2011 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (2nd in East)
2011 postseason: Capital One Bowl (30-13 win over Nebraska)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 9/No. 8
Head coach: Steve Spurrier (197-75-2 overall, 55-35 in seven seasons at South Carolina)
Offensive coordinator: Spurrier
2011 offensive rankings: 25th rushing offense (192.1 ypg); 95th passing offense (181.5 ypg); 74th total offense (373.5 ypg); 42nd scoring offense (30.1 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward (fifth season at South Carolina, fourth as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 45th rushing defense (136 ypg); 2nd passing defense (131.7 ypg); 3rd total defense (267.7 ypg); 11th scoring defense (18.4 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: six
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250; grass)
Last league title: 1969 (ACC)
2011 statistics: [view]
The Ol’ Ball Coach is back to being his “chatty” self, a sure sign that he’s very confident in the talent level of the eighth edition of his Gamecocks. And, coming off an 11-win season with 13 starters on both sides of the ball back, Spurrier should feel confident. South Carolina will also get what figures to be its prime SEC East competition, Georgia, at home as well as Arkansas, new SEC member Missouri and what should be a much-improved Tennessee squad.
The whole of the schedule. Three of what will arguably be South Carolina’s four stiffest tests in 2012 will come away from the friendly confines of Columbia — LSU and Florida back-to-back in mid-October, and then the regular-season finale at Clemson. The Gamecocks also open the season at Vanderbilt, which some are viewing as a trap game given the Commodores’ improvement under James Franklin.
Über-talented running back Marcus Lattimore is coming off a devastating ACL injury that cost him the last six games of his sophomore season. Nearly 11 months removed from that injury, Lattimore is 100-percent healthy heading into summer camp. The real test, though, will come once the regular season commences and that surgically-repaired knee is tested by the stout defenses that litter the SEC. A healthy Lattimore portends good things for the ‘Cocks; any type of setbacks, however, and quarterback Connor Shaw, in his first year as the full-time starter, could be forced to pick up the offensive slack.
Make-or-break game: vs. Georgia, Oct. 6
Sorry Gators, but the early-October matchup between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs will be widely viewed as the SEC East title game. While the Gamecocks actually came out of the 2011 edition of this matchup with a three-point win, Georgia ripped off seven consecutive conference wins as South Carolina stubbed its collective toes against Auburn and Arkansas to hand the division to the Bulldogs. This year, Georgia will be forced to travel to Columbia for what once again could/should be the game that decides the East’s
sacrificial lamb representative in the SEC title game.
Heisman hopeful: running back Marcus Lattimore
The ACL injury previously addressed notwithstanding, Lattimore is primed for a junior season that should include plenty of Heisman hype. In 20 career games, Lattimore has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground. Lattimore will once again be expected to play the workhorse role, although Spurrier would be wise to ease the junior back into the role he’s held the past two seasons, especially early on in the season.