooted 68 yards for a score. It was the first kickoff or punt return for a touchdown for the Gamecocks during the Steve Spurrier Era, and was a nice way for new special teams coach John Butler to get started. Sanders became the first Gamecock to return a punt for a TD since Chavez Donnings went 73 yards against Florida in 2003.
HARD TO BELIEVE BUT…: Ace Sanders’ 68-yard punt return against ECU gave the Gamecocks three more yards in punt returns than they had during the entire 14-game season of 2010. Last year Sanders, Stephon Gilmore and the “Team” combined on 19 punt returns for just 65 yards.
JUST FOR KICKS: The Gamecocks have a new punter and a new placekicker this season, replacing Spencer Lanning, who held both duties last year. Senior Jay Wooten won the placekicking battle. The senior from Laurinburg, N.C., has previous experience, as he kicked for North Carolina during the 2008 season, going 4-for-6 in field attempts and was successful on all 11 extra point tries. He was not asked to attempt a field goal in the opener against East Carolina, but converted all eight of his extra point attempts. He came up big in the win at Georgia, nailing a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, along with all six extra points. He is averaging 8.5 points per game, tied for fifth among the kickers in the SEC.
THE PUNTER: The starting punting duties was a closely contested, with Joey Scribner-Howard and Patrick Fish batting toe-to-toe. Scribner-Howard, a senior from Irmo who gained experience kicking for Carson-Newman College in 2007 and `08 and as a kickoff specialist for Carolina in 2010, won the job and averaged 31.8 yards on four punts in the opener, but did not allow any return yardage. He upped his game at Georgia, averaging 44.8 yards per punt on six punts, including a career-long 59 yarder and three inside the 20.
IN THE POLLS: The Gamecocks opened the 2011 season ranked 12th in both major polls. It’s the highest the Gamecocks had been ranked to start a season in school history. Previously, they have been ranked six times in the preseason poll by the Associated Press. They were No. 14 in 1959, No. 17 in both 1970 and 1985; 19th in 1988, 21st in 2001 and 22nd in 2002. they move up to No. 10 in the A.P. and 11th in the coaches’ poll this week, the highest they have been since they were ranked sixth in the land with a 6-1 record in October 2007.
CAPTAIN OF THE SHIP: The Gamecocks have named individual game captains this season: East Carolina: Terrence Campbell, Melvin Ingram, Kenny Miles, Travian Robertson Georgia: Antonio Allen, Bruce Ellington, Stephen Garcia, Rokevious Watkins
NON-CONFERENCE NUGGET: The Gamecocks four non-conference opponents in 2011, East Carolina, Navy, The Citadel and Clemson, also all appeared on Carolina’s schedule in both 1984 and ’85. The Gamecocks went 3-1 against those four in 1984 (losing at Navy) and 3-1 again in 1985 (losing to Clemson). Of course, in both 1984 and `85, Carolina was not affiliated with a conference.
FIRST START: Six Gamecocks made their first career collegiate starts in the opener against East Carolina. The six included Reginald Bowens, A.J. Cann, Jadeveon Clowney, Jimmy Legree, Connor Shaw and Dalton Wilson. In the Georgia contest, Aldrick Fordham and Ace Sanders both made their initial collegiate start.
FRESH START: Nine true freshmen saw action for South Carolina in the season opener. That list included Rory Anderson, Shon Carson, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Harris, Kadetrix Marcus, Mike Matulis, Kelcy Quarles, Brandon Shell and Brandon Wilds.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: The Gamecocks return 81 percent of their rushing yards, 100 percent of their passing yards and 79 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. In addition, eight of the squad’s top 10 tacklers return for the 2011 campaign.
3000-1000-1000: The Gamecocks (along with SMU) are one of only two teams in the country that can claim a returning 3,000-yard passer (Stephen Garcia), a 1,000-yard rusher (Marcus Lattimore) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Alshon Jeffery).
