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Sept. 23, 2011

SETTING THE STAGE: It’s a battle of two undefeated teams as the No. 12/10 South Carolina Gamecocks (3-0, 1-0 SEC) return to SEC action this week when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-0, 1-0 SEC). Game time is set for 7 pm with ESPN2 televising the game nationwide. The game sponsor is SCEL (South Carolina Education Lottery).


* The Gamecocks are off to a 3-0 start for the third time under Steve Spurrier. They were 3-0 in 2007 en route to a 6-6 season, and 3-0 in 2010 when they finished 9-5. In both of those years they droped their fourth game (at LSU and at Auburn, respectively). The last time South Carolina opened 4-0 was in the 2001 season when they got off to a 5-0 start before finishing with a 9-3 mark under head coach Lou Holtz.

* For the latest on Gamecock standouts Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery, check out and

* Coaching staff for both teams will be wearing the Coach to Cure MD patch for the game. Duchenne (pronounced doo-SHINN) Muscular Dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during early childhood. A progressive muscle disorder that causes loss of muscle function and independence, Duchenne affects approximately one out of every 3,500 boys and 20,000 babies born each year worldwide.

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 546-541-44.

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.

THIS WEEK’S FOE: The Vanderbilt Commodores provide this week’s competition. The `Dores are off to a 3-0 start after defeating Elon, 45-14, UConn, 24-21, and Ole Miss, 30-7. They are outscoring their opponents by an average score of 33-14. A stat that stands out? Vandy has picked off 10 passes this season, tops in the nation, including five against Ole Miss last week. James Franklin is in his first year guiding the Vanderbilt squad. Franklin is Vandy’s third coach in as many seasons, as long-time coach Bobby Johnson gave way to Robbie Caldwell for the 2010 campaign.

VS. VANDY: This is the 21st all-time meeting between Vanderbilt and South Carolina, with the Gamecocks holding a 16-4 advantage, including a 7-2 mark when the teams have met in Columbia and a 9-2 record when the games have been played in Nashville. Carolina won last year’s meeting, 21-7, and won the last time they met in Columbia, a 14-10 decision in 2009. Vandy’s four wins have come in back-to-back fashion both times – first in 1998 and `99, then again in 2007 and `08. Their four wins have been by a combined total of 22 points. The teams met just once (1961) before they became SEC Eastern Division rivals beginning in 1992. Of the Division I FBS opponents against whom the Gamecocks have at least 10 all-time meetings, Carolina has its best winning percentage against Vanderbilt at .800.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Brian Maddox rushed for a career-high 146 yards and the game-clinching touchdown to lead No. 19 South Carolina to a hard-fought 21-7 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville on Oct. 23, 2010. Tori Gurley had a career night with 14 catches for 112 yards, but the Gamecocks didn’t put the game away until Stephen Garcia hit Alshon Jeffery on a 72-yard bomb midway through the fourth quarter. Jeffery finished with nine catches for 158 yards. Garcia finished the night by completing 31-of-39 passes for 355 yards, as Carolina outgained the `Dores, 484-250. THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 47-33 mark in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list, two ahead of Jim Carlen, and fourth in games coached at South Carolina, two behind Carlen. 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 189-73-2 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. VANDERBILT: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 16-2 all-time record against Vanderbilt, including a 4-2 mark as head coach at South Carolina. He was a perfect 10-0 against the Commodores while head coach at Florida from 1990-2001, and bested Vanderbilt twice in 1987 and 1988 while head coach at Duke. The only team Coach Spurrier has defeated more often than Vanderbilt in his career is Kentucky (17-1).

HOME COOKIN: The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. In each of the past two seasons (2009 and `10), 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 15-2 in its last 17 home games. ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks used a record-setting performance from Marcus Lattimore to sink the Navy Midshipmen, 24-21, in the home opener at Williams-Brice Stadium last Saturday night. Lattimore carried 37 times for a career-best 246 yards and three touchdowns, leading Carolina to the win. Lattimore’s performance earned him co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors by the SEC, and national Offensive Player of the Week honors by The Gamecocks, with 254 rushing yards, nearly matched the nation’s top rushing team on the ground (274 yards), and also passed for 204 yards, compared to just 61 for Navy. Jay Wooten’s 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half provided the margin of victory. The Gamecock defense stepped up when they needed to, holding Navy to just 35 yards on 14 plays in the decisive fourth quarter. Antonio Allen sealed the win with an interception in the final minute, ending Navy’s comeback chances. It was the Gamecocks’ fifth-straight win in a home opener.

