Sept. 30, 2011
SETTING THE STAGE
The No. 10/9 South Carolina Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0 SEC) put their undefeated record on the line when they host the defending national champion Auburn Tigers (3-1, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday, Oct. 1. Game time is set for 3:30 pm with CBS televising the game nationwide. The game sponsor is Little Caesars. The Gamecocks are off to a 4-0 start for the first time under Steve Spurrier. The last time South Carolina began the season 4-0 was in the 2001 season when they opened with five straight wins before finishing with a 9-3 mark under head coach Lou Holtz.
The Gamecocks will wear custom Under Armour uniforms to support the Wounded Warrior Project’s “Believe in Heroes” campaign. The effort is to raise awareness for this great cause, and honor our troops, veteran’s and those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
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 547-541-44.
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 2010 National Champion Auburn Tigers make their way to Columbia for the first time since the 2006 season. Auburn is off to a 3-1 start this season, outscoring Utah State, 42-38, and Mississippi State, 41-34, before dropping a non-conference game at Clemson, 38-24. They rebounded last week with a convincing 30-14 win over Florida Atlantic. Gene Chizik is in his third season guiding the Tiger fortunes.
S.C. VS. AUBURN: The Gamecocks have defeated the Auburn Tigers just once and have one tie in 10 tries. That lone win came back in the 1933 season, a 16-14 victory in a game played in Birmingham. Auburn defeated South Carolina twice last season, a 35-27 decision in Auburn on Sept. 25, then a 56-17 verdict in Atlanta in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 4. Since South Carolina joined the SEC in the 1992 season, Auburn has defeated Carolina in all six matchups.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Cam Newton passed for a career-high 335 yards and four touchdowns, plus ran for a pair of TDs in an MVP performance that led No. 2 Auburn (13-0) to the SEC championships with a 56-17 win over the 18th-ranked Gamecocks (9-4). Marcus Lattimore carried 16 times for a game-high 84 yards, while Stephen Garcia hit on 16-of-28 passes for 170 yards to lead Carolina.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 48-33 mark in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list and fourth in games coached at South Carolina, one behind Jim 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 190-73-2 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. AUBURN: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 10-7 all-time record against Auburn, including an 0-4 mark as head coach at South Carolina. He has lost his last five decisions to the Tigers since a 28-6 win in the 2000 SEC Championship Game.
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 16-2 in its last 18 home games.
FAST TIMES: The Gamecocks are off to a 4-0 start for just the eighth time in school history and for the first time since the 2001 season.
FAST START IN THE SEC: The Gamecocks are 2-0 in SEC play for just the third time in their 20-year history in the league. They opened 2-0 in 2000 with home wins over Georgia and Mississippi State before losing at Alabama. That squared improved to 5-1 in conference action before finishing at 5-3. In 2001 the Gamecocks opened with wins at Georgia, at Mississippi State, vs. Alabama and at Kentucky to go to 4-0 in SEC play before losing at Arkansas and finishing 5-3 in league action. The Gamecocks have finished SEC play with a 5-3 mark four times (2000, 2001, 2005 and 2010). They have never been 6-2 or better.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks used a suffocating defense to stymie the previously undefeated Vanderbilt Commodores in a 21-3 win last Saturday night in Columbia. The Gamecock defense held Vandy to just five first downs and 77 total yards on 48 plays (1.6 yards/play), including 4 yards on 25 rushing attempts. SEC Defensive Player of the Week Melvin Ingram scored his third TD of the season, recovering a fumble in the end zone to put Carolina on top, 7-3. Marcus Lattimore added two touchdowns, a 52-yard reception right before intermission, and a 22-yard scamper in the third quarter to put the game away.
