Monday, October 31, 2011

South Carolina/Tennessee Review and Preview USC/Arkansas

If you watched the South Carolina/Tennessee contest on Saturday night as a casual fan, then odds are pretty good you did not watch the entire game. The inept offense that both of these SEC East divisional rivals displayed for four quarters could put to sleep even the toughest insomniac! Through two-thirds of the football schedule, Carolina fans should resound ourselves to ugly football down the stretch. I expect the remaining games to be nail biters, with the exception being The Citadel, which is sandwiched between Florida and Clemson. I could care less how South Carolina wins, and I’ll take a win on Rocky Top any way I can get it. I sat in Neyland Stadium and witnessed a 55-3 bludgeoning at the hands of the Volunteers in 1993, so I’ll take any victory on Rocky Top. South Carolina has now won two games (2-14) in Knoxville all-time. Let’s not kid ourselves about Tennessee either. This UT program has hit rock bottom, and it might be one of the least talented teams in the SEC, along with Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. There is no Peyton Manning or Tee Martin at quarterback or any Leonard Little or Al Wilson on defense. This Tennessee team was devoid of two of its top three players, QB Tyler Bray (broken thumb) and WR Justin Hunter (torn ACL), and started a freshman quarterback, Justin Worley, against one of the top three defenses in the SEC. That is not a recipe for success in the SEC for one of the traditional SEC powers that has fallen on some hard times since the end of the 2008 season. So let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad & the Ugly from Rocky Top on Saturday night.

The Good:
→The Gamecocks have won six true consecutive road games in school history. Dating back to last year, USC has beaten Vanderbilt, Florida, Clemson, Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee consecutively.
→Steve Spurrier won his 51st game as Head Football Coach at the University of South Carolina. SOS is now 51-34 in less than seven full seasons at South Carolina. That is a 60% winning percentage. Spurrier is second all-time on USC’s Career Wins List for USC football coaches, trailing only Rex Enright (64 all-time wins).
→Under Spurrier, USC is now 4-3 versus Tennessee with two road wins (2005 & 2011) in Knoxville, TN.
→South Carolina has won back-to-back games (2010 & 2011) versus Tennessee for the first time ever!
→Since 2005 under the Spurrier regime, South Carolina is 20-14 versus the SEC East. USC has never swept its SEC East divisional opponents in football!
→The victory in Knoxville Saturday night brought USC back to a .500 record (47-47) in SEC football since 2000.
→The Gamecocks reached five wins in SEC Conference play for the fifth time in the last dozen years with the victory over Tennessee Saturday night.
→Blythewood, SC native running back Brandon Wilds achieved career highs in Rushing Yards (137) and Rushing Attempts (28) in his first career start in place of Marcus Lattimore.
→Connor Shaw becoming only the third USC quarterback to win his first four career starts. The other two Gamecock QB's to accomplish this feat: Steve Tanneyhill and Chris Smelley.
→The USC Rushing attack eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the fifth time this season. Carolina rushed for greater than 200 yards versus ECU, UGA, Navy, UK and UT. The Gamecocks rank 23rd in Rushing Offense of all FBS teams, per NCAA.
→The gutsy 4th & 1 play call that gave Carolina a 7-3 lead. Connor Shaw lofted a pass to a wide open TE Rory Anderson for a 23-yard scoring pass after UT sold-out against the anticipated running play.
→The 98-yard, 20-play scoring drive in the third quarter that chewed up 11 minutes and 35 seconds and gave South Carolina a comfortable 14-3 lead. 17 plays were running plays that compiled 74 yards.
→Kudos to redshirt freshman Cody Gibson for hustling downfield and tackling UT cornerback Prentiss Wagner at the two-yard line and preserving a slim 7-3 USC lead. Gibson’s effort earned him a game ball after the win, per Steve Spurrier.
→ The USC defense has now surrendered 58 points to its last six opponents (5-1), which equates to 9.6 points per game. South Carolina’s defense has now forced 18 turnovers (fourteen INTs & four fumble recoveries) in the last 24 quarters! Also, Ellis Johnson’s stop troops held a third SEC offense to under 200 total yards this season (Vanderbilt, Kentucky & Tennessee). South Carolina’s defense has held two SEC opponents (Kentucky & Vanderbilt) to less than 100 yards.
→ The USC Pass Defense held freshman Justin Worley to 10-26 pass completions-to-pass attempts for 38% completion rate and two interceptions. The Gamecocks are ranked third in Pass Defense (trailing Michigan State and Alabama) in FBS, per NCAA.
→After forcing two more turnovers against Tennessee, USC now is tied for second in the FBS category of Turnovers Gained with Rutgers.
→South Carolina Third-Down Conversion Rate for Defense was excellent, as Tennessee only converted 14% (2/14).

The Bad:
→USC Passing yards totaled 87! Shaw only completed 55% of his attempts (10/18) and threw one interception.
→Alshon Jeffery only caught three passes for 17 yards and looked disgruntled a few times when Shaw did not throw Jeffery the football.
→The USC pass protection is just terrible! The two tackles (Gibson & Watkins) seem to get beat consistently and Shaw rarely has more than three seconds before he is running for his life.
→The USC offense managed only 27 first quarter yards of total offense.
→The Gamecocks have now fallen behind in 11 straight football games. The last time USC took an early lead was versus Troy in 2010.

The Ugly:
→The Tennessee football program has fallen a lot further than most people realize. I saw zero difference makers on the field for the Volunteers on Saturday night.
→Special Teams again lets down USC. Since the UGA game, the Gamecocks special teams has been anything but extraordinary. Ace Sanders fumbled a punt that set up Tennessee with a short field that resulted in a Field Goal.
→Neyland Stadium crowd---the upper decks looked sparse, and the UT faithful appear to have lost interest in this program.
Looking forward to the Arkansas game, USC will have its highly ranked pass defense tested against a pass heavy Razorbacks team. Arkansas is averaging a little more than 320 passing yards per game, which ranks top ten in FBS. The Razorbacks rush for less than 138 yards per game and score a little less than 37 points per game. Arkansas is 9-10 in SEC conference play in Fayetteville since Spurrier arrived in Columbia. Last year, the Razorbacks had a veteran o-line and an NFL quarterback (Ryan Mallett). This year, Arkansas starts a freshman at Left Tackle, and new quarterback Tyler Wilson has been taking a pounding behind a revamped o-line that has given up 17 sacks (same as USC’s o-line has given up). The Razorbacks defense has been suspect, and the Hawgs surrendered 462 total yards (222 rushing yards/240 passing yards) to a Vanderbilt squad this past Saturday that USC’s defense held to 73 total yards earlier in the season.

My next blog will be Wednesday when I’ll have a South Carolina football redshirt report.

Go Gamecocks!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More USC/Tennessee Tidbits

USC held UT to 35 yards rushing. UT rushed for 111 yards versus LSU & 92 yards rushing against Alabama. Hopefully USC is improving it's run defense.
D.J. Swearinger has back-to-back games with INT's.
Carolina's Pass Defense held UT to 151 passing yards.
UT quarterbacks were 15/38 passing the football with two INT's.
USC held UT to only 2 of 14 on Third Down Conversion.
Carolina was 10 for 18 on Third Down Conversion.
USC now is 2-14 all-time in Knoxville. Spurrier owns both wins.
Spurrier has now won 51 games at USC.
USC has now won six road contests in a row & Connor Shaw is now 4-0 as a starting quarterback at USC.

Third Quarter Domination by USC

Carolina held the football for 13:27 in the third quarter. Tennessee ran four plays in the third quarter. One of the plays resulted in an interception inside the Red Zone. After the INT, Connor Shaw led USC on a 20 play, 98-yard drive capped by a four-yard Shaw designed QB Draw for a touchdown.

Gamecocks Run Wild(s) to Victory on Rocky Top

Freshman RB Brandon Wilds recorded career highs in Rush Attempts (28) & Yards Rushing (137). Wilds averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
South Carolina finished the game with 230 yards rushing and 317 total yards of offense.
Kudos to Spurrier for realizing that USC's WR's could not get open nor could USC's o-line protect Shaw so SOS just decided to run the football and Wilds & Shaw executed in the Spread Option tonight.

South Carolina Wins SEC Title

Friday night the USC women’s soccer team defeated five-time defending champion Florida Gators in Gainesville by a score of 2-1. The victory clinched the first outright SEC Championship in South Carolina history. The 22nd ranked Lady Gamecocks (15-5-0, 9-2-0 SEC) earned their first-ever victory in Gainesville by jumping out to an early lead and handing the Gators only the fifth home loss in program history.

These two teams have battled for SEC supremacy the last three years with Florida gaining the upper hand. The win was the eighth consecutive SEC victory, a program record, and pushed USC to eclipse a new season win total, nine, in SEC Conference play.

South Carolina ended a 14-year scoring drought early in the contest as Kayla Grimsley scored a goal less than three minutes into the match, and the Gamecocks never looked back. The last time Carolina scored a goal in Gainesville was 1997.

South Carolina travels to Orange Beach, Alabama next week to compete in the SEC tournament. USC plays Alabama in the opening round on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Congratulations to Head Women’s Soccer Coach Shelley Smith, all of the assistants and program personnel and especially all the team members who contributed in making this season a championship season!

