The South Carolina Gamecocks had a disappointing 2014 season, going 7-6 after starting the year as the favorites to win the SEC East. QB Dylan Thompson and RB Mike Davis are gone, but the Gamecocks still have plenty of talent on their roster. Here's the outlook for South Carolina's upcoming season.
There's uncertainty under center in Columbia for the first time since Connor Shaw took over for Stephen Garcia, and whoever is tasked with replacing Thompson will also likely determine South Carolina's success in 2015. The favorite is Connor Mitch, who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall and was the backup last year, but former walk-on Perry Orth will give him some competition. Both have the ability to run the ball, but Mitch prefers to sit in the pocket.
Davis' departure to the NFL leaves more carries for seniors Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson. Both guys have a lot of experience, but haven't had the opportunity to be the full-time feature back. Wilds ran for 570 yards and four touchdowns on 106 carries last year, while Carson ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns serving primarily as the kickoff returner. Sophomore David Williams will also see some touches, but Wilds and Carson will provide the offense with some stability.
The Gamecocks will only have one senior on their offensive line in Brandon Shell, but they have plenty on size and players that are eager to prove themselves. The line was supposed to be the strength of the 2014 team, but like season as whole, they largely failed to reach expectations. They have talent, and they'll be motivated to prove themselves in 2015.
Shaq Roland isn't returning to South Carolina, and Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones have graduated. That leaves Pharoh Cooper - arguably the Gamecocks best offensive player last year - as the lone returning wideout with a lot of experience. The tight ends are in the same boat with Jerell Adams, meaning South Carolina will have to rely on young, unproven weapons.
The defensive line was one of the worst in the country last season, and they often failed to get any sort of pressure on the opposing quarterback. To make matters worse, the unit's best player, J.T. Surratt, graduated. Darius English and both Gerald Dixon's are experienced and will lead the unit in 2015, but they have to greatly improve and play with an intensity they didn't have last year.
This unit will be the heart and soul of the Gamecock defense once again. Skai Moore, T.J. Holloman, and Jordan Diggs lead a group of extremely talented juniors that just weren't able to put it all together last year. If they can prove last year was just a sophomore slump, South Carolina will be much improved in 2015.
As bad as the defensive line played last year, the secondary was even worse. Six true freshman saw time in 2014, and their inexperience was exposed. Those players, led by Al Harris, Jr., were all high-level recruits and are talented, so if they can learn from their mistakes and fix them, this unit could actually turn into a strength.
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