The South Carolina Gamecocks’s offense operated with unprecedented efficiency and, as a result, had unprecedented success during the 2013 season, finishing with a school-record, 452 yards per game. When they take to the practice field this spring, they will be looking to build on that success and improve for next year.
It will not be easy though, after losing Connor Shaw, arguably the best quarterback in South Carolina Football history and proven playmaker/Mr. Clutch, Bruce Ellington.
While there WILL be a time over the course of the season that both of these players will be dearly missed, consider the transition from Marcus Lattimore to Mike Davis. In the wake of Lattimore’s early departure to the NFL, it was a foregone conclusion that neither Davis nor Wilds will be able to be the next Lattimore–the kid’s a once in a generation player. While that may be true in principal, 2013 saw a dramatic augmentation of the Gamecock rushing attack. Some of this can be attributed to a much-improved offensive line, but the two more important takeaways should be:
- Those who follow great players (Davis, Wilds, Thompson) learn from them. Particularly when those great players are also great leaders like Shaw and Lattimore are, the some measure of their drive (so much of what makes them great) rubs off on younger players
- Those who follow great players should not try to be those great players. No one will ever be Marcus Lattimore. Mike Davis learned what he could and added his own flair. Mike Davis has more pure speed and more shake-n-bake than Lattimore every did. Davis took everything good about Lattimore’s game, including work ethic and attitude, and blended it with his skill set. The result? Davis replaced Lattimore’s PRODUCTION.
In the same way, Dylan Thompson will not be Connor Shaw, and he might not even be the ice-in-the-veins-playmaker that Shaw was, but Thompson brings something different to the table than Shaw did. If Thompson can replicate Shaw’s efficiency, then you can count on Spurrier’s group putting up huge numbers again.
As it stands, the majority of the players on the offensive side of the ball, including four of five linemen, meaning that there is no excuse for a significant drop-off. In addition to a strong offensive line, the stable of fantastic, SEC-tested running backs that the Gamecocks will likely mean Spurrier will once again go to the run first.
The gradual, season-long emergence of Shaq Roland, culminating in two big games against Clemson and Wisconsin, became even more important when the Gamecock’s go-to-guy, Bruce Ellington, decided to forego his final season of football eligibility (because he joined the team his sophomore year, his last year of eligibility would have been after his graduation in May). The rest of the returning wide receivers and tight ends (Jones, Byrd, Anderson, Adams) have loads of experience between them, which will hopefully make Dylan Thompson’s transition to a full-time starter a little easier.
The two-deep at the start of spring practice should look something like this:
Quarterback: Dylan Thompson, Brendan Nosovitch/Connor Mitch
Running Back: Mike Davis/Brandon Wilds, Connor McLaurin (FB), Shon Carson
Tight End: Busta Anderson, Jerrell Adams
Wide Receiver: Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones, Pharoh Cooper, K.J. Brent, Kane Whitehurst
Offensive Tackle: Corey Robinson (L), Brandon Shell (R), Mike Matulis, Cody Gibson
Offensive Guard: A.J. Cann (L), Na’ty Rodgers (R), Will Sport, Brock Stadnik