South Carolina Football: Too Much Offensive Weaponry in 2012?
All the cool kids have it. Don't let South Carolina's 70th-ranked offense in 2011 fool you. After a rough start to Connor Shaw's career and Marcus Lattimore's injury, the program's offense began running smoothly.
They lit up the Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska to finish the season. They also had a big game against Kentucky.
This team has more weapons than people realize. With a healthy Marcus Lattimore and a comfortable and entrenched Connor Shaw, the sky is the limit for this offense.
The question is this: Are there enough touches to go around?
It's a great question to answer. Here are the Gamecocks' legitimate offensive weapons.
Connor Shaw: The Dual-Threat Monster Quarterback
Skills: accurate, fast, good decision maker, shows great leadership, tough and clutch.
Areas to improve: taking sacks or running out of bounds for a small loss instead of throwing the ball away.
One of the big surprises of 2011 had to be Connor Shaw's play. He was a revelation.
In roughly half a season, Shaw threw for 1,449 yards with 14 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also added 525 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns.
It isn't unrealistic to think that he could throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a full season of play. Even something along the lines of 2,500 and 800 yards rushing would be All-SEC work. He will be responsible for spreading the love to all the playmakers, and that may be his toughest job this year.
Marcus Lattimore: the Workhorse
Skills: speed, strength, hands, vision, cutting ability, doesn't fumble often and he keeps his legs moving after being hit.
Areas to improve: Injury concerns are pretty much his only knock.
In less than seven full games, Marcus Lattimore had 818 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns with a five-yard-per-carry average.
Some running backs would love those statistics in a full season. Lattimore went down with an injury, but not before establishing himself as the nation's best.
This year, he will be back and stronger than ever. With all of the runners that emerged in his absence, Lattimore will not have to carry the load alone, but he will be the home-run threat and the consistent force.
Ace Sanders: the Little Man with Big Skills
Skills: speed, hands and agility.
Areas to improve: route running and consistency.
Ace Sanders is a very solid wide receiver. While he didn't have huge numbers, he made some big plays, and showed a great ability to get it done when it counts.
Next year, he will break out as the up-and-coming, big wide receiver star for the Gamecocks.
Bruce Ellington: The Swiss Army Knife of Players
Skills: powerful runner, excellent hands, jumping ability, passing ability (for a wide receiver) and kick returns.
Areas to improve: consistency.
Bruce Ellington pretty much did it all his first year on the gridiron. He caught passes. He ran. He passed. He took back kicks.
With 727 total yards, he proved his worth.
Hopefully, he decides to stick with football. I love the basketball team, but without a coach, they won't make it anywhere. Ellington could be a star football player.
Rory "Buster" Anderson: Will "Bust" onto the Scene in 2012
Skills: hands, speed, height and blocking ability.
Areas to improve: strength and weight.
While he is relatively small for a tight end at 207 pounds, he has shown that he can be the deep threat from that position that the Gamecocks have been missing since Jared Cook.
Some would like for him to be moved to wide receiver to take Alshon Jeffery's place as the big wide-out threat. However, he is more suited for the tight-end position, as it allows him to take advantage of the various mismatches that his skill set creates.
His 23.5 yards per catch and three touchdowns show he has the ability to produce. Combined with Justice Cunningham, the tight-end position is in good hands.
Brandon Wilds: Ran Wild in 2011 and Is a Legit SEC Starting Runner
Skills: power, cutting ability and vision.
Areas to improve: speed and tackle breaking.
With many running backs injured throughout the season, the burden of carrying the football fell on fifth-string running back Brandon Wilds. He responded by rushing for 485 yards with a 4.5-yard-per-carry average and three touchdowns.
He stated his case for the rotation in 2012. He is a consistent straight runner, but looked slow at times. However, another year in the weight room and more experience will improve his already substantial skills.
Damiere Byrd: Disappointing Freshman Will Show Growth in 2012
Skills: superstar speed.
Areas to improve: strength, route running and hands.
A hyped freshman prospect, Damiere Byrd played through the spring and earned a spot on the team. The coaches were impressed with his speed.
However, a suspension at the beginning of the season took away a great deal of momentum. In 2012, look for Damiere to bounce back. He has elite speed—as in "possibly the fastest player in college football" speed.
He will get more touches, and give the team another dimension.
Justice Cunningham: Big Reliable
Skills: blocking and hands.
Areas to improve: He could work on getting open, but he fills his role almost perfectly.
Justice Cunningham is a prototypical old-school tight end. He's one of the best blockers on the team. However, he also has soft hands. He isn't the fastest player on the field, but if the quarterback throws it anywhere near him, he can make the catch.
NFL scouts will take notice of Cunningham's complete body of work. He'll play in the league after his senior season.
Shon Carson: Last Year's Heir Apparent to Lattimore Won't Be Slowed by Injury
Skills: speed, hands, and big-play ability.
Areas to improve: strength and injury.
Shon Carson seemed to be on the fast track for playing time. He was impressive during the offseason, and started the season No. 2 on the depth chart.
He's an explosive, shifty player. He will most likely fight for that No. 2 spot again. He's a hard worker, and the coaches love him. Either way, this frighteningly fast player will see the field.
Shaq Roland: Elite Recruit Looks to Make an Immediate Impact
Skills: hands and speed.
Areas to improve: strength and blocking.
Roland has the potential to be an immediate starter at wide receiver if he comes in and works hard. He has decent size but also great speed for someone that is 6'2".
His ability to adjust to the college game will be the biggest question and perhaps an impediment.
Others to Watch
Even with the wealth of weapons at hand, there are still others who can contribute.
If Kenny Miles returns, he would be another starting-caliber running back on the roster.
Nick Jones looked good in certain situations last year. He is comparable to Ace Sanders.
K.J. Brent looked like a star in the preseason. This redshirt freshman could make a big impact.
Mike Davis could play into the running game.
With all of these great players, it is hard to think that the offense will not be much improved.