Blogger Note: Special thanks to staff writers of The State newspaper for much of the content in this story.

Go Gamecocks!

Week Nine Top 10 College Football Games

I took last week off along with the Gamecocks and surprisingly did not watch a whole lot of football. I caught the tail end of the Wisconsin/Michigan State & Southern Cal/Notre Dame games, as well as the Texas Tech upset of the previously unbeaten Oklahoma Sooners. Last week saw two unbeaten teams fall (Wisconsin & Oklahoma) from the unbeaten ranks, and this week, two unbeaten teams (Clemson & Stanford) hit the road for tough conference match-ups. Let’s take a look at my top ten games for this Halloween weekend.

LSU @ Alabama: This game can’t get here fast enough! The Hat (Les Miles) versus The Sabanator (Nick Saban). #1 versus #2, enough said! Nobody cares about any other game except this monumental clash in Tuscaloosa.
Prediction: 11/05/2011 - only seven more days!

Stanford @Southern Cal: If you want to enjoy a match-up of classic drop-back quarterbacks then this Pac-12 contest is the game of the week. Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC-West’s Matt Barkley could be the top two QBs that come off of the 2012 NFL Draft Board, with Luck being the unanimous #1 selection. The Cardinals have survived their last two trips inside the historic Coliseum, but last year won a squeaker by only two, 37-35, in Palo Alto.
Prediction: I’ll take my Luck & stick with the Cardinals over the fightin’ Kiffins, SU 41-34.

Oklahoma @ Kansas State: Has anyone noticed that the KSU Wildcats are ranked in the Top 10? Wildcats Head Coach Bill Snyder knows a thing or two on changing the fortunes of the silver & purple from Manhattan, KS. Texas Tech did KSU no favors last week by upsetting the Sooners in Norman. Oklahoma has not lost two games in a row since 1999 and has won four straight over Kansas State.
Prediction: Boomer Sooner rolls into the Little Apple on the Plains and declaws the Cats, OU 45-37.

Baylor @ Oklahoma State: If you detest defense and love watching flag football then this Big 12 match-up will wear out the scoreboard. Both of these teams have dynamic quarterbacks leading high-octane offenses. Baylor’s Robert Griffin III & Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden can cause a lot of defensive coordinators many sleepless nights! BU has not won in Stillwater since the beginning of WWII (1939).
Prediction: I’ll take the fightin’ T. Boone Pickens (OSU) over the litigating Ken Stars (Baylor), OSU 55-41.

Michigan State @ Nebraska: The last two weeks must have been cloud nine for Spartans fans, as they knocked off Michigan & Wisconsin from the unbeaten ranks. This Leaders divisional showdown in the corn fields of Lincoln, NE is a battle for first place, and the winner sits in the driver’s seat for a rematch with Wisconsin. Nebraska has never lost to Michigan State in five previous meetings.
Prediction: Spartans make a stand in Lincoln but the fightin’ Pelinis prevail, NU 30-17.

Clemson @ Georgia Tech: Remember the last time Clemson was undefeated (8-0 in 2000) and played Georgia Tech? Clemson ran into an angry bunch of Yellow Jackets and lost (31-28) in the waning seconds of the game on a touchdown pass, as the Ramblin’ Wreck prevailed and spoiled Clemson’s undefeated season in Tommy Bowden’s inaugural season. This time around, the Tigers bring a high-powered offense south on I-85 to the ATL and face Paul Johnson’s triple option offense.
Prediction: Keep alive the ghosts of 1981, Clemson fans, at least for another four weeks, CU 42-28.

Georgia/Florida: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (never stray from tradition) convenes in Jacksonville this weekend. Florida has won 18 of the last 21 contests and three straight. UGA Head Coach Mark Richt desperately needs a signature win on his resume this year, and a wounded UF team under first year Head Coach Wil Muschamp would aid the cause.
Prediction: The Gators chomp the Dawgs again, UF 30-28.

Missouri @ Texas A&M: Mike Slive & the SEC 2012 schedule get a head start today, when these two conference foes hook up for one last soiree as members of the Big 12. The Aggies are already 0-1 in SEC play this season losing to Arkansas in Dallas earlier this season. Next year, these two teams will be on opposite sides of the SEC: Texas A&M (West division) & Missouri (East division)
Prediction: These two teams audition in The Show Me State for their SEC brethren, A&M 37-27.

South Carolina @ Tennessee: Tennessee is a shell of the program it used to be in the 20th century when Manning or Martin were under center on Rocky Top, and UT fans complained about one or two loss seasons. UT is currently winless in the SEC (0-4) and suffering a three-game losing streak. In comes a subdued OBC and offensively challenged Gamecocks offense – first one to 14 points wins!
Prediction: The Gamecocks defense spurs a comeback on Rocky Top, USC 21-13.

Wisconsin @ Ohio State: A Leaders division prime time showdown in the Big 10 at the Shoe! Wisconsin is coming off a last-second heart break loss at Michigan State last weekend, while Ohio State is coming off a bye week after beating Illinois two weeks ago. Wisconsin has won three of its last five trips to Columbus, but OSU is 7-3 all-time in night games at the Shoe.
Prediction: The Badgers overcome last week’s last-second setback and tattoo OSU, UW 41-17.

West Virginia @ Rutgers: Will either of these two teams reside in The Big East this time next year? Will The Big East even exist in 2012? For now, we have to treat this game for what it is… the last possible television option if you happen to be in its viewing area! WVU has only lost four times in 38 meetings with Rutgers. The Mountaineers leave Rutgers with a reminder of how things will always be in The Big East – the Scarlet Knights always looking up in the standings at another contender!
Prediction: The Mountaineers shoot down another red scare, WVU 45-34.
My next blog will be Monday afternoon as Spurspective will review the USC/UT contest and peek ahead to the trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas and match-up with the Razorbacks.
Go Gamecocks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lakeem Jackson - Point Man of USC Basketball

Carey Rich, former Gamecocks basketball player and co-host of The Locker Room radio show, has written a blog with his sentiments about USC junior basketball player, Lakeem Jackson's impact at Point Guard this upcoming season for Head Coach Darrin Horn's team.
Here is the link
Point Guard Lakeem Jackson

Five Keys to USC Victory on Rocky Top

Fresh off of a bye week, #14 South Carolina travels up to Knoxville on Saturday for an SEC Eastern division tilt with the Tennessee Volunteers. The trek up to Rocky Top has somewhat been a Rocky Horror Show for the Gamecocks since joining the SEC in 1992. The match-up between the two divisional rivals will be the 30th in the series, which dates back to 1903. UT is 14-1 all-time against the Gamecocks in Knoxville. Do you know which USC coach owns the lone victory? If you answered Steve Spurrier, you are correct. Spurrier led Carolina to its first & only win in Neyland Stadium in SOS’ inaugural season, 2005, when Josh Brown connected on a 49-yard field goal late in the game. Since that game, these two teams have evenly split the last six contests. Last year in Columbia, Alshon Jeffrey’s 70-yard touchdown catch broke a 24-24 tie game early in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks went on to beat Tennessee 38-24. In 2009, when USC last visited Rocky Top, the Gamecocks fell behind in the first quarter after two consecutive fumbles on USC’s first two possessions put Carolina in an early 14-0 deficit. UT would turn another USC miscue into a touchdown and send South Carolina home with a 31-13 loss. This year, the two teams enter the game with their superstars sidelined with injuries and lots of questions surrounding each team’s offense. Let’s take a look at five keys that could impact USC’s chances to win this football game.

Expect the Unexpected where both offenses are concerned. Tennessee named former Northwestern HS star, Justin Worley, as its starting quarterback. The Rock Hill, SC native unexpectedly entered the game last week against Alabama in the fourth quarter when starter Matt Simms was pulled due to ineffectiveness. Worley was expected to redshirt this season, but with the injury to Tyler Bray three weeks ago and the backup, Matt Simms, demonstrating an inability to lead the Volunteers, the UT coaching staff decided to burn the redshirt on Worley. The Gamecocks do not have any film on Worley, as he did not attempt to throw a pass versus Alabama. IMHO, Tennessee will try and establish an early run game to take the pressure off of Worley, who will be making his first career start. Even though Worley was the Gatorade Player of the Year in South Carolina last year, he has never played a full game against an SEC defense. UT’s coaching staff had no other choices after Simms’ dismal performance versus LSU & BAMA. If Worley was making a half-way decent impression on the UT coaching staff post-Bray injury, then Worley would have gotten significantly more practice reps prior to the LSU game two weeks ago. UT is desperate for a win (0-4, SEC record), so expect the Volunteers to throw some trick plays at the Gamecocks to try and generate some momentum on offense and place Worley in situations where he can make high percentage passes to gain some confidence and avoid turnovers.