STAYING PERFECT: The win over Navy kept Steve Spurrier’s record against schools outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences perfect at 43-0 (17-0 since coming to South Carolina). He can extend that streak when Carolina hosts the Citadel on Nov. 19.

MORE FROM LATTI: 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. After the Navy outburst (37 carries for a career-high 246 yards), he owns seven career 100-yard rushing games, with five of the seven going for 175 or more yards. It has taken him 16 games to log seven 100-yard rushing games. The great Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers played 26 games before registering his seventh-career 100-yard rushing game. Lattimore has seven rushing touchdowns this season and 24 in his career, sixth on the Gamecocks’ all-time list. With 26 career touchdowns (including two receiving), he has tied Jeff Grantz for sixth in career touchdowns in school history. For more stats on Lattimore, see page 13.


* Marcus Lattimore leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 178.0 yards per game. That is nearly 60 yards per game ahead of his nearest competitor, Auburn’s Michael Dyer.

* Lattimore is the only non-quarterback list among the SEC’s top-10 in total offense. He ranks eighth in the league with 178.0 yards per contest, just ahead of teammate Stephen Garcia.

* Lattimore is second in the SEC and tied for seventh in the nation in points per game, averaging 14.0 per contest on his seven rushing touchdowns in three games.

* Lattimore ranks first in the SEC in all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns) at exactly 200.0 per game.

* Lattimore has three 100-yard rushing games this season and seven in his career. He ranks ninth on the South Carolina list for 100-yard rushing games in a career.

COMEBACK KIDS: The Gamecocks have posted two come-from-behind fourth quarter wins in their last two games. They rallied from a 35-31 deficit at Georgia to win 45-42, then trailed Navy, 21-17, in the fourth quarter before Marcus Lattimore’s third TD of the game lifted Carolina to the win. Previously, South Carolina had won only three games in fourth quarter, come-from-behind fashion during the Spurrier Era. Here are the specifics of the fourth-quarter rallies:

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 with 7:08 remaining for the 24-17 win.

2009: SC trails Vanderbilt 10-7 after three quarters. Stephen Garcia connects with Alshon Jeffery on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 12:51 left on the clock in a 14-10 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.

2011: SC trails Navy, 21-17 after three quarters, but Marcus Lattimore scores from 7-yards out with 12:45 to play and the Gamecock defense limits Navy to 35 yards in the final stanza for the win. Navy had been 24-0 under head coach Ken Niumatalolo when leading after three quarters.

NOTHING FOR JOEY: Senior punter Joey Scribner-Howard did not get into the Navy contest, as Carolina did not punt in the game. In a game with limited possessions, South Carolina scored three touchdowns, kicked one field goal, turned it over on downs twice, threw an interception and had the clock run out at the end of the game. It’s the first time the Gamecocks did not punt in a contest since their 23-13 win over Wofford (also an option attack) on Sept. 20, 2008.

ALLEN SPURS D: While many other Gamecock defenders receive the accolades, senior Spur Antonio Allen is having a whale of a final campaign. He leads the team in tackles with 32 (10.7 per game) which ranks in a tie for the third-highest mark in the SEC. He leads the conference and is tied for third in the country with three forced fumbles, leads the SEC with two fumble recoveries, and is tied for third in the league with two interceptions. Allen had the best game of his career in the season opener against East Carolina. He logged a game-high 16 tackles, doubling his previous career high, and the most for a Gamecock since Jonathan Martin had 17 at LSU in 2002. 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. He led the team with 10 tackles in the win over Navy, was credited with a forced fumble and sealed the game with an interception in the final minute.

ALLEN FINDS THE END ZONE: Antonio Allen can find the endzone when he gets a turnover. The senior Spur has scored in three of the last four regular season games, returning an interception for TD against Clemson in the 2010 regular season finale, before returning a fumble for six against East Carolina and an interception for another score at Georgia this season.

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. He was 18-of-25 for 204 yards in the win over Navy.

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 charts below). He is 19-13 in 32 career starts. Only Todd Ellis (24) and Steve Taneyhill (20) have won more games as a starting quarterback for Carolina. For the season he has completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 456 yards and two touchdowns. 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 7,209 yards, ranking behind only Todd Ellis (9,953) and Steve Taneyhill (8,782).

