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I Wanna SEC You Up: The South Carolina Offense

Since we don't play South Carolina this year, I'm only doing a cursory overview of the offense, defense, and schedule because, well, who cares (other than Hack)?

The above picture is a blatant attempt at driving up the Google image search hits with the file name "cocksrock.jpg". For those of you that find us this way, shame on you.

And since Steve Spurrier is the head man in Columbia now, it's only fitting that we start off with the offense.

After leading the 'Cocks to back to back bowl berths in his first two years (the only SC coach to do so), Spurrier is looking to get South Carolina into the race for the East, and hopefully an SEC title, the first conference title for SC since their 1969 ACC title. Since most coaches generally hit their stride in year three with their own players now in the lineup, there's more than an outside chance that the OBC could pull it off. Despite the loss of scary good WR Sidney Rice and Syvelle Newton, who lined up at WR, QB, and TB last year, Spurrier has the players to take a shot at Atlanta, and are closer to a breakthrough than most would imagine. Last season shook out like this for the 'Cocks:

8/31 at Mississippi State 15-0
9/09 vs Georgia 0-18
9/16 vs Wofford 27-20
9/23 vs Florida Atlantic 45-6
9/28 vs Auburn 17-24
10/07 at Kentucky 24-17
10/21 at Vanderbilt 31-13
10/28 vs Tennessee 24-31
11/04 vs Arkansas 20-26
11/11 at Florida 16-17
11/18 vs Middle Tennessee State 52-7
11/25 at Clemson 31-28
12/29 vs Houston (Liberty Bowl) 44-36

After being shout out by Georgia in week two and a near embarassment to 1-AA Wofford the next Saturday, Spurrier put things together with decisive wins over Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee, and a quality Houston team in the Liberty Bowl, while also eeking out a squeaker in a come from behind victory at arch rival Clemson. But what was most impressive about last year's 'Cocks were their losses. Outside of the 18-0 loss to UGA, the 'Cocks were within a TD or less of upsetting the likes of Auburn (17-24), Tennessee (24-31), Arkansas (20-26), and at Florida, where SC was a blocked field goal or two away from upsetting the eventual national champions. Unsurprisingly, the offense was in the top half of the conference last year:

Category Rank
Scoring Offense 6th
Passing Offense 4th
Passing Efficiency 5th
Rushing Offense 6th
Total Offense 3rd
First Down 3rd
Red Zone Offense 8th

The 'Cocks only return 6 starters from last year's unit, but will still likely equal or top last year's production. Here's why:

QB Blake Mitchell
Mitchell lost the starting job to Newton early last season but returned later on, coming out after the half against Arkansas to rally the 'Cocks from a 23-6 deficit to 26-20. His late interception, though, sealed the deal for the Hawgs. Despite only starting half the season, he posted respectable numbers:
QBRat Comp Att % Yards Yds/G TDs Ints
98.8 135 202 66.8 1789 223.6 10 6
  If Mitchell, who's beginning his third season at the helm of Spurrier's offense, can stay healthy and in Spurrier's good graces, he could have a monster year. Of course, as Mitchell is keenly aware, Spurrier has a habit of benching starters, and the battle for No.2 should be interesting. Highly touted recruits Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher both saw action in mop up roles (and Smelly saw quality time against Mississippi State after Mitchell left the game shaken up) last season, and could very easily earn a starting nod during the season.

WR Kenny McKinley
Though Sidney Rice was the star on last year's team, junior Kenny McKinley quietly amassed 880 yards on 51 catches and scored five TDs, giving him the inside track to replace Rice as the go to guy. For him to be successful in his bid to replace Rice, he'll need another McKinley (or two or three, really, considering the pass oriented attack of Spurrier) to step up. Fortunately there are some good possibilities:

WR Larry Freeman
Freeman transferred from Pearl River Community College where he was ranked as the 42nd best JUCO player (3 star) by Rivals, and held offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.

WR Moe Brown
Brown saw only one start last season as a true freshman, when he caught 4 for 19 against Kentucky, and ended the season with 9 grabs for 74 yards.

WR Freddie Brown, III
Freddie Brown finished last season as the third receiver behind Rice and McKinley, starting 4 games and ending the season with 14 catches for 147 yards.

Despite the pass first mentality of Spurrier, the running game is always key for any team in the SEC. The 'Cocks have returning starter Cory Boyd in the backfield, and there isn't a better suited back for Spurrier's offense. He's a tough runner that can get an extra yard when it's needed, but he also has enough shift that he's always a threat to break a long run. Further, he's proven he can catch the ball out of the backfield, catching 35 for 406 last season.

Boyd in action.

Though they have the skill positions pretty well covered, of utmost importance for SC this season is to rebuild the O-Line. They'll have to replace three starters. LT Jamon Meredith (a junior with 17 starts under his belt) will help to anchor a line that has some starting experience, but they'll need some time to gel as a unit, a luxury they won't have with a trip to UGA in week two and LSU in week four.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the defense.