Frustrate the freshman quarterback is the plan for the South Carolina front seven Saturday night. USC coaches Ellis Johnson, Lorenzo Ward and Brad Lawing have had two weeks to prepare their top ten defense (#7 overall), yielding less than 278 total yards per game, for an anemic Volunteers offense. UT has lost its top two playmakers, WR Justin Hunter & Tyler Bray, which comprised a UT aerial attack that chucked the ball up & down the field about 40-plus times a game. Ever since starting QB Tyler Bray suffered a broken thumb versus UGA three weeks ago, Tennessee has tried to establish a physical running attack with not much success against the likes of LSU & Alabama. If Carolina can negate the Volunteers rushing attack and force UT into second & third long distances, then the USC front four of Clowney, Robertson, Ingram and Taylor can pin their ears back and make life miserable for the Rock Hill native in his first start in the SEC. Carolina has registered 15 sacks on the season, third in the SEC, and the idea of facing a true freshman under center should have the sack masters (Ingram, Clowney & Taylor) licking their chops! When forced to throw the football, the Volunteers will face a treacherous task against the nation’s #1 ranked Pass Defense. The Gamecocks are surrendering less than 134 yards per game.

USC’s offensive identity has questions coming out of the bye week. This will be the first game without superstar runningback Marcus Lattimore lining up behind the USC quarterback. Since the Navy game, USC’s foes have stacked the box (8-9 defenders near the line of scrimmage) to shut down Lattimore. Now it will be interesting to see how opposing teams defend Carolina’s offense without Lattimore as part of the equation. True freshman Brandon Wilds steps out of Lattimore’s shadows and into the spotlight. Wilds has played in all seven games this season but has not figured as prominently as the Blythewood, SC native will post-Lattimore injury. Will the Gamecocks be pass-happy (40-plus pass attempts), balanced (50/50 run-pass ratio) or rush heavy (greater than 50% running plays)? I expect All-American WR Alshon Jeffrey to be featured more prominently along with WR Bruce Ellington and TE Justice Cunningham. The Wildcock formation and the Emory & Henry formations allow USC to mask some of the deficiencies of the o-line after the season ending injury to tackle Kyle Nunn. The lack of depth on the offensive line has surfaced in the rigors of the SEC; thus, the USC rushing totals have significantly declined since the Navy game. I am going out on a limb and saying the play calling will lean more towards the pass unless USC’s o-line has significantly upgraded its blocking ability in the off week.

Force turnovers and punish Tennessee for mistakes with positive point production especially in the red zone. UT has only lost a total of ten turnovers the entire season but is becoming more turnover prone, especially in the last two games (three INTs & one fumble). South Carolina has been very opportunistic on defense this year in forcing turnovers. USC is second in the FBS in Turnovers Gained with 24 (14 interceptions & ten fumble recoveries). Ten of the interceptions have come over the last three games where Carolina’s defense has not faced a polished passing quarterback, i.e. Justin Worley, UT starting quarterback on Saturday night. Remember Worley has never attempted a collegiate pass, and he will be facing a defense that likes to get up the field and pressure the quarterback, so we will see if the young gun slinger wilts in the face of a tenacious pass rush and puts the football in jeopardy Saturday night.

Special Teams needs to be superior on Saturday night. South Carolina Field Goal Kicker Jay Wooten is 4-6 on FG Attempts this year north of 40 yards. USC is the only school in the nation that has not attempted a field goal inside of 40 yards, per the Spurs and Feathers. Traditionally, the games on Rocky Top have been close over the last decade (exception 2009, 31-13 UT win), and Carolina’s only two overtime games in the history of the program have occurred in Neyland Stadium, a 23-20 loss in 2003 and a 27-24 defeat in 2007. Winning the field position game and converting scoring opportunities will be at a premium on Saturday night, so both Wooten and Punter Joey Scribner-Howard will need to have strong performances if Carolina is to emerge victorious from what I expect to be a lackluster offensive performance by both squads.

Spurspective’s Prediction: The Road Warriors continue their streak away from the cockpit, USC 21-13.

My next blog will be Saturday when I post my Top Ten Games of the Week.

Go Gamecocks!

Shaw & Sons - The Flowery Branch Family Football Pedigree

Here is a nice article from yesterday's USA Today about Connor Shaw's Dad and siblings and their successful football family.
Flowery Branch Pedigree

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tennessee Shuffling Offensive Line for USC Match-Up

Per UT Head Football Coach Derek Dooley, freshman offensive lineman Marcus Jackson will get the starting nod at Left Guard over sophomore incumbent, James Stone.

Arkansas Kick-Off Time Set

Per, South Carolina/Arkansas will kick off at 7:15 p.m. on ESPN.

Rock Hill Native to Start Against USC at Rocky Top

Former Northwestern High School QB Justin Worley has been named starting quarterback for Tennessee on Saturday night against South Carolina, per Derrick Dooley. Worley hails from Rock Hill, SC.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Just"in" - Worley could be Tennessee Starting Quarterback versus Gamecocks

Last night versus Alabama, University of Tennessee Head Football Coach Derek Dooley decided to burn the redshirt of freshman Justin Worley. Worley, a Rock Hill, SC native and former Northwestern High School quarterback, was bumped up to second string on the depth chart after starting quarterback Tyler Bray suffered a broken thumb two weeks ago versus Georgia. Worley replaced Matt Simms last night with less than ten minutes to play in UT's loss to Alabama. Dooley was non-committal on naming an official starter at the quarterback position for next Saturday's match-up versus South Carolina. Worley led Northwestern to a 15-0 record and the Class 4A-II state title last December. Worley was not heavily recruited by either Clemson or South Carolina during his senior season in high school. The former Northwestern Trojans quarterback was an early enrollee at Tennessee this past January and was not expected to play this season until the unfortunate injury to Tyler Bray. If Worley is named the starter against his native state's flagship university, you can expect the Volunteers to play very inspired football against USC.

USC Women's Hoops Recruiting Update

I normally do not track women's college basketball recruiting but since Dawn Staley's USC program has the potential to secure top instate talent in the next couple of recruiting cycles I will keep USC fans updated on Lady Gamecocks' recruiting prowess.
Here is a link to an update on a Top Fifty 2012 prospect in the state of South Carolina by Phil Kornblut of the South Carolina Radio Network.
Xyline McDaniel Update

Friday, October 21, 2011

USC Quarterback Commitment in Action

Click the link to checkout 2012 USC quarterback commitment Brendan Nosovitch of Central Catholic in Pennsylvania.
USC Quarterback Commitment Brendan Nosovitch

Thursday, October 20, 2011

USC 2011 Signee Jerrell Adams in Columbia on Saturday

Thanks to Phil Kornblut of the South Carolina News Network for this update on some USC 2011 Signees at Fork Union Prep School in Virginia.
Fork Union Prep Update

USC Basketball Preview by a Former USC Roundball Star

Here is a link to a South Carolina basketball blog by former Gamecocks basketball player Carey Rich, aka The Captian. Rich lives in Columbia and co-hosts a local radio show called the Locker Room on AM-1400 ( Rich is very insightful on basketball terminology and breaking down the game. I enjoy listening to him on the radio as well as his blog. Enjoy the read USC fans!

Hover over the blank space below and then click the link.

The Captain's Blog

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

College Football Hot Seat Edition & Meet RB Brandon Wilds

As the Gamecocks enjoy a much-needed Bye Week, I thought it was the perfect time to peer into Spurspective’s crystal ball and see which college football coaches need to polish up the resume by season’s end. It’s an annual rite of passage as college football eclipses the midway point – team’s performances do not meet expectations, then the fan bases crank up the heat on the million dollar men that run the football departments at universities across this country. I have my top ten list of rock solid candidates, who absolutely will be shown the door at the completion of the college football regular season. FYI…if you are a fan of west coast teams you might not want to review my list. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my list.

Hot Seat Nominees:

1. Houston Nutt/Ole Miss: Houston We Have a Problem! In his fourth season in Oxford, MS, the former Arkansas Razorbacks coach has accomplished a feat that not even his predecessor, Ed Orgeron, could achieve, and Orgeron went 0-8 in his last season in Oxford. The Rebels have lost nine straight SEC contests dating back to October 2, 2010, when the Rebels defeated Kentucky 42-35. Up next is Arkansas at home this Saturday. Nutt’s seat is extremely hot!

2. Mike Locksley/New Mexico: Now, granted, Locksley has already been fired, but, trust me, this coach was atop the list prior to the sun setting on his stay in the Land of Enchantment. Locksley compiled a pitiful, 2-26 overall record, 8% winning percentage while at the helm in Albuquerque for a little more than two years.

3. Rick Neuheisel/UCLA: When the prodigal son returned to Westwood, the golden boy/offensive guru was supposed to turn around the fortunes of L.A.'s other program not named Southern Cal. In the last 2 ½ years, the Bruins have gone 7-13 in conference play, which includes a 1-4 record versus cross-town rival USC-W.

4. Mike Stoops/Arizona: Arizona has already fired Mike Stoops, but the program was slipping dating back to the middle of the 2010 season. The Wildcats are off to a 1-5 start this season and have lost ten straight games to FBS opponents dating back to October 30, 2010, when the Wildcats beat UCLA. In the midst of the ten-game losing streak, the average point differential has been more than two touchdowns…OUCH! In 7 ½ seasons in Tucson, Stoops compiled a 41-50 overall record and 27-38 Pac 10/12 record.

