CFT preseason No. 11: South Carolina

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2010 record: 9-5, 5-3 (1st SEC East)

2010 bowl: 26-17 loss to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl

2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 22nd/22nd

Coach: Steve Spurrier, seventh year; 44-33 overall, 23-25 conference

Offensive coordinator: Spurrier

2010 offensive rankings: 38th, scoring offense (30.0 ppg); 47th, total offense (392.8 ppg); 60th, rushing offense (154.4 ypg); 44th, passing offense (238.4 ypg)

Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward, third year

2010 defensive rankings:43rd, scoring defense (23.1 ppg); 46th, total defense (354.4 ypg); 12th, rushing defense (112.4); 97th, passing defense (241.9)

Returning offensive starters: 7

Returning defensive starters: 7

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (Grass; 80,250)

Last league title: 1969

2011 schedule: [view]

2011 roster: [view]

2010 statistics: [view]

Snapshot: Steve Spurrier has been more talkative, more vocal, more, well, more Steve Spurrier this offseason than the Ol’ Ball Coach has ever been during his time with the Gamecocks, which speaks loudly as to what he thinks of the 2011 edition of his team and what he thinks they have the ability — and talent — to accomplish. As far as the East division of the SEC is concerned Spurrier should feel supremely confident, what with the combination of the Gamecocks’ talent level combined with another “down” year for the rest of the division — Georgia may surprise, though — portending a second consecutive divisional crown for South Carolina.

What remains to be seen, though, is if the Gamecocks are ready to challenge the Alabamas and LSUs of the SEC. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, they won’t have to face either of those two during the regular season. Unfortunately, they’ll likely have to face one of the two if they hope for the SEC title breakthrough that eluded them last year.

Make no mistake, the pieces, at least on paper, appear to be in place. The running game is in the more-than-capable legs of sophomore Marcus Lattimore and a better-than-average defense — tighten up that pass defense, though — will return seven starters plus add the talents of the nation’s consensus top recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Arguably the biggest question mark for the Gamecocks entering 2011 centers on the most important position on the field. Stephen Garcia had a breakthrough season in 2010, but has been awash in controversy throughout the offseason, suspended indefinitely at one point following an alcohol-fueled incident and not reinstated until the eve of summer camp.

If Garcia keeps the off-field distractions off the playing field — and avoids any additional “situations” — the position will be in experienced and capable hands. If not? Well, let’s just say that’s something Spurrier doesn’t want to think about at this point in time, even as he publicly expresses confidence in backup Connor Shaw.

Make-or-break game: Sept. 10 at Georgia

Yes, it’s just the second game of the season, but if the ‘Cocks want to win an SEC title and advance to a BcS game, they’ll have to win their division first. And this year — no offense, Florida and Tennessee; next year, ye shall rise again — the lone threat to their second consecutive East title appears to be the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks would have a talent advantage, but will it be enough to negate the home-field/talent combination Georgia will carry into the game? I would think so, but this will be one of those eagerly anticipated early-season matchups rife with intrigue and potential ramifications for the remainder of the season for both programs.

Heisman hopeful: Lattimore

As a true freshman last year, Lattimore rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 17 rushing touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the country. There’s nothing to suggest his production will dip in 2011; in fact, he’ll likely see a substantial increase on the 249 carries he totaled last season. Such a bump in opportunities should equal increased production, which should place firmly entrench Lattimore in the Heisman discussion for the entire season.

Postseason projection: Outback Bowl

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BYU RBs coach AJ Steward takes same job at Arizona

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The revamping of Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona football coaching staff continued late last week. This time, though, the revamping is on the offensive side of the ball.

Friday, the Wildcats announced that AJ Steward (pictured) has been hired by Sumlin as running backs coach. Steward will replace DeMarco Murray, who left earlier this month to take the same job at his alma mater Oklahoma.

At 29, Steward will be the youngest member of Sumlin’s staff. The 32-year-old Murray had previously held that title.

“We couldn’t be happier to be welcoming AJ to the Arizona Football Family,” the Arizona football head coach said in a statement. “AJ brings a work ethic and experience that will impact the development of our student-athletes in a very positive way. His passion for the game, passion for making a difference and his recruiting background make him a great fit for our staff.“

The past two seasons, Steward was the running backs coach at BYU. Prior to that, Steward had served in the same capacity at Rice for three years (2014-17).

Steward, who played his college football at Kansas, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Rice in 2012-13.

“My wife Virginia and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Tucson and make the University of Arizona our home,” Steward said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue my coaching career under someone like Coach Sumlin, and I can’t wait to get to work with our young men!”

Four-star 2017 DB Deon Jones tweets transfer from Maryland

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A once highly-touted member of the Maryland football program is on his way out. Probably.