THEY’RE BACK: The Gamecocks welcome 45 letterwinners back to begin the 2011 season. The 45 lettermen consist of 20 offensive players, 21 defensive players and four specialists.
SQUAD BREAKDOWN: The Gamecocks have 111 players listed on their 2011 fall roster. The squad breakdown consists of 16 seniors, 26 juniors, 19 sophomores, 14 redshirt freshmen and 36 true freshmen.
RETURNING STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 13 returning starters from the 2010 squad (seven on offense, six on defense and no specialists). The returning offensive starters are QB Stephen Garcia, WR Alshon Jeffery, OC T.J. Johnson, TB Marcus Lattimore, WR D.L. Moore, LT Kyle Nunn and RG Rokevious Watkins. The returning defensive starters include SPUR Antonio Allen, FS Akeem Auguste, CB Stephon Gilmore, SS DeVonte Holloman, DT Travian Robertson and DE Devin Taylor.
EVERY TIME OUT: The Gamecocks had 10 players start all 14 games a year ago. Of the 10, only LB Josh Dickerson, WR Tori Gurley and DE Cliff Matthews will not return for the 2011 campaign. Those returning players who started every contest a year ago include QB Stephen Garcia, CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Alshon Jeffery, OC T.J. Johnson, DT Travian Robertson, DE Devin Taylor and OG Rokevious Watkins.
THE TALL AND SHORT OF IT: The Gamecocks boast several tall receivers in their rotation, including three players listed at 6-4 in Alshon Jeffery, Jason Barnes and D.L. Moore. Several are also more diminutive, including three that are listed at 5-9 in Bruce Ellington, Nick Jones and Damiere Byrd, along with Ace Sanders, who measures in at 5-7.
THE BUTLER DID IT: The Gamecocks made one significant coaching change during the offseason with Shane Beamer leaving for his alma mater, Virginia Tech, to coach with his dad, head coach Frank Beamer. To replace Beamer, Spurrier tabbed former Minnesota Golden Gopher special teams coordinator John Butler to take over those similar duties with the Gamecocks. He will also assist with the Spurs. Butler came highly recommended by strength & conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, as the two coached together at Harvard.
COACHING SHUFFLE: Jeep Hunter moved from the offensive side of the ball where he was responsible for the tight ends, to the defensive side, where he will coach the safeties. Jay Graham, who has mentored the Gamecock running backs, adds the tight ends to his list of duties. Steve Spurrier Jr. was given the added responsibilities of recruiting coordinator with Beamer’s departure. Spurrier Jr. will continue to coach the wide receivers and is the team’s passing game coordinator. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward focuses on the cornerbacks after coaching that group along with the free safeties a year ago.
IN THE BOOTH: Steve Spurrier Jr. and Jeep Hunter have been coaching from the press box this season. In addition, Ellis Johnson worked in the booth in the opener and Lorenzo Ward took that position at Georgia.
RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off another successful February signing day. They inked defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from South Pointe High School in South Carolina, who many consider the nation’s number 1 prospect. Overall, the Gamecocks signed 32 players to National Letters of Intent, including four who count against last year’s list. The Gamecocks have put together seven consecutive classes that rank among the nation’s top 25, according to Rivals.com.
MR. FOOTBALL: The Gamecocks have signed the last three “Mr. Football” winners in the state of South Carolina: Stephon Gilmore in 2009, followed by Marcus Lattimore in 2010 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2011.
ENROLLING EARLY: The Gamecocks welcomed freshman Martay Mattox into the fold this spring. Mattox graduated from Clarke Central High in Athens, Ga. in December, enrolled at Carolina in January and went through his first spring drills. Mattox became the 11th freshman since Coach Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia to enter college earlier than the norm. Clark Gaston did so in 2006, while Stephen Garcia and Travian Robertson arrived in January of 2007. Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson all went through spring drills in 2008 after graduating from high school in the previous December. In 2009, Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman made the early leap from high school to college. Quarterback Connor Shaw made the leap in 2010.