GARCIA VS. THE `DORES: Stephen Garcia has had two excellent performances against Vanderbilt in his career. He owns a 2-0 record against the Commodores, hitting on 73.6 percent of his passes (53-for-72) for 667 yards (333.5 per game) with four touchdowns and one interception. He was 22-for-33 for 312 yards and two scores in the 2009 win in Columbia and was 31-for-39 for 355 yards and two TDs last year in Nashville.

MAKING A POINT: In the first two games of the 2011 season, the Gamecocks 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 ranks ninth all time. In fact, three of the last seven games played make the list, including the 69-24 win over Troy late last season.

SCORING AT WILL: It took the Gamecocks just two games to surpass the century mark in points scored this season. After three contests they have tallied 125 points or an average of 41.7 per game, which ranks second in the SEC and 16th 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 125 points in the first three games, but have scored just one time in the first-quarter – a TD run by Marcus Lattimore against Navy. The Gamecocks have given up the first score in all three games and have been outscored 20-7 in the first stanza, but have outscored their opponents 38-31 in the second period, 42-21 in the third quarter and 38-28 in the fourth quarter. 80 of their 125 points (64 percent) have come after the break.

TRENDING ALSHON: Biletnikoff candidate Alshon Jeffery has been “held” to somewhat modest numbers in the first three games. He logged five catches for 92 yards against ECU and came back with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown at Georgia. He was limited to just two catches for 35 yards against Navy, his fewest receptions in a game since South Carolina State held him to two catches in 2009. However, the junior wideout has nearly a third (12-of-39) of the Carolina receptions this season, and 44 percent (212-of-477) of the receiving yards. Eleven of his 12 receptions have resulted in a first down. He has caught at least one pass in 26 straight games. He ranks third on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,492 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. For more stats on Alshon, see page 12 of these notes.

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 21.9 yards (8th in the SEC) on seven 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 Gamecocks have used the same starting five along the offensive line in each of the three games this season. The O-line has combined for 85 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 30, followed by tackles Kyle Nunn (19) and Rokevious Watkins (17). Sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell has made 16 starts. Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann made his first career start against East Carolina and has started three games. Watkins is considered the best of the group by most, while Johnson is a Rimington candidate.

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.

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 is second on the team with 19 tackles.

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.

DOUBLE DIGITS TACKLES: Antonio Allen (16) and Stephon Gilmore (10) were both credited with double digits in tackles against East Carolina. Allen logged another 10 in the win over Navy. Interestingly enough, no Gamecock had 10 or more tackles in a game during the entire 2010 season.

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 22 career starts among his 46 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. He had three stops against Navy, including a half-tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.

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.

WOOTEN WOWS `EM: Senior Jay Wooten has been perfect this season, hitting on all 17 of his extra point attempts and nailing both fields goals – the difference in the last two games – with a 49-yarder at Georgia and a 48-yarder versus Navy. 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 is averaging 7.7 points per game, tied for seventh 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 dropped two spots in this week’s A.P. poll, but moved up one notch in the Coaches’ poll.

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 Navy: Justice Cunningham, Marty Markett, Devin Taylor, Jay Wooten

ROAD WARRIORS: 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).

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. Lamar Scruggs made his first collegiate start against Navy.

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.

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.

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: The Gamecocks returned 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).

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.

LEADING THE WAY: Center T.J. Johnson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore have started every game since the beginning of the 2009 season. They have each started 29 consecutive games.

IN THE BOOTH: Ellis Johnson, Steve Spurrier Jr. and Jeep Hunter coach from the press box.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 2-0 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 23-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 21 of their last 26 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 (2-0). They have a regular season winning streak over non-conference opponents of 10 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.

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 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. The Gamecocks drew 78,807 for the 2011 home opener against Navy.

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 play the third game of their four-game homestand and stay in conference as the defending national champion Auburn Tigers (2-1, 1-0 SEC) come to Columbia for the first time since the 2006 season. Auburn holds an 8-1-1 advantage in the all-time series between the two squads, including a pair of wins over the Gamecocks last season – 35-27 in Auburn on Sept. 25, and 56-17 in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4. Auburn has already lost once this season in the Palmetto State, as they dropped a 38-24 decision at Clemson on Sept. 17.