SEC 2016 Team Previews: #14. South Carolina Gamecocks 

Will Muschamp will rely heavily on true frosh QB, Brandon McIlwain, to find any season one success in Columbia.

Sports & Swag’s College Football Preview 2016 continues with the start of our SEC Team Previews. We’re doing it power rankings style. Counting it down, or up, however you want to look at it, from 14 to 1. Today we look at the projected 14th best team in the SEC, the South Carolina Gamecocks.

14. SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS – 2015: 3-9 (1-7 SEC)  Offensive Rank – 12th (21.9 ppg) – Defensive Rank – 13th (27.5 ppg)

2016 will be a season of many firsts for the South Carolina Gamecocks. For starters, it’s the first time in eleven seasons ‘The Old Ball Coach’, Steve Spurrier won’t grace the sidelines of Williams-Brice Stadium. Spurrier, resigned in the middle of last season, after the Gamecocks got off to a terrible start. As a result of that slow start, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Spurrier stepped down.

However, the timing was.

Spurrier, led the Gamecocks to their winningest era in school history, including three consecutive 11-win seasons from 2011-2013.

After the season, South Carolina then decided on Will Muschamp to lead the Gamecocks. Of course, this is by no means Muschamp’s first rodeo. But, it’s his first at South Carolina, and with only nine starters back from last season, the honeymoon’s already over.

Muschamp, once thought to be the successor for Mack Brown at Texas, is at his third stop (Florida – head coach, Auburn – Defensive coordinator) since leaving Austin in 2010. While, taking over for Urban Meyer was no small feat, taking over these Gamecocks will be tougher. Can Muschamp find success year one? Only time will tell.

For now, here’s a look at the 2016 South Carolina Gamecocks.

OFFENSE

Luckily, Muschamp may have his quarterback of the future already in the fold. Brandon McIlwain, a true freshman, who’s been on campus since January, looked impressive when he started the spring game. While, it’s not certain McIlwain will be named starter, he’s already the most talented QB on the squad.

Perry Orth, and Lorenzo Nunez have some experience. Orth, started for most of the year, but was quite ineffective at times. Both returning QB’S can mix run with pass well. But, neither is as dynamic as McIlwain.

Whomever the QB is, he’ll be taking over an offense that lost Pharoah Cooper and ranked only 12th in the league in scoring. At wide receiver, Cooper, in large part was South Carolina’s offense in 2015. Replacing him will be very difficult.
Sophomore wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, could be an answer. Samuel, only played in five games, but was very impressive against national runner-up Clemson to end the season. He racked up 104 receiving yards against the Tigers. Of course, that was with Cooper. Whether or not Samuel, or anyone can flourish as a lead receiver remains to be seen.

The running attack looks better than the passing attack . Brandon Wilds, the Gamecocks’ leading rusher is gone. So, now any success will depend on junior, David Williams. But, Williams looks capable, and either of the QB’S can help out in the run game as well. The Gamecocks have always been known for a solid run game. They’ll have an easier time figuring it out this season with a more experienced offensive line.

DEFENSE

The Gamecocks have struggled mightily the last two seasons. But, Muschamp should help them improve. Five starters return, including defensive end, Marquavius Lewis. A highly touted junior college transfer, Lewis was expected to make a big impact in 2015. He fell short of that, but still may be the Gamecocks best pass rusher.

The secondary has two returning seniors in corner, Rico Williams, and safety, Jordan Diggs. But, is that a good thing when South Carolina gave up a league worst 30.4 ppg in SEC games? Muschamp, is still one of the best defensive minds around. However, it will take some time for him turn this team around.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Gamecocks return two seniors for their kicking duties. Elliott Frye, was decent l(20-28) last year in field goals, and Sean Kelly averaged 40 yards per punt. Rashad Fenton, returns as the kick returner. Last season, as a freshman, Fenton averaged a respectable 26 yard per return.

SEASON OUTLOOK

The South Carolina Gamecocks have taken a huge fall the last couple of seasons. Once, looked as a premier contender year in, year out. Once, a team that trotted out top talent that could match anyone in the nation, the Gamecocks are now fighting to stay out of the basement of the SEC.

There is some hope, however. The schedule sets up decently in the aspect of not having to face Bama, Ole Miss, or LSU from the West. But, it’s conceivable the Gamecocks could lose their first six games. Three of which are on the road, against the East. Here’s the South Gamecocks 2015 schedule.

Date Opponent Result / Time
9/1 at Vanderbilt 8:00 ET
9/10 at Mississippi State 7:00 ET
9/17 vs. East Carolina 4:00 ET
9/24 at Kentucky TBA
10/1 vs. Texas A&M TBA
10/8 vs. Georgia TBA
10/22 vs. Massachusetts TBA
10/29 vs. Tennessee TBA
11/5 vs. Missouri TBA
11/12 at Florida TBA
11/19 vs. Western Carolina TBA
11/26 at Clemson TBA


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/sports/college/university-of-south-carolina/usc-football/#storylink=cpy

Winning at least one of those first three road games, and beating East Carolina is imperative. If not, the season will spiral out of control. Meaning a bowl game looks unlikely. Getting better should be the main goal for the 2016 South Carolina Gamecocks, anyway. If, they’re competitive and improve on 2015’s three wins, Muschamp will have had a successful first season as head coach.

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