IN THE CLASSROOM: The Gamecocks have been impressive in the classroom of late. The squad placed 31 players on the 2010 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll while posting a team GPA of 2.779, the program’s highest GPA on record. They followed that up with a spring GPA of 2.711. Those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Jacob Baker, Jason Barnes, Payton Brady, Billy Byrne, Andrew Clifford, Stephon Gilmore, Walker Inabinet, Damario Jeffery, T.J. Johnson, Rodney Paulk, Travian Robertson, Seth Strickland, Dalton Wilson, Jay Wooten and Adam Yates.
DONNING THE CAP AND GOWN: Five returning Gamecocks have received their degrees from the University. Those who have their diplomas in hand include Terrence Campbell (retail), Stephen Garcia (sociology), Byron McKnight (criminal justice), Rodney Paulk (marine science) and Travian Robertson (criminal justice).
THE DAWG POUND: The Gamecocks will get their fill of Bulldogs this season, as three of their opponents have that nickname. Carolina faces the Georgia Bulldogs, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and The Citadel Bulldogs this season.
THE SCHEDULE: Carolina opened the 2011 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte against East Carolina on Sept. 3. That game marked the squad’s third-straight tilt at a neutral site, following a pair of appearances in the Georgia Dome to end the 2010 season – the SEC Championship against eventual national champion Auburn and the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Florida State. The SEC opener was Sept. 10 in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs in a key early season Eastern Division showdown. Carolina is home for four straight contests, with the home opener set for Sept. 17 against Navy. Three-straight SEC home contests follow, with Vanderbilt, Auburn and Kentucky all making their way to Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks then go on the road for three-straight SEC showdowns over the next four weeks with trips to Mississippi State and Tennessee separated by an off week, followed by a trip to Arkansas. The final three games of the regular season will take place in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium, as Florida, The Citadel and Clemson venture to Columbia in November.
BOWL GAME PARTICIPANTS: For the second straight season, 10 of the Gamecocks’ 11 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents are coming off bowl games. Vanderbilt is the lone FBS school on the slate that did not participate in a bowl game last season.
ROTATING ON AND OFF: With the rotation schedule of SEC West opponents, the Gamecocks drop Alabama from their schedule and pick up Mississippi State for the next two seasons. The Gamecocks will play in Starkville on Oct. 15. The Bulldogs will return the trip to Columbia during the 2012 campaign.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks are 1-0 in non-conference action this season after going 4-1 in non-league games in 2010. They won all of their regular season non-conference games in 2010 for the second-straight year before falling in the bowl game. They are 22-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 20 of their last 25 non-SEC tilts. The year-by-year breakdown: 2005 (2-2); 2006 (5-0); 2007 (3-1); 2008 (3-2); 2009 (4-1); 2010 (4-1); 2011 (1-0). They have a regular season winning streak over non-conference opponents of nine games. South Carolina’s last regular season non-conference loss came over 1,000 days ago, at Clemson in 2008.
RECAPPING 2010: South Carolina finished the 2010 season with a 9-5 record overall, including a 5-3 mark in SEC play. The Gamecocks captured the SEC Eastern Division and played in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta for the first time in school history. They finished the season ranked 22nd in both major polls, the first time they have finished the season in the nation’s top 25 since the end of the 2001 season. The Gamecocks won nine games for just the third time in school history. They got off to a 3-0 start, including a win over nationally-ranked Georgia, before falling for the first time at eventual national champion Auburn. Carolina rebounded to knock off the top-ranked team in the country in Alabama, the Gamecocks’ first win ever over a top-ranked squad. After an upset loss at Kentucky, South Carolina won five of its next six contests, including its first win in “The Swamp” against Florida and a win in Death Valley against Clemson, the second year in a row the Gamecocks have defeated their instate rival.
