The South Carolina Gamecocks football program has come a long way in a decade. From 0-11, to winning 11 games for the first time, the Gamecock football program has been an ever-evolving and improving entity.
Finally, after years of toiling in mediocrity with some flashes of brilliance, the Gamecocks have the tools that they need to compete for an SEC and national championship.
There are a few things that separate a great program from an average one: Facilities, recruiting and coaching are just a few of the pieces. Expectations, fan enthusiasm and opponent respect must be there as well.
While those aren't on-the-field factors, they are just as important as the others.
The Gamecocks finally have every factor rolling in their favor. South Carolina's facilities are top notch. Steve Spurrier set out to improve them from day one of his coaching tenure, and he has succeeded in that end. Recruits are impressed by the weight room and player facilities, and parents love the new academics center.
The Gamecocks are slowly becoming a consistent factor in the SEC East, but the expectations on a national level are much higher. Opponents no longer expect a win against the Gamecocks. They know they are in for a tough out no matter what. Some opponents even view the Gamecocks like the Gamecocks used to view Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.
In other words, there is no chance of victory.
The team doesn't need to build anymore—they just reload, as cliche as that sounds. This year, the Gamecocks lose a few solid pieces. Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Allen, Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram and Kyle Nunn are huge players that performed at an All-American or All-SEC level.
Instead of the team worrying about their losses, they wonder about which great player will be the next star. Alshon Jeffery's replacement will be one of many special receivers already on the roster, or one of the highly touted freshmen coming in.
Stephon Gilmore will be replaced by Vic Hampton, who proved to be a star in the making and a borderline shut-down corner in his first season. Melvin Ingram will be replaced by Jadeveon Clowney. Kyle Nunn will be replaced by the incredible freshman Brandon Shell.
Antonio Allen will be the toughest to replace, but the team will find someone.
The Gamecocks truly have the tools to win the SEC. In fact, that now has to be the ultimate goal. They have a great shot next year. Even though the schedule is difficult, the Gamecocks need to utilize the school's athletic rally cry to the fullest...