SHUT DOWN DEFENSE: The Gamecocks held Vanderbilt to just five first downs, four yards rushing and 77 yards of total offense, easily the best marks in the seven-year stint of head coach Steve Spurrier in Columbia. It was the fewest yards the Gamecocks have allowed in a game since surrendering 66 in a 30-0 win at Wake Forest in 1987. The Gamecocks also held Vandy to just 1-of-14 on third-down conversions.
NO DRIVE: Vanderbilt had 14 possessions in Saturday’s contest, ending with nine punts, two fumbles, one interception, one field goal, and one end of half. Of the 14 possessions, only two lasted more than four plays and only one netted more than nine yards. Taking away a nine-play, 37-yard drive in the second quarter that ended in a punt, Vandy logged just 40 yards on 39 plays.
SCORING MACHINE: Defensive end Melvin Ingram may have been the forgotten defensive end in the preseason with all the hype given to returning All-SEC performer Devin Taylor and the arrival of the nation’s top recruit, Jadeveon Clowney, but Ingram has made his presence felt. The senior from Hamlet, N.C. scored his third touchdown of the season against Vanderbilt when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. Ingram also had 3.0 tackles for loss including a pair of sacks against Vanderbilt, and broke up one pass. He also scored on a fake punt and on a fumble recovery against Georgia. With 18 points, he is tied for third on the squad with quarterback Stephen Garcia, behind only Marcus Lattimore and placekicker Jay Wooten. He is 10th on the Gamecocks’ all-time list with 13.5 career sacks.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: The Carolina defense and special teams have been responsible for six touchdowns this season. Defensive end Melvin Ingram has scored three times, a 68-yard run on a fake punt and a five-yard fumble return, both at Georgia, and a fumble recovery in the end zone against Vanderbilt; Spur Antonio Allen has scored twice, a 25-yard fumble return against ECU and a 25-yard interception return against Georgia; and Ace Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return against East Carolina. The Gamecocks scored six defensive touchdowns all last season.
GETTING 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. He has logged seven 100-yard rushing games in 17 contests. The great Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers played 26 games before registering his seventh-career 100-yard rushing game. Lattimore has eight rushing touchdowns this season and 25 in his career, sixth on the Gamecocks’ all-time list and just six away from the top spot. With 28 career touchdowns (including three receiving), he has tied for third in career touchdowns in school history with Brandon Bennett and Cory Boyd and is just five away from the record.
AMONG THE BEST: Marcus Lattimore checks in as the nation’s third-leading rusher this week with 611 yards in four games, an average of 152.75 yards per game.
MORE MISCELLANEOUS ON MARCUS:
* Marcus Lattimore leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 152.8 yards per game. That is over 40 yards per game ahead of his nearest competitor, Alabama’s Trent Richardson.
* Lattimore is the only non-quarterback list among the SEC’s top-10 in total offense. He ranks 10th in the league with 152.8 yards per contest.
* Lattimore is tied for first in the SEC and tied for fifth in the nation in points per game, averaging 13.5 per contest on his nine touchdowns in four games.
* Lattimore has scored nine of Carolina’s 14 offensive touchdowns this season.
* Lattimore ranks first in the SEC in all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, punt returns and kickoff returns) at 187.5 yards 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.
* Lattimore has garnered 71 percent of the Carolina rushing yards this season and has scored eight of the 12 rushing touchdowns.
* Lattimore is the Gamecocks’ second-leading receiver with 12 catches for 139 yards, including the season’s longest reception of 52 yards.
* Lattimore has rushed for 30 first downs this season.
GARCIA BACK IN THE BOX: Stephen Garcia has returned to the starting quarterback duties 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 and 16-of-30 for 228 yards against Vanderbilt.
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 20-13 in 33 career starts. Only Todd Ellis (24) and Steve Taneyhill (20) have won as many games as a starting quarterback for Carolina. For the season he has completed 54.7 percent of his passes for 684 yards and three touchdowns. Garcia is the SEC active leader in total offense, touchdown responsibility, pass completions, passing yards and touchdown passes.
