The University of South Carolina football fans have a exciting and historical season ahead in 2014. The Gamecocks come off a second straight eleven win season in 2013 and are ranked as one of the top ten college programs in the nation. This season is predicted to be a great success for USC despite the loss of two of the greatest players ever to wear a Gamecock uniform: Defensive End, Jadeveon Clowney, and Quarterback, Connor Shaw. Even with the departure of these legendary starters, South Carolina will win the SEC Championship where they will defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide 35 to 28.
In the annual poll conducted by the Al.com/Birmingham News (the Spring SEC Football Report), South Carolina was voted to win the SEC East and advance to the SEC Championship in Atlanta where they will slug it out, going head to head with the Crimson Tide. The Dec 6th match up will prove to be one of the best college football games of the 2014 season.
The biggest question marks coming into 2014 will be compensating for the loss of these two top players in Carolina history. Shaw is the most successful quarterback in South Carolina with 27 wins and 5 losses. Head coach, Steve Spurrier, seems to have these looming uncertainties answered with 2015 starting quarterback Dylan Thompson. While perhaps lacking Shaw’s fantastic scrambling ability out of the pocket, Thompson makes up for it in tremendous arm strength and accuracy. The USC senior and product of Boiling Springs, SC will spend most of his time in the pocket beating opposing defenses downfield with Wideouts Shaq Roland (tremendous big play ability) and Damiere Byrd named “fastest receiver” by The Sporting News College Yearbook. Dylan himself received honorable mention as the “best under pressure” QB in the same publication. The trio forms what should be one of the more interesting aerial attacks in the nation. With Heisman Trophy candidate, Mike Davis, who at 5’9 and 215 lbs. rushed for 1,183 yds. on 203 attempts and had 11 touchdowns in 2013, the South Carolina offense seems to be set as one of the more prolific attacks in the SEC East.
The question of replacing Clowney is a larger problem. The reality is you cannot replace the phenomenal athleticism of a player like Clowney. Clowney was picked number one overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. A team must make adjustments and adapt to the absence of such a gifted player. Defensive coordinator, Lorenzo Ward, has done just that by switching the Gamecocks defensive scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4 front. This will play to the squad’s strengths in a talented linebacker core featuring Kaiwan Lewis, who at 6 ft 235 lbs had 54 tackles, 4 TFL and 2 interceptions in 2013. In Saturday Down South SEC analyst and writer, Brad Crawford, stated: ”Alongside Skai Moore, Holloman and Golightly, Lewis gives South Carolina a stout core of linebackers needed in the run-geared SEC East against the likes of Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Florida’s combination of Jeff Driskel and Kelvin Taylor.” Lewis was evaluated to be the 98th best player in the SEC by the same publication.
The Gamecocks will open the season against a formidable opponent in Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday August 28. The team won’t be the same team without Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney. However, new on-field leaders are emerging in Dylan Thompson and Lorenzo Ward, and a championship chemistry is brewing in Columbia, SC. Steve Spurrier and company have the personnel and schemes in place to again make history with another record-setting year. This season the Gamecocks will become the SEC Champions for the first time in school history.