Late last week, Deon Jones took to Twitter to announce that he has decided to enter his name into the NCAA transfer database, the first step in a likely move away from Maryland football. According to the defensive back, he will graduate from the university in May.

Not only will he be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school in 2020, he will have another season of eligibility he can use in 2021 as well.

“I will forever be a TERP and I cannot thank this university enough for all of the opportunities they have afforded me over the past 3 years,” Jones wrote.

A four-star member of the Terrapins’ 2017 recruiting class, Jones was rated as the No. 3 player in the state of Maryland regardless of position. Only one signee in the Terps’ class that year, running back Anthony McFarland, was rated higher than Jones.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Jones appeared in 21 games the past two seasons. He started six of those contests, with all six of those starts coming this past season.

Jones will finish his time with Maryland football with 51 tackles, two forced fumbles, one tackle for loss and one pass defensed.

More than a dozen players have left the Maryland football program since last season began, including a pair of quarterbacks.

Ex-Wisconsin WR Marcus Randle El arrested, charged in double homicide

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A former member of the Wisconsin football program is at the center of a very sad and disturbing situation that began developing early last week.

According to multiple media outlets, Marcus Randle El turned himself in to police in Chicago Saturday afternoon after a warrant for his arrest had been issued in connection to a double murder in Janesville, Wisconsin. The 33-year-old Randel El is facing two counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

From the NBC television affiliate in Madison, WI:

Early Monday morning, 30-year-old Seairaha Winchester and 27-year-old Brittany McAdory were found shot near the intersection of Midvale Drive and Deerfield Drive in Janesville. They were taken to a hospital where they died.

During the news conference announcing the arrest, Lt. Charles Aagaard said investigators recovered video footage confirmed Winchester and McAdory went to the T.A. Express gas station around 2 a.m. that morning and left the store in McAdory’s black Jeep Cherokee. Investigators say their evidence indicates they planned to meet with Randle El, who was also in the area.

A little more than an hour later, a passing motorist spotted the victims lying in the road, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, Aagaard explained. They were both taken to Mercy Hospital for treatment where they both later died as a result of their injuries.

According to police, a murder weapon hasn’t yet been recovered.  Randle El has also denied responsibility for the murders.

From 2004-07, Randle El, whose brother, Antwaan Randle El, was a star quarterback at Indiana, played wide receiver for the Wisconsin football program.  He caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown during his time with the Badgers.  He also ran for another 29 yards on 11 carries as well.

Randle El also has an extensive criminal history dating back to his time as a member of the Wisconsin football team.  In 2005, he was arrested twice — once on a battery charge involving a female and another incident of battery involving a teammate.  In 2018, he finished serving what was originally a six-year sentence after allegedly kidnapping his three-year daughter at gunpoint.

Antwaan Randle El, incidentally, is entering his second year as an offensive assistant for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Vanderbilt QB Mo Hasan tweets transfer to USC

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For Mo Hasan, the quarterback is hoping that USC football, his fourth school, will be the charm.

In December, Hasan took the first step in transferring from Vanderbilt by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database. Nearly two months later, Hasan took to Twitter to make the surprising announcement that he has decided to transfer to USC football and continue his collegiate playing career with the Trojans.

The 2020 season will serve as the graduate transfer’s final year of eligibility.

Hasan, who began his career at Syracuse as a walk-on, came to Vandy from Coffeyville Community College in 2018.  His first season with the Commodores, the Florida native played in five games.  This past season, he played in two, including his first career start. That start, though, proved to be his last appearance as Hasan suffered a concussion in the Missouri loss and missed the last five games.

In his seven appearances, Hasan completed 11-of-17 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran for 79 yards on 16 carries.

In Nashville, Hasan will likely be missed most, though, off the field.

Hasan, a Miami native, also gained national exposure for spearheading Second Spoon, a non-profit organization that distributes extra food from the athletes’ dining hall to the homeless living on Nashville’s streets. He appeared on various national TV programs to promote Second Spoon, including NBC’s Today Show.

Given the makeup of the quarterback room, Hasan’s decision to transfer to USC football is surprising. To say the least.

JT Daniels, who opened the 2019 season as the starter before suffering a torn ACL after starting in 2018, and Kedon Slovis, who replaced Daniels and went on to set a slew of school records as a true freshman, both return in 2020 (probably). Fifth-year senior Matt Fink, who started in place of a concussed Slovis in one game last season, is expected to return as well.

Fink, though, flirted with a transfer to Illinois in the spring of last year. The quarterback ultimately opted to remain with USC football. Obviously, a move away from the Trojans at some point before the 2020 campaign kicks off on Fink’s part is not out of the equation.

For what it’s worth, Daniels’ dad stated in December that his son has no intention of transferring from USC football.