5. Tom O’Brien/N.C. State: Do you think O’Brien might be rethinking his ultimatum to Russell Wilson about giving up baseball and concentrating solely on football? The Wolfpack has regressed during the post-Wilson era with redshirt sophomore Sean Glennon under center. O’Brien has had only one winning season in Raleigh and prospects this year are bleak, as NC State still must play Virginia, FSU, UNC, Clemson and Maryland.

6. Paul Wulff/Washington State: Wulff is coaching in his fourth season in Pullman, WA and treading some serious water if he does not turn around the Cougars quickly in 2011. In his previous three seasons, the Cougars have amassed a putrid win total of five games (5-32 record), which includes a 2-25 mark in the Pac-10. That is an astonishing 14% overall winning percentage! Now the Cougars are 3-3 so far in 2011, but time is not on the side of WSU, and there will be no more crying wulff if the Cougars collapse in the second half of their schedule.

7. Bob Toledo/Tulane: It’s awfully easy to stay under the radar in The Big Easy but after four-plus years and compiling a (15-40 overall record; 2-5 in 2011) 38% winning percentage, even the revelers in New Orleans decided it was time to make a change. Oh the days of Bowden & Rich Rod rockin’ the Dome in New Orleans seem like a century ago (1998, 11-0 season)!

8. Jeff Tedford/California: Do you sense a Pac-12 theme with coaches on the hot seat this year? Tedford is coaching in his ninth season in Berkeley this year and so far the Golden Bears are average (Overall: 3-3, Conf: 1-3). In the last 1 ½ years, California is 4-9 (3-6 in 2010) in Pac-10 (12) conference play. In the three losses this year to Washington, Oregon and Southern Cal, the Golden Bears have lost by an average of 19 points. Since 2007, the Golden Bears have not finished higher than 4th in the Pac-10 after finishing tied for 1st in 2006.

9. Frank Spaziani/Boston College: In 2 ½ seasons as the head man in Chestnut Hill, Frank Spaziani is ruffling some feathers in Bean Town. The former defensive coordinator at Boston College is just one game above .500 (17-16) and one game under .500 (9-10) in ACC conference play. The Eagles enjoyed their best season under Spaziani in year one when Boston College finished 8-5 and finished in second place in the Atlantic Division.

10. Neil Callaway/UAB: Yes I know it’s University of Alabama-Birmingham, but when coaches make six-figure salaries, the microscope is always on them, and that includes bottom feeder schools in Conference USA. Callaway has amassed a 15-43 overall record (35% winning percentage) and an 11-24 Conference record (46% winning percentage) in 4 ½ seasons at UAB, which includes a 0-6 start this season.

Meet Brandon Wilds – USC Running Back

Before the 2011 season began, it was an afterthought that Brandon Wilds would be redshirted with all of the talent that USC had amassed at the tailback position. Well surprise, surprise, halfway through his freshman season, the Blythewood, SC native finds himself as the focal point during the post-injury Marcus Lattimore era.
Wilds ended his prep career with 500 carries for 2,700 yards with 29 rushing scores in 33 games at Blythewood (S.C.) High School. Before enrolling at USC, Wilds participated in the annual North/South Football All-Star in South Carolina. Wilds was a two-star prospect, per, and narrowed his collegiate choices down to South Carolina, Illinois and Arkansas before selecting USC in August of 2010.

All Gamecock fans know Wilds is not going to replicate Lattimore’s football achievements, but check out this article from The State newspaper in 2010 and, IMHO, you will have a fonder admiration for the young man that will be toting the rock when the Gamecocks hit the field in Knoxville, TN on Halloween weekend.

Big junior year has USC, others after top RB
Akilah Imani Nelson, - 8/15/2010

Getting recruited by BCS schools is not Brandon Wilds’ No. 1 priority this season.
“I pretty much just focus on the football and let everything else take care of itself,” Wilds said.
But he is the Class of 2011’s No. 1 player in the Midlands.
After one season at tailback for Blythewood, Wilds has offers from South Carolina, East Carolina, Illinois, and Maryland after his 252-carry, 1,551-yard performance in 2009. Wilds is visiting Illinois this weekend and has said he plans to announce his decision on Thursday, the day before the Bengals’ first game of the season, so he will be free to focus on his team.
Although he has tried not to become preoccupied with the process, Wilds has spent a lot of time studying his choices.
“He’s very goal-driven and he does more research than any kid I’ve seen,” Blythewood coach Geremy Saitz said. “He knows what he’s looking for. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he understands the importance of his decision.”
Wilds’ parents, Robert and Regina, are confident their youngest son’s reserved and studious nature will help him make the right decision.
“I just told him to pay attention to what people say,” said Robert, who played college football at TEAM HERE. “People will talk fast, but not everybody is going to be saying what he wants to hear.”
Robert Wilds said he handed his son a football when he was 2 years old. When he noticed the boy sleeping with football, he figured Brandon was bound to be a football player.
Despite the dreams he had for his son, Robert Wilds did not fathom the success his son has attained.
Though Brandon was developing into a star running back in eighth grade, Richland 2 district rules prevented him from competing with the Bengals as a freshman. He spent that year on the scout team instead, helping Blythewood prepare for a season that culminated in a state title.
“He couldn’t compete with us, but he came to every practice. He was very much a part of that team, and he’s been willing to do whatever we need of him since then,” Saitz said.
Wilds’ mother was proud of her son’s humility and grace during that time.
“After that freshman year he felt like he had something to prove,” Regina Wilds said.
But proving himself had to wait another season.
“I really wanted to play tailback, but the team already had an established back, so I played fullback and just tried to be the best at that,” Wilds said. He averaged 4.5 yards on 73 carries that season behind C.J. Edwards.
Today, Wilds stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 218 pounds — a physique Robert Wilds claims as coming from his side of the family. He has a nearly three-foot vertical leap and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
“He’s so big you just think he’s a power back,” Saitz said. “You don’t realize how fast he is until you watch the film.”
That season at fullback gave him an understanding of blocking schemes, Wilds said, and his solid frame is perfectly suited to rushing through contact.
When he finally got to play running back, Wilds cut loose. With 17 touchdowns, Wilds was the Bengals’ scoring leader.
“I didn’t imagine my son would be this good and be ranked so highly,” Robert Wilds said. “I had to tell him, I think he’s a better player than I was.”
It was a hard admission to make, but also a source of pride.
And for Brandon Wilds, his father’s confidence and admiration are as good as a five-star rating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Akeem Auguste Update

Steve Spurrier also announced that senior Akeem Auguste will be out the remainder of the season as well. Spurrier announced during his press conference that Auguste will have surgery in Charlotte on Thursday when a plate will be inserted into his foot, allow the foot to heal and then remove the plate. Auguste does have a redshirt year available and should be 100% next year when he returns to USC.

Meet the Backup USC Tailback

During Spurrier Press Conference today he announced that Eric Baker might be ready to play at Tennessee. If neither Baker or Kenny Miles is not ready to play (Miles' wrist in a cast) then the backup to freshman Brandon Wilds would be Josh Hinch. How ironic that Hinch, a walk on, might make his college debut in his hometown of Knoxville, TN. Hinch is 5'7" and 180 pounds. Hinch lettered in football and track at MidAmerica Nazarene College an NAIA school in 2008. Hinch enrolled at USC in 2009.

Offensive Lineman Kyle Nunn - Out for the Year

Per South Carolina Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier, Sumter, SC native and redhsirt senior Kyle Nunn is out for the remainder of the year. SOS stated that Nunn will apply for a medical hardship waiver and seek a sixth year of eligibility.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bruce Ellington Football Classification Update

According to the USC SID, it has been determined Bruce Ellington is a redshirt freshman in terms of football eligibility.

South Carolina/Mississippi State Review: Good, Bad & Ugly

The Gamecocks took care of business down in Starkville, MS on Saturday afternoon, but, in the process, lost the heart & soul of their team. A cliché that teams use in sports is a costly victory. What price is too high for a victory? Would you trade Marcus Lattimore’s health for the win USC earned against Mississippi State? IMHO, I’ll take a win every single time in the SEC. I am not belittling the loss of Lattimore, because the sophomore sensation is truly a dynamic playmaker and leader of this offense, but let’s not fool ourselves USC fans---our offensive line isn’t exactly opening running lanes for anybody, much less for Lattimore. I don’t think there are any running backs on our offense that can produce with zero blocking! My heart goes out to Lattimore and his family. I hate to see any athlete suffer an injury, but there is no doubt in my mind that Marcus Lattimore will come back with a vengeance in 2012. A win is a win no matter how ugly the win is. Football is a violent sport and, more times than not, players get hurt when the player becomes a spectator versus a participant. On the play where Lattimore got hurt, Ellington had run past the defender that Lattimore was engaging in a block. As the MSU defensive back disengaged Lattimore to tackle Ellington, a second defender dove at Ellington’s legs to make a tackle; the MSU defender missed Ellington and subsequently rolled into Lattimore’s left knee just as the sophomore sensation planted his left leg. I felt sick to my stomach seeing Lattimore go down, and I knew instantly that South Carolina was going to have to win the SEC East without its Heisman hopeful lining up in the backfield. So let’s take a look at the Good, Bad & the Ugly from the USC/MSU game and peer down the road to see what changes need to happen on offense for USC to have a chance to repeat as SEC East Division champs.