GARCIA VS. AUBURN: Stephen Garcia is 0-2 in two starts against Auburn. He has completed 31-of-49 passes (63.3 percent) for 405 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
THIRD GAMECOCK TO 7K: 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 7,437 yards, ranking behind only Todd Ellis (9,953) and Steve Taneyhill (8,782).
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 eight games played make the list, including the 69-24 win over Troy late last season.
SLOW START, FAST FINISH: The Gamecocks have produced 146 points in the first four games (36.5 points per game), 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 four games and have been outscored 23-7 in the first stanza, but have outscored their opponents 52-31 in the second period, 49-21 in the third quarter and 38-28 in the fourth quarter. 87 of their 146 points (60 percent) have come after the break.
TRENDING ALSHON: Biletnikoff candidate Alshon Jeffery has been “held” to somewhat modest numbers in the first four 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 has been limited to just two catches for 35 and 34 yards in each of his last two games, against Navy and Vanderbilt, respectively, his fewest receptions in a game since South Carolina State held him to two catches in 2009. However, the junior wideout still leads the team with 14 catches for 246 yards, an average of 17.6 yards per catch. Thirteen of his 14 receptions have resulted in a first down. He has caught at least one pass in 27 straight games. In the win over Vanderbilt, Jeffery passed Sterling Sharpe (2,497) into second place on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,526 yards, trailing only Kenny McKinley (2,781). He is tied with Sidney Rice for the most 100-yard receiving games in school history with 11.
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 22.8 yards (fourth in the SEC) on nine returns. He also worked out of the “Wildcat” formation, rushing five times with a long rush of 14 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 four games this season. The O-line has combined for 90 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 31, followed by tackles Kyle Nunn (20) and Rokevious Watkins (18). Sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell has made 17 starts. Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann made his first career start against East Carolina and has started four 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.
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 36 (9.0 per game) which ranks in a tie for the fifth-highest mark in the SEC. He is tied for the conference lead and is tied for fifth in the country with three forced fumbles, leads the SEC and is tied for second in the nation with three fumble recoveries, and is tied for sixth 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. He had four tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Vanderbilt.
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 five 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.
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 23 career starts among his 47 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.
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. He had a pair of sacks and forced two fumbles in the win over Vanderbilt. For the season, he leads the SEC with 4.0 sacks, is tied for third with 5.0 tackles for loss, and is tied for first with three fumbles forced.
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 23 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, no Gamecock had 10 tackles in a game during the 2010 season.
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 nearly perfect this season, hitting on all 20 of his extra point attempts and nailing two of his three fields goal attempts – the difference in 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 6.5 points per game, ninth 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. He did not enter the game against Navy, as Carolina was not forced to punt, but the layoff did not hurt him, as he averaged 46.3 yards on three punts with a long of 56 against Vanderbilt. He ranks seventh in the SEC with a 41.2 yards per punt average. Three of his 13 punts have gone over 50 yards and four have been 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 Vanderbilt: Melvin Ingram, Marty Markett, Dalton Wilson, Shaq Wilson
COMEBACK KIDS: The Gamecocks have not scored first in a game this season and have posted two come-from-behind fourth quarter wins. 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.
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 this season. 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 have seen action for South Carolina this season That list included Rory Anderson, Shon Carson, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Harris, Kadetrix Marcus, Mike Matulis, Kelcy Quarles, Brandon Shell and Brandon Wilds. The Gamecocks look to add Damiere Byrd to that mix this week.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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 are averaging 77,911 through two games of the 2011 season. The Auburn, Florida and Clemson home games have already been declared sellouts.
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 fourth and final game of this four-game homestand and stay in conference action as they host the Kentucky Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday, Oct. 8. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 14-7-1, including a 6-3-1 mark in Columbia. Kentucky posted a 31-28 win in Lexington last season, snapping Carolina’s 10-game winning streak in the series. Head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 17-1 all-time record against Kentucky.