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garciaWhen Steve Spurrier was hired by South Carolina, the entire SEC family took a deep breath. Would he be as dominant at USC as he was at UF? Would he raise up yet another Heisman QB? And, many wondered if he could throw the Cocks into the race for the SEC East crown, breaking the usual routine of a UT, UGA, or UF winner. 5 years later, Spurrier has yet to deliver more than an 8 win season in Columbia, issues at signal caller have dominated the Visor's talking points since Day 1, but this year is probably Spurrier's best chance to make a move in the East. Does that mean they will?

On Offense: 7 Starters Return-Stephen Garcia returns for his Junior season, after putting up more yards in conference play than any other SEC QB. Garcia finished 2nd to only Arkansas' Ryan Mallet, throwing for 2,828 yds, 17 TDs, and 10 INTs. Even though last season was his first year as the 'full-time' starter, Garcia has been amongst the conference leaders in offensive production, over the past 2 seasons. If Garcia gets the hook, Fr. Connor Shaw seems to have Spurrier's trust. Shaw was the #19 rated duel threat QB coming out of high school, and Spurrier has already announced that both QBs will see the field in USC's opener vs USM...  Shaw and Garcia both have mobility inside and outside the pocket, but if Garcia hopes to keep his position, he has to know when to 'get rid of it' and when to 'tuck it' (USC tied LSU last season for giving up the most sacks, with 37). The OL returns 2 guys with starting experience, in TJ Johnson and Kyle Nunn. If Rokevius Watkins, Jarriel King, and Terrence Campbell can make effective contributions, then the running game should benefit more from the run game, while cutting down on the sack totals. Speaking of the run game, welcome to the SEC Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore comes to Columbia as the #5 athlete in the country, and could give the Cocks their first solid option at RB in 2 years. If Jarvis Giles can remind the USC faithful why they signed him in the first place, and if Kenny Miles can be solid, then the Cocks could really have a decent running game. At WR, Moe Brown is gone, but rising star Alshon Jeffery returns, who average almost 17 ypc as a Freshman. Accompanying Jeffery, will be Jason Barnes, Dion LeCorn, and Tori Gurley, but the status of talented TE Wesley Saunders is up in the air. Saunders was one of many players mentioned in attending an agent's party in South Beach, but recently lied to coaches about his where-abouts on Saturday, when he missed multiple team meetings and practice (used meeting with NCAA as an excuse for his absence). Don't forget about CB Stephon Gilmore's versatility, and his role in the Wild Cat formation, which adds another dimension to the offense.

On Defense7 Starters Return- The DL will be led by DT Ladi Ajiboye and DE Cliff Matthews. Both Linemen are household names in Columbia, and soon to be all around the SEC. Also, keep an eye on Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor, who have the size and the speed to disrupt the offensive backfield. It's going to be hard to replace a player like Eric Norwood, but having the LB back who 'out-tackled' Norwood, helps some. That would be Shaq Wilson, whose size is deceiving. Wilson came on the scene last season after replacing the injured Rodney Paulk, who returns this year. In order to be strong up the middle, Tony Straughter and Josh Dickerson will have to help the core to not miss a beat when they are in. In the secondary, 2009 All-American Freshman Stephon Gilmore will lead the pack. FS Devonte Holloman is expected to have a big year, and it's crucial that the talented Chris Culliver's transition from S to CB is a smooth one. This USC secondary only came away with 3 picks last season, while the defense as a whole, dropped close to 20 other INT chances.

2010 Schedule: USM, UGA, Furman, @ Aub, Bama, @ UK, @ Vandy, UT, Ark, @ UF, Troy, @ Clem

My Thoughts: As much grief as Spurrier gives Garcia, the kid is quite productive, and I don't see him losing his job to Shaw this season. Miles, Giles, Lattimore, and even some help from Maddox, means that the Cocks' running game will play a bigger role than it ever has during Spurrier's tenure in Columbia. I can see the WRs feeding off of Alshon Jeffery, and making some valuable contributions. The WRs have too much size not to make plays, but this whole Saunders issue could cost USC. Wesley seemed to finally be on the right path as a 'true' team player, but if they lose him, the offense will be short of a quality blocker and an excellent target. With all that, I don't look for Gilmore to be 'incredible' out of the Wild Cat package, but a sufficient change of pace. If there is one coach who can maximize talent, it's Def. Coordinator Ellis Johnson. I worked with the man's defense at State, I've seen him practice and game plan, he's the real deal. And, considering the fact that the Cocks return 7 starters on D, with some talent at each position, means this should be a solid D. In 2009, the Cocks finished 3rd in the SEC in total D, and I look for a top 5-6 finish this season (SEC, not overall). 

My Prediction: 8-4 or 7-5. I actually see the Cocks starting off slow vs USM, but eventually winning by no more than 10. Furman, UK, Vandy, Troy, and UT are wins if you ask me. One considerable toss up game is the UGA match up, which is always a close game and a wild one. But, I'll take the 'toss up' tag off of this one, and give it to USC. I think the USM game, though scary at times, will get USC more up to 'game speed' than UGA will in playing UL Lafayette in week 1. Instead, I'd place the 'toss up' tag on the Clemson game. Auburn and Arkansas will just be too hard to keep up with offensively. I have to credit USC for the non-conference slate, USM, Furman, and Troy are not push-overs. If USC really wants to take the next step, go 8-4, beat UGA and Clemson, win your bowl game, and William-Bryce will be rocking in 2011! But, win 6 or 7 again, and you could be in trouble.

Your thoughts and predictions? Can Garcia please Spurrier this year? How big of a loss is Wesley Saunders for the Cocks, if suspended for good?

______MSU News______

Vick Ballard chatted with Scout, here's a look...

  • "Individually, I just want to be productive and be accountable. I'm not really flashy; I just like to keep the chains moving and be productive."
  • "The other two (Elliot and Perkins) have much better moves that I do. I admit that (laughing). But we all bring a different element to the game. And I think Coach Mullen will try to utilize that."
  • "In the fourth quarter, by using all the backs, it will keep the pressure off of us. Because of that, we will be able to make a big play when we need it."

Apparently Dan Mullen was in quite the hurry last night after practice. Didn't share much info. Link

Kyle Veazy talks with Spencer Hall, that's the 'Every day should be Saturday' guy. Nice read, apparently he likes Mullen and Cowbells. Link

______SEC News______

Urban Meyer says the Gators aren't looking like the Gators right now. Link

Matt Sims appears to be the man at UT. Link

Not so fast, will Masoli get cleared? Link

Would you pick Mark Ingram to repeat as Heisman? Link

I told them not to, but looks like UK is going with Hartline at QB...sad. Link

That's it boys, enjoy. And please, share...