The Good:
→South Carolina is now bowl eligible for the eighth straight season, seven under Steve Spurrier. Don’t ever underestimate being bowl eligible!

→The Gamecocks have won five consecutive road games for the first time in school history. Dating back to last year’s Vanderbilt game, USC has beaten Vanderbilt, Florida, Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State consecutively.

→South Carolina is 9-4 in their last thirteen SEC contests. Contrastly Florida is 6-7!

→Steve Spurrier won his 50th game at South Carolina. SOS is now 50-34 in less than seven full seasons at South Carolina. That is a 60% winning percentage with not a lot of talent for a majority of the first five years. Spurrier is second all-time on USC’s Career Wins List for USC football coaches, trailing only Rex Enright (64 all-time wins).

→The Gamecocks are now 2-0 against Green Bay Packers lineage. Brett Favre’s nephew, Dylan Favre, threw an incomplete pass on Saturday and USC defeated Vanderbilt when Jordan Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers’ brother, came into the game to relieve Larry Smith at quarterback.

→SOS is now 2-0 playing in Starkville, MS as USC’s head coach. While at Florida, Spurrier was 0-2 in games played in Starkville. Overall at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier is 6-0 versus teams from the Magnolia State (3-0 record versus MSU, 2-0 record versus Ole Miss and 1-0 versus Southern Miss).

→Connor Shaw was 8-8 passing the football in the second half on Saturday. Overall he was 20-28 (71%) on Pass Completions to Pass Attempts. Shaw only accumulated 155 passing yards, but the sophomore is demonstrating the ability to complete passes that his predecessor was unable to complete on a consistent basis.

→Turnovers du jour: South Carolina forced two more turnovers on Saturday (two INTs) to remain tied with Rutgers atop the FBS in Turnovers Gained with 24 total turnovers forced. South Carolina is tied for second in FBS with Rutgers with 14 Interceptions on the season.

→Red Zone Audible: Steve Spurrier said that on the game-winning touchdown pass to Jeffrey that Connor Shaw audibled at the line of scrimmage after reading the MSU defensive alignment. Originally, SOS called for a quick slant with Shaw throwing to Jeffrey, but the Bulldogs defense gave Shaw a different look. The Flowery Branch, GA native audibled to a jump ball to Alshon Jeffrey, and the Calhoun County native was on the same page as his quarterback and made a tremendous catch in traffic.

→The USC defense has now surrendered 53 points to its last five opponents (4-1), which equates to 10.6 points per game. South Carolina’s defenders have forced 16 turnovers (twelve INTs & four fumbles) in the last 20 quarters! Also, Ellis Johnson’s stop troops held a third SEC offense to under 300 total yards this season (Vanderbilt & Kentucky as well).

→The USC Pass Defense held redshirt freshman Tyler Russell to 11-30 pass completions-to-pass attempts for 37% completion rate, one TD Pass and two INTs. The front four got relentless pressure all day long and, if not for continuous non-holding calls by the zebras, the Carolina front four would have had even more of an impact on this game. The Gamecocks are ranked second in Pass Defense (trailing only Michigan State) in FBS, per NCAA.

→South Carolina now ranks 9th in FBS Total Defense rankings. There are four SEC teams in the top nine (Alabama, 1st, LSU, 4th and UGA 8th).

→Safety D.J. Swearinger had 12 tackles and sealed the victory with his late fourth quarter interception of MSU's qurterback Tyler Russell.

→The hard hits the Carolina defense handed out to the MSU skill position players all game long.

The Bad:

→21 plays (of 75 total) USC ran for no gain or a loss on offense versus Mississippi State, per Ron Morris of The State newspaper.

→20% (3/15) Third-Down Conversion Rate for South Carolina!

→2.6 yards per rush for the USC offense! Carolina totaled 110 yards rushing on 43 attempts after subtracting 36 yards in negative plays.

→Run Blocking is a serious issue for USC moving forward. There is not a single starting o-line player for Carolina who should feel good about his performance over the last four games (Vanderbilt, Auburn, Kentucky and MSU). I don’t care if USC had Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith or Jim Brown lining up in the backfield on Saturday against Mississippi State, no running back can gain positive yardage when there are ZERO running lanes to run! USC o-line coach Sean Elliott has to make some personnel changes to get some momentum going into the home stretch of games if this USC offense is going to be successful.

→3rd-Down Conversion Defensive Rate of the USC Defense was porous on Saturday, allowing the Bulldogs to convert 44% (7/16) on third-down opportunities, especially third & long distances!

The Ugly:

→ACL injury to RB Marcus Lattimore was a devastating blow to the USC offense. By the end of the game, South Carolina had only one healthy running back, Brandon Wilds, on its travel roster.

→The gamblers, who saw $30 million dollars, transfer back to the bookies on the safety that the Gamecocks took instead of punting the ball back to MSU on the final play of the game.

→SEC Officiating is getting worse and worse as the season grows longer. You cannot tell me that a defensive line that includes Ingram, Clowney and Taylor can only get one sack versus a patchwork MSU o-line! Quit swallowing the whistles SEC refs! How come, in a 14-12 SEC slobber knocker, Mississippi State only gets flagged for one penalty for seven yards???

My next blog will be Wednesday.

Go Gamecocks!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RB Eric Baker Update & USC RB Depth Issue

Per The State newspaper, RB Eric Baker is out indefinitely after sustaining an ankle injury in the Kentucky game. Kenny Miles has missed the last four games following a wrist injury. Spurrier said Miles has been unable to catch passes or block following his injury. SOS is hoping with the Bye Week that Miles will be available when the Gamecocks travel to Knoxville in two weeks. Otherwise freshman Brandon Wilds, of Blythewood, SC, will be a very busy man in the backfield for South Carolina.

Go Gamecocks!

USC Moves Up in the AP Poll and USA Today/Coaches Poll Today

South Carolina moved up one spot today in the AP Poll (#14) and the USA Today/Coaches Poll (#12).

Go Gamecocks!

Marcus Lattimore Update - Sunday Afternoon & USC RB Depth Situation

Per Steve Spurrier's Sunday Teleconference, Marcus Lattimore has a torn ligament and cartilage damage to his left knee. Lattimore will have surgery after the swelling subsides in a few weeks & miss the remainder of the season.

This is the third USC running back to suffer an ACL injury this season. During Spurrier's teleconference today the Head Ball Coach also revealed that redshirt freshman Fullback Matt Coffee will miss the remainder of the season with a torn knee ligament. Earlier in the year against UGA, freshman tailback Shon Carson suffered an ACL injury on his only carry of the game.

Redshirt junior Kenny Miles has been nursing a hand injury and did not even travel to Starkville, MS with the team.

That leaves only two healthy running backs on the roster. Freshman Brandon Wilds and redshirt junior Eric Baker will get the bulk of carries in the run game moving forward. Baker only has three carries for three yards on the season and he himself just returned this year from an ACL injury he suffered leading up to the bowl game versus UConn back at the end of the 2009 calendar year.

IMHO I expect Wilds to be the starter because he has surpassed both Miles and Baker on the depth chart and I anticipate Wide Receiver Bruce Ellington getting more chances in the Wildcock formation.

The run game for USC has been struggling mightily since the Navy game so unless the o-line starts blocking, then it doesn't matter who lines up at tailback for USC. South Carolina cannot afford another injury to its running back position because depth is starting to be a running problem for the Gamecocks.

Go Gamecocks!

Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin Addresses Verbal Exchange with UGA Coach

If you have not seen this video from last night's UGA/Vanderbilt game click on the link from Clay Travis of

Click the link below to view all three videos of Franklin's post-game press conference, Grantham and Franklin's verbal exchange post-game and Grantham's dispicable choke sign directed towards the Florida Kicker at last year's Cocktail Party.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Update on Lattimore Injury

Per, Lattimore, according to sources close to the program, suffered an injury to his left ACL. Per a program source, "it would be a miracle if the injury is not season-ending for the Duncan, SC native." An MRI will be conducted on Monday to confirm the severity of Lattimore's injury. Spurrier will address the media on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Go Gamecocks!

