Saturday, July 15, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Will Muschamp era began in Columbia last fall to mixed reviews after the team finished 6-7 after a loss to USF in the Birmingham Bowl. In 2017, the story could be all about the offense, and the return of Skai Moore on defense. Can South Carolina build on getting to a bowl last season, and push the top three in the SEC East, or will they stay stuck in the middle?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jake Bentley emerged as the QB of the future in 2016, as he averaged 202.9 yards passing in seven games. He will be the starter from the word go this season. He completed 65.8% of his passes last fall, and could be a major breakout performer in the conference this fall.
The RB group could be a committee in 2017. Rico Dowdle returns after averaging 5.74 yards per carry last fall. He will be joined by North Carolina transfer Ty'Son Williams, who had a solid spring game, and AJ Turner. All three will be sophomores this season.
The receiving corps returns basically intact this season, which is a huge gain for the program. Deebo Samuel is the leader at WR, as he caught 59 passes for 783 yards last season. Bryan Edwards and KC Crosby are also back after they combined for 67 catches last fall. Hayden Hurst is also back at TE, and was the second leading receiver last fall with 48 receptions for 616 yards.
The line looks like they have the opportunity to improve massively over last season this fall with four returning starters in LT Malik Young, C Alan Knott, RG Cory Helms, and RT Zack Bailey all return.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
In what should be a banner season for the offense is marred only by the fact that the Gamecocks will be looking for a new PK. Elliott Fry is gone. The job will be handed over to freshman Alexander Wosnick in fall camp.
Even with the experience coming back on the line, the Gamecocks had the worst line in the SEC last season. That group should improve in a major way this fall, but cannot afford to slide backwards, or else what should be a great year on offense could break down.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Bryson Allen-Williams is back at one LB spot after finishing second on the team in tackles last fall with 75. He added 8.5 TFLs on the season, and should be a leader at a very important position. Even bigger news comes with the return of Skai Moore, who lost last season to injury. He is a three time tackling leader for the Gamecocks and returns an athletic element to the defense that the team was missing last fall.
The secondary returns a ton of experience, as four starters return in the 4-2-5 defensive set. Rashad Fenton, Jamarcus King, and Chris Lemmons all return at CB, and DJ Smith is back at FS. King finished with nine PBUs, Fenton added five, and Lemmons added six more last fall. Smith led the team in tackles with 80 last fall, but provides little in pass coverage. Steven Montac projects to start at SS.
What To be Concerned About: Defense
The line has some serious holes to fill, as two new starters must be found. DT Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones are the lone returning starters this fall at DT. Dante Sawyer will start at DE, and DJ Wonnum is projected to replace Darius English at the other DE spot, which is easier said than done.
South Carolina was terrible at creating pressure off the edge overall last season, and that needs to be rectified.
The Gamecocks are also seeking a new Punter in camp this fall, with sophomore Michael Almond projected to be the guy.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 NC State at Charlotte, 9/9 at Missouri, 9/16 Kentucky, 9/23 Louisiana Tech, 9/30 at Texas A&M, 10/7 Arkansas, 10/14 at Tennessee, 10/28 Vanderbilt, 11/4 at Georgia, 11/11 Florida, 11/18 Wofford, 11/25 Clemson
The Gamecocks look like they can make some major strides on offense this fall, but the major issues reside on offense, where South Carolina got hit up for 32 points per game during the second half of the season last year. The offense also only scored just over 20 points per game on the year last season. Look for the roles to flip, but the offense is still mostly young, even with several starters returning. The Gamecocks should have just enough talent to slide into the 4th spot in the SEC East, and I would consider that a sign of development, while the overall record may not change much.