THE BEAST OF THE EAST: Prior to South Carolina’s victory over Florida, only the Gators, Georgia and Tennessee had ever won the SEC Eastern Division. In addition to becoming the fourth-different SEC East team to head to Atlanta, the Gamecocks defeated the Gators, Vols and Bulldogs in the same season for the first time in school history.
ORANGE CRUSHED: South Carolina swept through the “Orange Crush” portion of its schedule with a perfect 3-0 record against Tennessee, Florida and Clemson, beating all three teams in the same season for the first time in school history. Only twice before had the Gamecocks managed a 2-1 mark in the season-ending stretch: the Gamecocks beat Tennessee and Clemson but lost to Florida in 1992, and Carolina earned victories over the Vols and Gators in 2005 before falling in the season finale to the Tigers.
GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks dropped a 26-17 decision to ACC runnerup Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. The game swung the Seminoles’ way when Gamecock freshman standout Marcus Lattimore was injured early in the contest and was not able to return. Statistically the Gamecocks dominated much of the game, gaining 414 yards to FSU’s 308, but five Carolina turnovers proved to be too much to overcome.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks said goodbye to 22 lettermen from last year’s bowl roster, including 11 starters. The departing starters include LG Garrett Chisolm, FB/TE Patrick DiMarco, RT Hutch Eckerson and WR Tori Gurley on the offensive side of the ball and DT Ladi Ajiboye, CB Chris Culliver, LB Josh Dickerson, DE Cliff Matthews and LB Tony Straughter on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, the Gamecocks lost P/PK Spencer Lanning and DS Charles Turner.
WINNING MORE OFTEN PART I: South Carolina won nine games for the third time in school history (and eight or more for just the 10th time) in 2010. But more impressive is the fact that the Gamecocks had 29 wins over a four-year period (2007-10), the best four-year win total in school history. The Gamecocks had managed four-year stretches of 28 wins on three occasions – the 1990, 2008 and 2009 senior classes all experienced a 28-win career.
WINNING MORE OFTEN PART II: The Gamecocks have posted three-straight winning seasons and seven-consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record. The Gamecocks went 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 6-6 in 2007, and 7-6 in both 2008 and 2009 before logging a 9-5 record in 2010. The team has now equaled a school-record stretch from 1928-34 in which the Gamecocks had seven-straight seasons at .500 or better.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: South Carolina averaged 76,668 fans for its seven home games at Williams-Brice Stadium last season, ranking 18th in the nation in average home attendance. The largest crowd came on Oct. 9 as 82,993 fans packed Williams-Brice Stadium to witness the historic Gamecock upset of No. 1 Alabama. That crowd was the 19th-biggest in Williams-Brice Stadium history and the largest since 83,704 were on hand for the Gamecocks’ contest against then-No. 2 Georgia in 2008.
WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least four overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return to SEC action on Saturday, Sept. 24, when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores in an Eastern Division matchup. South Carolina leads the all-time series over Vandy by a 16-4 margin, including a 7-2 mark at Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina has won each of the last two contests, including a 21-7 win in Nashville last season.
FOURTH QUARTER COMEBACKS: The Gamecocks rallied for a fourth quarter come-from-behind win on Saturday at Georgia. It was the fourth time the squad has done so under Head coach Steve Spurrier. Here are the occasions:
2005: SC trails at Tennessee, 15-13 after a UT field goal with 7:39 to play. Carolina gets 49-yard field goal from Josh Brown to win 16-15.
2008: SC trails 17-14 at Kentucky after three quarters. Ryan Succop kicks a 42-yard field goal to tie it at the 11:58 mark, then Weslye Saunders catches a 7-yard pass from Stephen Garcia at the 7:08 mark for the 24-17 win.
2011: SC trails 35-31 after a Georgia touchdown with 6:28 to play. Marcus Lattimore gives the Gamecocks the lead at the 3:28 mark, then Melvin Ingram scoops and scores on a fumble recovery in a 45-42 win.