More Stats from the USC/MSU Game

per Josh Low of

South Carolina
Connor Shaw - 20-28 (71% Completion rate), 155 yds, TD, 2 INTs
Bruce Ellington - 2-3, 24 yds

Marcus Lattimore - 17 car, 38 yds, TD
Connor Shaw - 16 car, 28 yds
Bruce Ellington - 4 car, 25 yds
Damiere Byrd - 1 car, 10 yds
Brandon Wilds - 5 car, 8 yds

Nick Jones - 4 rec, 45 yds
Bruce Ellington - 4 rec, 32 yds
Marcus Lattimore - 3 rec, 29 yds
Ace Sanders - 2 rec, 25 yds
Alshon Jeffery - 5 rec, 24 yds, TD
D.L. Moore - 2 rec, 14 yds
Justice Cunningham - 2 rec, 10 yds

Mississippi State
T. Russell -11-29, 165 yds, TD, 2 INTs
D. Favre - 0-1

V. Ballard - 20 car, 67 yds
L. Perkins - 9 car, 46 yds
T. Russell - 8 car, 18 yds

Team Stats
South Carolina:
First Downs - 18
Total Yards - 289
Rushing Yards - 110
Passing Yards - 179
Turnovers - 2
Penalties - 4 for 34 yds
3rd Down Conversions - 3 of 15
4th Down Conversions - 3 of 5
Total Plays - 75
Time of Possession - 32:34

Mississippi State:
First Downs - 18
Total Yards - 296
Rushing Yards - 131
Passing Yards - 165
Turnovers - 2
Penalties - 1 for 7 yds
3rd Down Conversions - 7 of 16
4th Down Conversions - 0 of 0
Total Plays - 67
Time of Possession - 27:26

Defensive Stats:
D.J. Swearinger - 12 tck, INT
Antonio Allen - 10 tck, 1 tfl
DeVonte Holloman - 9 tck, 1 pass break up
Travian Robertson - 7 tcks, 0.5 tfl, 1 QB hit
Rodney Paulk - 5 tcks
Melvin Ingram - 4 tcks, 1.5 tfl
Shaq Wilson - 4 tcks
Quin Smith - 4 tcks, 0.5 tfl
Reggie Bowens - 3 tcks, INT
Jimmy Legree - 3 tcks
Devin Taylor - 3 tcks, sack, 1 tfl
Marty Markett - 2 tcks
Stephon Gilmore - 2 tcks, 1 pass break up
Kelcy Quarles - 2 tcks, 0.5 tfl, 2 QB hits
Victor Hampton - 1 tck, 1 pass break up
Jadeveon Clowney - 1 tck, 1 tfl, forced fumble, 2 QB hits
Chaz Sutton - 1 tck

More USC/MSU tidbits

For the seventh straight game this season, USC fell behind early in a game.

Carolina is now (6-1 Overall, and 4-1 SEC record). Mississippi State falls to 3-4, overall and 0-4 in the SEC.

Shaw led a 12-play 79-yard game winning drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Jeffery.

After each MSU scoring drive, Carolina immediately responded with a scoring drive of its own.

With two more forced turnovers, USC now leads the FBS in Turnovers Gained with 24 after picking off two Tyler Russell passes.

Quick Recap of USC/MSU Game

Whatever coach suggested Shaw run out of the back of the end zone for a Safety needs a hefty raise at the end of the year because that was brilliant!

The last USC scoring drive of the game was very crisp! I actually think Lattimore not being the focus of the MSU defense allowed Spurrier to design play calls to include other offensive personnel like Ellington, Wilds, Cunningham and especially Jeffery. What a fantastic catch by Alshon Jeffery for the winning touchdown.

Hats off to the defense today! The guys were really teeing off on Bulldogs QB Russell. That kid is going to be very sore tomorrow morning, because he took some really hard shots by Gamecock defenders.

Connor Shaw along with Bruce Ellington at quarterback led Carolina from behind on the road late in the 4th quarter in the SEC. That is how players earn respect from teammates, not blowing out Kentucky at home by 51 points!

Congratulations USC, and now the Gamecocks get a well-deserved BYE Week before heading to Knoxville on October 29th.

Fingers crossed that Lattimore does not have structural damage to his knee!

Go Gamecocks!

Quick Lattimore Update, per 107.5 The Game in Columbia

per Terry Cousin, USC Sideline Reporter for 107.5 The Game, Marcus Lattimore suffered what is being first diagnosed as a knee sprain but Cousin is not 100% sure!
More updates to come on Lattimore!

Go Gamecocks!

Top Ten College Football Games – Week Seven Edition

We have already completed half of the college football regular season. The leaves are turning color and come Saturday afternoon so will your television in between Top 25 match-ups. Here are Spurspective’s top ten college football games this weekend.

Oklalahoma State@Texas: The Fightin’ T. Boone Pickens (aka Cowboys) out of Stillwater, OK come guns a blazin’ into Austin, Texas looking for steers, i.e. BEVO! Oklahoma shellacked Texas last week at the annual Red River Shootout and the cowpokes will be looking to light up the scoreboard as well against the Big 12 lynchpin!
Prediction: Cowpokes round up the ‘Horns, 45-31.

Arizona State@Oregon: The Phoenix rising out of Tempe, AZ this season is ASU’s Head Football Coach Dennis Erickson’s career! This game could be a prelude of the inaugural Pac-12 Championship. Oregon is the second highest scoring offense in FBS averaging 50.2 points/per game. Both schools are undefeated in conference play. Oregon has won the last six meetings between the two schools.
Prediction: No deal with the Sun Devils tonight, Quack Attack big 48-30.

Michigan@Michigan State: Sparty has won three in a row in this intrastate Legends Divisional battle. The last time Michigan lost four in a row (1959-62) to instate rival Michigan State, JFK occupied the White House. UM’s dynamic QB Denard Robinson will test the Big 10’s top ranked defense.
Prediction: This ain’t your RichRod’s Maize & Blue and the Wolverines remain undefeated, 34-24.

Baylor@Texas A&M: The fightin’ Ken Starr’s bring their litigation papers (remember the threat to A&M made by Baylor about leaving the SEC?) to Kyle Field and hope to leave the Aggies with a parting gift as A&M transitions to the SEC next year---A LOSS with a lot of RG3, Robert Griffin III, touchdown passes!
Prediction: RG3 > 12th Man, Baylor 41-37.

Ohio State@Illinois: The fightin' Zookers are undefeated (6-0) and facing a struggling Buckeyes squad in this Leaders Divisional match-up. Illinois is trying to keep pace with undefeated Wisconsin while the Buckeyes are trying to win their fourth straight against Illinois.
Prediction: The fightin’ Zookers win this Leaders divisional match-up, 30-21.

South Carolina@Misissippi State: The Connor Shaw era got off on the right foot against lowly Kentucky last Saturday. His first test will be today in Starkvegas against a feisty pack of Bulldogs. Remember Shaw, your best weapon lines up right behind you---run LattiMORE.
Prediction: Carolina nips the Dawgs, 34-30.

Clemson@Maryland: Hip-gate? Is Clemson sandbagging the injury Boyd suffered last week or is the sophomore sensation really hurt? What uniforms will Maryland wear? Two years ago a talented Tigers team trekked up to Byrd Stadium and left with a loss.
Prediction: Turtle Soup anyone? Tigers maul Terrapins, 37-17.

Miami@North Carolina: Can we call this the Be-damned Butch Davis Bowl? Miami is a shadow of itself while the mountain goats are playing well under interim Head Coach Everett Winters. The Hurricanes are 0-4 all-time in Chapel Hill. Maybe after practice ends at the Dean Dome, there might be 40,000 fannies in the stands. A-She-She football at its best!
Prediction: No storm warning here, UNC rolls 34-20.

Florida@Auburn: Is Florida really this bad? How in the heck did USC lose to Auburn? I will never get over the Auburn loss, I know!!! UF has not won on the Plains since last century (1999) when the OBC roamed the sidelines. UF is coming off two beat downs at the hands of BAMA and LSU.
Prediction: Notch another “L” on Muschamp’s belt, Auburn wins 34-17.

Kansas State@Texas Tech: Don’t look now but K-State is quietly enjoying an undefeated season amongst all the expansion talk surrounding the Big 12 conference. KSU has not won in Lubbock since Clinton was POTUS and a guy named Snyder was roaming the sidelines.
Prediction: Well a Democrat is in the White House & guess who roams the sideline, KSU wins 41-38.

My next blog will be Monday afternoon as Spurspective will review the USC/MSU game and peek at the BYE Week. Maybe a little basketball update as well as practice kicked off yesterday.

Go Gamecocks!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York Times: Stephen Garcia Article

Click the link below to read the NY Times article about Stephen Garcia.  Remember to hover over the blank space and then click the link.

NY Times Stephen Garcia Article

Five Keys for South Carolina to Pound the Puppies of MSU

The Gamecocks hit the road this weekend after enjoying the friendly confines of the cockpit for the last month. It was an interesting home stand, to say the least, as Carolina won three out of four games. I cannot say with 100% conviction that the Gamecocks enjoyed the home stand, because of the rollercoaster ride that Carolina endured over the last month. A nail biter versus Navy, a lackluster offensive performance versus Vanderbilt, the first loss of the season against Auburn, a quarterback quandary, a blowout win versus Kentucky, a press conference heist and Stephen Garcia’s dismissal from the program after failing a substance test, whew! It will be 35 days since Carolina won at Georgia in a wild shootout (45-42) with a 5th-year senior quarterback. Now Steve Spurrier and the 15th ranked Gamecocks travel to Starkville, MS and face a very hungry Mississippi State squad looking to breakthrough in the win column in SEC play.

This will be the 14th meeting between South Carolina and Mississippi State. South Carolina has won five straight contests against MSU since 2000 and holds the all-time edge in the series 7-6. Since his tenure at USC, Spurrier owns a 2-0 record against the Magnolia State’s version of Bulldogs. Let’s take a look at the five keys to the Gamecocks leaving Starkville 6-1 heading into a bye week.

