Spring Football Check-In: Gamecocks' spring largely quiet, on the field

file photo by the Associated Press
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (23), shown scoring a touchdown against Kentucky in 2011, is the top returning receiver for the Gamecocks. Ellington had 40 receptions for a team-high 600 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

Photo by Rich Glickstein, AP2011

file photo by the Associated Press Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (23), shown scoring a touchdown against Kentucky in 2011, is the top returning receiver for the Gamecocks. Ellington had 40 receptions for a team-high 600 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

South Carolina is entering year nine of the Steve Spurrier era and the recent success has the school records falling left and right.

The Gamecocks completed their first ever back-to-back 11-win (or any double-digit win) run with a 33-28 victory against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

Their 22 wins in the last two, 31 in the last three and 38 in the past four seasons all set new marks.

Before lining up for a Thursday opener with UNC this fall, South Carolina has been ranked 47-straight weeks, only trailing Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU and Alabama currently.

Will the unprecedented run continue in ’13? Well, roughly half the starters are back – including the top passer (Connor Shaw), receiver (Bruce Ellington) and some guy named Jadeveon Clowney – but the surest sign of a good team down-state comes from the coach.

Spurrier is chirping, making veiled and not-so-veiled comments this spring - which usually means he thinks he has team that can back that all up.

No doubt it won’t be the last we hear from the Head Ball Coach between now and Nov. 30, where his Gamecocks will face a Clemson team hungry for a return to success in the series.

More on the Gamecocks…

South Carolina

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2, 3rd in the SEC East)

Plays Clemson:Nov. 30, at South Carolina.

Spring Game: April 13, 1 p.m. (ESPN3).

Returning Starters by Position (12)

Offense (6)

QB: 1

RB: 0

WR: 1

TE: 0

O-line: 4

Defense (5)

D-line: 2

LB: 0

DB: 3

Kicker/Punter (1)

PK: 0

P: 1

Outgoing Starters: 12

Offensive Leader: WR Bruce Ellington – The rising junior had a breakout 2012 campaign, averaging 15 yards per catch for 600 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensive Leader: DE Jadeveon Clowney – You’re probably pretty familiar with this guy. The junior has compiled 21 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in his first two seasons in Columbia.

Key Issues This Spring: 1) Finding next top RBs – Between Kenny Miles and Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks must replace over 1,000 rushing yards from last season, but although he’s sitting out the spring after foot surgery, senior quarterback and second-leading rusher Connor Shaw is expected back this fall (435 yards). This spring, sophomore Mike Davis, brother of Clemson standout James Davis, has put together a pair of impressive scrimmages, averaging 12.1 yards per rush. Sophomore Brandon Wilds is also in the mix, along with redshirt freshman Kendric Salley and sophomore Shon Carson. Wilds rushed for 486 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, but sat out last season with a high ankle sprain.

2) Replacing key cogs on defense – For a second-straight year, South Carolina loses a number of key defenders, including its top-four tacklers off a unit that finished 11th nationally in total defense and 13th in scoring defense. At one end, senior Chaz Sutton is emerging and is also a favorite to move to inside for Lorenzo Ward’s “rabbits” pass rush package alongside Clowney, with sophomore Mason Harris and redsirt freshman Darius English on the outside. At SPUR, Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward likes fresham redshirt Jordan Diggs in a competition with rising junior Sharrod Golightly going into the spring game. At the open MIKE and WILL spots, new USC linebacker coach Kirk Botkin has all underclassmen on the depth chart – sophomore Kaiwan Lewis the leader at MLB and sophomore Marcquis Roberts at WLB. Lewis played in 11 games last season with three tackles, while Roberts has been hampered with injuries his first two years on campus. Junior Kadetrix Marcus is expected to take over for four-year starter D.J. Swearinger’s free safety spot, competing with redshirt freshman Chaz Elder.

3) Clowney in the news – The megastars’ spring has been eventful if anything, and mostly off the field. First, he had to quell speculation that he could sit out a year and wait on the NFL to avoid injury. More recently, he sprained his neck in practice – an injury which ended his spring session, and also caught the national media eye.

More Spring Football Check-Ins

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Comments » 1

MoncksTater writes:

Oh dear the GoonCoots are coming...or going , more likely. I can see this little run ending down in ColaTown in November..and I think they are a 4-5 loss team this season. Spurrts is headed outta coaching after this season or next.

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