South Carolina Football: State of the Program After 2013 Season
South Carolina turned out another double-digit win season as the Gamecocks notched 10 wins and a Top-10 ranking at season's end.
The season started off shaky with a crushing loss to Georgia and nagging injuries to a handful of top players.
However, the Gamecocks prevailed en route to 10 wins and got themselves back into the mix for a shot at the SEC East title.
South Carolina came up short as Missouri put together a special season, preventing the Gamecocks from earning a go at SEC champion Auburn.
Senior quarterback Connor Shaw emerged as a hero of the season as he led the comeback victory over the Missouri Tigers. Yet, sophomore running back Mike Davis became the star of this team, even on a team that included Jadeveon Clowney.
All in all, it was another successful season, but it wasn't a jump into the next level of elite-power status as South Carolina is still trying to get its hands on an SEC title.
Here is a look at South Carolina's state of the program after the 2013 season.
The best news for South Carolina is that this team is very young and returns almost all of its players.
With just five seniors on the roster, the only major losses for the Gamecocks are Connor Shaw, defensive end Chaz Sutton and cornerback Jimmy Legree. The other graduating players are guard Ronald Patrick, a starting tackle who has been solid and wide receiver David Wilkins.
South Carolina will also be without potential No.1 overall draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles will probably join him in the draft. Top cornerback Victor Hampton could opt for the draft, too.
Outside of that handful of players, South Carolina returns a talented team that will have a lot more experience under its belt than this year's roster.
Dylan Thompson will take over at quarterback and Mike Davis returns in what could be a special season for the Heisman hopeful.
The entire corps of wide receivers returns, led by Shaq Roland and Bruce Ellington. The trio of tight ends are back. But most importantly, the offensive line is still together and should be stronger than ever.
The defense loses players on the line, but the linebackers are all back, and there is a lot of talented depth at the defensive back positions.
Age may have impacted the Gamecocks this season.
Yet the good news with youth is that it turns into experience. And it should do just that in 2014.
South Carolina doesn't have an extremely long list of recruits for 2014, but it does include some great talents and players the team needs to fill position gaps.
The biggest recruit of the class is without a doubt wide receiver Shaq Davidson.
Davidson will join fellow "Shaq" Roland in what could become the "Shaq Attack". Davidson is not the tallest player at 6'0", though he has a great skill set of agility and open-field playmaking to go along with a strong pair of hands.
Another major addition to the Gamecocks is on the defensive side of the ball with outside linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams.
Allen-Williams will provide another talented linebacker who can come in and provide consistent solid play with his good instincts and fundamentally sound tackling.
Beyond those players, wide receiver Terry Googer, offensive guard Donell Stanley and if the Gamecocks can hold onto him, junior-college transfer defensive tackle Abu Lamin would be a strong force in the middle of the defensive line with J.T. Surratt.
There are a few recruits that the Gamecocks are still going for before national signing day.
First up is all-purpose running back Derrell Scott.
Scott will most likely sign with the Gamecocks. He won't have an impact early on, but should turn into a top running back on the team in the future.
Second is cornerback D.J. Smith.
South Carolina and in-state rival Clemson are in a recruiting battle to land the highly touted cornerback. A landing of Smith would be huge not only for the secondary, but it would also keep a talented player away from Clemson and other SEC teams.
Last up is weak-side defensive end Dante Sawyer.
Sawyer's name has floated back and forth with the Gamecocks, though it now looks like he is going to be wearing garnet and black in 2014. Sawyer is a very talented defensive end who has high-end value as a speed rusher who can close the gaps in a split second.
Stars of the Future
One player is the clear-cut star of the future.
I've said it before, and I will say it again—Mike Davis.
Davis is a monster of a running back and could have an increased role in the offense, which would in turn boost his statistics and impact the game. As an elite rusher as well as a receiving back, Davis is an electrifying player with huge potential for his junior season.
Another star of the future is quarterback Dylan Thompson.
Thompson will be taking over the offense and this could lead to a shift in offensive mentality as Thompson is not as agile as current starter Connor Shaw. Thompson can make moves, but is not a read-option quarterback. As a gunslinger who works best in a pro-style offense, South Carolina should be committed to the run which will open up the play-action pass.
The play-action pass will be great for the wide receivers, specifically Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd.
Roland and Byrd are big play receivers who are excellent down the field, so look for them to be stars in the passing game as Bruce Ellington continues to work underneath and in the slot.
On the offensive line, the whole unit deserves to be a star, though Brandon Shell and A.J. Cann are the standouts. Don't mess with them. They anchor a stout offensive line.
Defensively, safety T.J. Gurley should be a star in 2014. He is always involved in plays as Gurley has a nose for the football.
South Carolina is a deep, young team, so the spring could also lead to other stars emerging. After all, that's where Davis first turned heads with his impressive offseason.
Sometimes the coaching staff undergoes change after change with college football teams. That is not the case with South Carolina.
Head coach Steve Spurrier might be getting older, but he isn't leaving any time soon.
Spurrier is committed to the Gamecocks and wants to get his hands on an SEC title and more before he hangs up the visor. The old ball coach has a lot of fight left in him and has a promise to future star quarterback Connor Mitch, one of the most highly regarded quarterback recruits Spurrier has ever landed.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is still one of the best defensive coaches in college football, so no change will be made there unless he gets hired elsewhere as a head coach. But his name has not come up yet.
The rest of the staff is fairly fresh. No changes will be made and no one is on the hot seat.
A core of Kirk Botkin, Deke Adams, Shawn Elliott and G.A. Mangus is not too shabby of a staff, so the Gamecocks will trust in Spurrier's staff as it has worked so far.
South Carolina had high hopes for this season, and the high hopes will carry over to 2014.
The team will be young again, but have a lot more experience than the 2013 squad.
As with any season in the Spurrier era, the Gamecocks will be looking to win the SEC East and go to the SEC championship game. And next season could be one of the best shots for Spurrier.
With few seniors graduating and a couple players leaving early for the NFL, South Carolina has a deep team of talented players that could position the team for a chance at the division title.
Missouri will probably not be as good as it was this year. Georgia loses quarterback Aaron Murray, but will return a lot of good players, which means the Georgia-South Carolina game will be a big one with big implications. Florida is, well, Florida. The Gators are struggling. And the rest of the division isn't quite ready to compete for a division title. The early edge goes to South Carolina with Georgia right on its tail.
With an SEC East title in sight, the Gamecocks have a fairly advantageous overall schedule as the only major cross-division games are Texas A&M who will be without Johnny Manziel and Auburn who may not be as special of a team as the Tigers are this season.
Clemson is always tough, though South Carolina has the upper hand and it's tough to pick against the Gamecocks in that rivalry these days.
I know I said it last season and was wrong. So, maybe you shouldn't believe me. But, South Carolina has its best chance to win the SEC East coming up in 2014 and will make the SEC title game. The Gamecocks outlook looks quite good for 2014.