The Shaw Show: In his first home start last week versus Kentucky, sophomore QB Connor Shaw completed 66% of his passes for 311 yards and four TDs. Shaw demonstrated the ability to make all of the required throws a quarterback has to make in a Spurrier offense. Unlike his first start against East Carolina (fumbled on first drive), Shaw did not commit a turnover. Shaw, the son of a high school coach in Georgia, commanded the offense with precision and validated Spurrier’s decision to replace Garcia with Shaw. If Carolina’s o-line can provide Shaw a pocket to make passes, then the newly minted Shaw era will remain undefeated. The Flowery Branch, GA native is clearly the owner of the keys to USC’s offense moving forward and now must prove to his teammates and coaches that he has the intangibles and mindset to manage this team on the road and prove to his detractors that he can lead Carolina to a victory in hostile territory in SEC country. Starting at quarterback on a neutral field at Bank of America Stadium versus East Carolina in Charlotte is one thing, but winning in Starkville, MS against Mississippi State with the cowbells ringing in his ear is a whole other experience!

Dominant Defense: Since the start of the season when the Gamecocks stop troops surrendered 79 points in back-to-back games to ECU and UGA, the Carolina defenders have clamped down on the last four opponents giving up only 43 total points, just under eleven points per game. During the last 16 quarters, Carolina has forced 14 turnovers (ten INTs & four fumbles) giving USC 22 total forced turnovers on the year, which ties South Carolina with Rutgers for the FBS lead in Turnovers Gained, per NCAA. The Gamecocks have tallied 13 total sacks through six games. The front four has gotten tremendous pressure, allowing Ellis Johnson and Lorenzo Ward to drop seven defenders into pass defense, which forces the opposing QBs to make quick throws and, more times than not, place the ball in jeopardy of being intercepted by a Gamecocks defender. USC ranks second in FBS with 12 interceptions through six games. Mississippi State will test the perimeter of Carolina’s run defense, because, under Dan Mullen, the Bulldogs have rushed for 100-plus yards in 28 of 31 games, per Madduxsports. MSU averages a little more than 188 rushing yards per game, so USC’s run defense should expect a heavy dose of RB Vic Ballard & QB Chris Relf when Relf is in the ball game, but the MSU o-line has not lived up to expectations, especially against SEC defenses. Forcing the Bulldogs offense into 2nd & 3rd and long distances will allow the USC pass rushers to pin their ears back and attack the Bulldogs quarterback, whoever that may be. The Bulldogs have yet to name a starter at quarterback between senior Chris Relf (better run threat) and sophomore Tyler Russell (more accomplished passer). Last week at UAB, Mullen pulled starter, Relf, after being down at halftime 3-0, and inserted Russell, who led the Bulldogs to a 21-3 comeback win.

Run Latti-MORE: Last week against Kentucky, Marcus Lattimore had four yards rushing on two attempts by the end of the first quarter. The SEC’s leading rusher finished with a very pedestrian 102 yards on 22 rush attempts out of a variety of formations. I liked seeing Spurrier’s offensive game plan being creative with the Duncan, SC native in the Wildcock formation, taking direct snaps and running the option play on 4th & 3 as Shaw pitched to Lattimore for a first down run. Down in Athens, Georgia, the Heisman hopeful and former Byrnes HS product put the USC offense on his back and rushed for nearly 100 yards (94 to be exact) in the decisive final quarter. Since his 246-yard outburst against Navy, opposing defenses have stacked the box and clamped down on Lattimore, and the USC o-line has not blocked nearly as well as it did in the first three games of the season. Mississippi State is surrendering 160 rushing yards per game. It would be advantageous for Spurrier and Connor Shaw if the OBC were to scheme multiple plays to get the ball in Lattimore’s hands and take the pressure off Shaw to make plays in his first SEC road start. Remember that Carolina is undefeated (10-0) when Lattimore totes the rock 20-plus times a game. The game plan is simple – the more Latti-MORE carries the pigskin, the chances of South Carolina beating MSU increases exponentially.

Solid Special Teams: Bruce Ellington fumbled the opening kickoff against Kentucky last week, which led to a Kentucky field goal. The Gamecocks also fumbled two punts but were fortunate enough to recover both loose balls. Carolina’s punt returners (Sanders & Gilmore) and kickoff returners (Swearinger or Ellington) must not put the ball on the turf and provide MSU with short fields to execute their offense. Punter Joey Scribner-Howard must continue his steady punting and make the Bulldogs drive long distances (70-plus yards) for touchdowns against an improving Carolina defense, and as long as Kicker Jay Wooten is inside 50 yards, I feel confident in his ability to be a consistent three-point machine.

Fast Start: South Carolina has a dubious trend this season---looking up at an early deficit on the scoreboard every single game. It’s a morning start time in Starkville on Saturday (11:30 a.m. CST) so focus will be at a premium for the Gamecocks in such an early game. A hot start on offense would really give quarterback Connor Shaw a tremendous boost of confidence on the road. An early score might just be the wake-up call this Carolina offense needs to make it a long day for Mississippi State’s defense, which is under a new coordinator this season and allowing 20 points per game.

Spurspective’s Prediction: South Carolina nips the Dawgs, 34-30.

My next blog will be posted Saturday morning with my Top 10 games to watch for Week Seven.

Go Gamecocks!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Four USC Commitments Named to Shrine Bowl Squads

Here is a link from The State newspaper on the 2011 Shrine Bowl squads.
Four Gamecocks Named to 2011 Shrine Bowl

USC Basketball Recruiting & Team Update

Tomorrow Darrin Horn begins his fourth year at the helm of Gamecocks basketball, so Spurspective thought it would be a good time to look at how basketball recruiting is going or not going leading up to tipoff in early November.  Horn and his staff are coming off two straight losing seasons, coaching turnover, Cephus Bunton returns to the bench after Orlando Early accepted a job at N.C.State in April, and apathy towards a men's program that continues to struggle in a down SEC Conference.  The only way Horn is going to turn around his fortunes at USC is to recruit better players, show improvement (more wins in conference) and possibly win a game in the SEC Basketball Tournament (0-3).

Unfortunately late Tuesday night the Palmetto's state's top prospect eliminated USC from consideration.  Brice Johnson, Orangeburg County native, is a 6'9" post player with the ability to step out from behind the 3-point arc and knock down a jumper.  Johnson is an excellent shot blocker as well.  Horn had successfully landed South Carolina's Mr. Basketball the last two years (2010 R.J. Slawson & 2011 Damien Leonard) but Johnson eliminated USC without even an official visit to campus.  What could be an even bigger pill to swallow is that Johnson wil take an official visit to Clemson.  Johnson's final four teams under consideration are UNC, Florida, N.C. State and Clemson.  Per Paul Strelow of Clemson247sports, UNC and UF are considered the leaders but Clemson is a darkhorse and family members are encouraging Johnson to stay instate.

Elite Hoops Prospect Cuts USC from Shortlist

Even though the Gamecocks missed out on this big man, USC's coaches are hoping to garner the signature of 6'9" Ty Haughton (3-star player, per ESPN) out of Miami, FL.  Haughton officially visited USC last month and also is considering visits to Alabama, UConn, Virginia Tech and Marshall.

Horn has already secured verbal commitments from two sunshine state basketball prospects.  Carlos Morris (6'5") and Ian Baker (6'1") both of Jacksonville, FL are both scheduled to sign with Carolina in the early signing period which begins November 11th and runs through November 17th.

The black cloud surrounding USC's men's basketball program IMHO will continue to plague Horn and his staff until the W's increase or definitive improvement is visible.  Horn will have 10 scholarship players for the 2011-2012 season.  Bruce Ellignton is suppose to join the basketball team in early January presumably after a bowl game.  The roster is deprived of height and severely lacks star power.  There are two players on the roster taller than 6'9":  Carlton Geathers (major project) and Damontre Harris (shelved for three weeks recovering from an injury).  The Gamecocks were the absolute worst shooting team in the SEC last year and we don't know if that ailment will be cured with freshman scorer Damien Leonard.  I wish Horn luck on the recruiting trail but it will be uphill sledding especially when the CLA, Colonial Life Arena, is lifeless with less than 5,000 fans half asleep and Horn antagonists continually urge a change in leadership!

Go Gamecocks!

USC Personnel Position Switch Along the Line of Scrimmage

Former junior defensive lineman Byron Jerideau has switched positions, per Steve Spurrier.  The Green Pond, SC native is moving over to the offensive line in order to provide some girth in the middle of the o-line.  According to Spurrier, Jerideau will remain on the o-line for the remainder of the 2011 season at which time his position for the 2012 season will be further evaluated.  Jerideau was playing less than 15-20 snaps per game on defense and welcomed the opportunity for more playing time on the o-line.  Also the emergence of freshman d-linemen Kelcy Quarles also made Jerideau expendable on defense.  Jerideau is about 6'0" and a cheeseburger shy of 320 pounds.  USC's backups on the o-line are very young and have not fully matured physically to compete against stronger more mature d-linemen in the SEC.

AJC Article on USC Commitment DE Jhaustin Thomas

This article is about 10 days old but it's about the Gamecocks latest commitment out of the state of Georgia.Thomas committed to USC the weekend of the Auburn game while in an unofficial visit to South Carolina.

Here is the story from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

Jhaustin Thomas, one of the state’s top defensive ends, committed to South Carolina on Saturday. He is commit No. 8 from the state of Georgia for Steve Spurrier’s 2012 college football recruiting class.

Thomas is a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder from DeKalb’s Columbia High School who was also hearing from Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama.

“South Carolina is getting a kid with a lot of upside,” Columbia coach Mario Allen told the AJC. “He’s still learning football and he’s still growing. But I think he will definitely be a kid who can probably help South Carolina in his first year. He’s 6-6, close to 6-7, and can run. He has a dominating presence on the football. South Carolina is getting a kid who will work hard and is going to come out and compete on a daily basis.”

Last week, Thomas was matched up against Cedar Grove offensive tackle Brandon Greene, who has committed to Alabama. “We move Thomas around to different spots along the defensive line, but when they went head-to-head against each other, Jhaustin got the best of him,” Allen said.

“Jhaustin is a having a pretty good senior season. Of course, everybody knows who he is, unlike last year, so he doesn’t have a same type of stats. So he’s getting double- and tripled-teamed every game. People are pretty much running away from him. But he still has been a dominant force.”

Why South Carolina? “I think they did the best job of recruiting Jhaustin,” Allen said. “They never swayed. South Carolina always made him feel like a priority. [South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward] did a great job of recruiting him. They developed a good relationship, they bonded, and that really swayed Jhaustin.”

Thomas also plays a basketball, and started at forward on Columbia’s state championship basketball team last year. He will be signing a football scholarship at South Carolina but may try to play both sports.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spurrier vs. Morris: Smoke Screen? SEC Power Index and Gar-SEE-Ya

Steve Spurrier’s weekly press conference is pretty mundane, usually. Yesterday was the exception! I always listen to Spurrier’s press conferences live, because SOS is one of the last lineages of coaches who is a straight shooter and never one to bite his tongue or bloviate without a point. Today was vintage Spurrier! As I listened on the radio, I could not believe my ears as to what unfolded down at Williams-Brice Stadium. A normal press conference begins with a brief overview from Spurrier about the upcoming USC opponent and then a Q&A session between the media (internet, print, radio & television). Spurrier was anything but ordinary today, as he immediately addressed one of the local reporters (Spurrier never acknowledged the reporter by name), Ron Morris employed by The State newspaper, and basically informed all media attending the press conference that as long as said reporter, Ron Morris, was present in the room that Spurrier was not going to answer questions that would provide Morris with more ammunition to demonize and misrepresent Spurrier’s football program at USC. I am not privy to the rift between Steve Spurrier and Ron Morris, but Morris fired a major volley at Spurrier back on March 27th when the Sports Columnist stated the following in his news article, “Next, Spurrier poached Horn’s program to get Ellington on the football field, where Ellington is likely to be a special-teams player. In allowing Ellington to play football, Horn stood by a promise made during the player’s recruiting. Not having Ellington with the team year-round is a crushing blow to Horn’s program, but hardly his fault.”

Here is a link to Morris’ column that drew the ire of USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier.

Now, this article was fodder for local sports talk radio for a few weeks as Darrin Horn’s basketball program was under major scrutiny following a second straight losing season, whispers of losing the leadership of his basketball program and mass personnel defections all culminated at the end of Horn’s third season in Columbia.

Now back to the present where Spurrier intentionally deviated from script yesterday at his press conference. Why the sudden brouhaha with Ron Morris at the outset of a key three-game road trip that takes the Gamecocks to Starkville, Knoxville and Fayetteville? I have a theory like every Gamecock or non-Gamecock fan about what transpired yesterday at Spurrier’s Press Conference. Was this melee between Spurrier and Morris a diversion for the even BIGGER BOMBSHELL that was to fall a few hours post-press conference? Everyone likes a good conspiracy theory, right? So with everyone scratching their heads about the odd exchange this afternoon, sometime shortly after two o’clock in the afternoon the other headline became public knowledge –USC had dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia. According to reports, Garcia failed to meet terms of a written agreement between Garcia and the University. It has been reported by multiple media outlets that Garcia failed an alcohol test administered last week. So by mid-afternoon, the Columbia radio waves were ablaze with the Garcia dismissal and Spurrier versus Morris incident. Was the early event a diversion for the latter news to come? Or did Spurrier intentionally draw attention away from a football team that has a new field general and is heading out on the road in the rugged SEC? Gosh I love a good conspiracy! Brad Thor could not have written a better novel than what the characters in this saga might reveal next.

This morning, like most people, I was disappointed not to see a rebuttal by The State’s Ron Morris in the newspaper. The only quote I saw was in a story written by Gene Sapakoff of The Charleston Post and Courier where Morris declined comment other than to say, “I stand by my story.” Now the burden of proof shifts to Morris since Spurrier has called him out regarding his integrity as a journalist. I can only imagine that Ron Morris’ Editor and Publisher at the newspaper sat Mr. Morris down in a room and asked him to show the facts concerning the March 27th story to see if the Sports Columnist has his facts documented.

IMHO, I believe Steve Spurrier should have chosen a more tactful way to express his displeasure in dealing with Ron Morris’ story surrounding Bruce Ellington’s transition to football last spring. Spurrier is the Head Football Coach of the flagship university in the state of South Carolina and he, quite frankly, acted like an adolescent yesterday. I have no idea what steps were taken to smooth things over between Morris and Spurrier prior to yesterday, but I do know that once again USC has egg on its face with a Public Relations nightmare! I like an agitated Spurrier on the sidelines at USC, but I do not like a 66-year-old man acting like a thin-skinned teenager, who can’t handle scrutiny whether right or wrong. IMHO, he should have taken out an Op-Ed in The State newspaper and directed his annoyance with a particular columnist in that manner instead of high-jacking a press conference conducted by a state university subsidized by tax payer money.

I have had disagreements with Ron Morris’ critical articles of USC over the years. I have also had issues with the manner in which Steve Spurrier has directed his football program at USC. I still subscribe to The State newspaper, and I still support Steve Spurier at USC. Living in a Republic like we do here in the United States of America, there is freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. Ron Morris has the right to print his story, and Steve Spurrier has the right to defend his integrity. In this instance, Spurrier is to blame, IMHO, for the press conference fiasco, while Morris needs to provide the facts for the poaching allegation in the March 27th story. Spurrier is a media savvy coach and knows of more constructive ways to prove his opinion. He should have drawn up a better plan!

The Spurrier/Morris feud will not go away easily, as well as the Garcia dismissal, after being off the radar for more than six months. The media attention on this team grew exponentially after yesterday’s events, and if Carolina lays an egg in Starkville on Saturday, you’d better believe the media will be unrelenting in battering Spurrier and his program until season’s end.

SEC Power Index: Spurspective’s SEC Order
1. LSU---The Hat and his battle-tested Bayou Bengals take a trip to Rocky Top this weekend to face Tennessee! I believe former UT Defensive Coordinator John Chavis will have his Tigers’ Eyes on fresh meat Phil Simms 3.0 (backup QB).
2. Alabama---The Crimson Tide travel to The Grove this weekend for a Spring Game versus Ole Miss. BAMA is getting primed for its November 5th showdown with LSU.
3. Arkansas---The talent gap drops off considerably after LSU & BAMA, but somebody has to be third and Petrino’s high-powered offense did what USC could not do against Auburn last Saturday---score TDs!
4. Georgia---I know USC owns the head-to-head tie breaker with UGA, but the Bulldogs have clear sailing the rest of the SEC schedule, IMHO, while USC has tough match-ups at MSU & Arkansas.
5. South Carolina---The Connor Shaw era officially began with a bang last Saturday versus UK, as Garcia watched from the sidelines. Now Garcia will watch the Gamecocks from his sofa in Tampa!
6. Auburn---I look at this team and still wonder how they have won four games?
7. Mississippi State---The hangover from the early season loss to Auburn sure has lingered. Hopefully, MSU doesn’t find a remedy until Sunday!
8. Florida---The reformation project, also known as John Brantley, has not gone as planned. Charlie Weiss is a great teacher of quarterbacks, but even Weiss can’t spin Jacoby Brissett to UF faithful.
9. Tennessee---The Volunteers season went from bad to worse Saturday night when sophomore QB Tyler Bray suffered a broken thumb against Georgia. Bray is out six weeks, and UT’s offense will be out until 2012.
10. Vanderbilt---Kentucky & Ole Miss….enough said!
11. Ole Miss---“Houston, we have a problem!”
12. Kentucky---Big Blue Madness is this Friday!


I am not going to get into the whole Stephen Garcia saga. I have no idea what might be wrong physically or mentally with the young man. I appreciate all his accomplishments at USC and wish him very well in his future endeavors. Garcia has had his ups & downs in life like all of us, and, unfortunately for him, his mistakes were magnified in the media. I believe Spurrier and Hyman did all they could for this young man, but some people are just selfish or do not want to grow up. Anyway, if you want to read about the timeline of Garcia, here is a good one by the DailyGamecock, the student newspaper at USC.

My next blog will be Friday afternoon when I will provide my five keys to a South Carolina victory over Mississippi State on Saturday as well as my USC/MSU prediction.

Go Gamecocks!