South Carolina Football: Predicting and Grading the Offensive Starters for 2012

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2012

South Carolina Football: Predicting and Grading the Offensive Starters for 2012

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    South Carolina's offense finished the season on a high note.  Can they maintain the great end-of-season pace in 2012?  Where are the major changes?  How good are the Gamecocks at each position?

    Short answer: The Gamecocks are loaded. 

    The starting lineup will change a few times before opening day.  There will be a post-spring game depth chart and a pre-Vanderbilt depth chart.  However, the guys that they already have penciled in seem to be the ones that will win the starting spots. 

    These are great players who will only get better with a summer of training.  Let's take look at how these starters compare to 2011's. 

Quarterback: Connor Shaw

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    Connor Shaw is the unquestioned starter for 2012.  He played like a winner in 2011 and will continue to do so in 2012.  He has fantastic running and passing skills.  An offseason of starter work will make him even better. 

    Player Grade: A

    Opening Day Starter in 2011: Connor Shaw

    Position Stock: Steady

Running Back: Marcus Lattimore

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    Marcus Lattimore will begin 2012 the same way he did 2011: as one of the best running backs in college football.  He will be 100 percent and defenses will fear him.

     Player Grade: A+

    Opening Day Starter in 2011: Marcus Lattimore

    Position Stock: Steady

Fullback: Matt Coffee

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    It isn't clear whether or not South Carolina will use a traditional fullback often.  They didn't really use one much in 2011.  When they did, Dalton Wilson was the man.  However, he wasn't much of a threat as an offensive weapon. 

    If Matt Coffee is heavy, he is a much more efficient ball carrier.  He isn't much of a blocker.  Either way, the position isn't particularly important in this offense.  

    Player Grade: C

    Opening Day Starter in 2011: Dalton Wilson

    Position Stock: Steady

Wide Receivers: Ace Sanders/Shaq Roland

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    Possibly the toughest position to predict, the wide receiver starting spots could go to a number of players.  Sanders is probably a lock to start, and Roland has the ability to start right away.  I will be keeping my eyes on spring practice and the spring game to see who gets a leg up. 

    Player Grades: C+

    Opening Day Starter in 2011: Alshon Jeffery/Ace Sanders

    Position Stock: Down

Tight End: Justice Cunningham

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    Justice Cunningham is an excellent tight end.  He is a traditional blocker who also has soft hands.  He isn't targeted often, but he doesn't make many mistakes.  A great tight end who should find his way to an NFL team when he graduates, Cunningham is a sure and steady player. 

    Player Grade: B

    Opening Day Starter in 2011: Justice Cunningham

    Position Stock: Steady

Tackles: Brandon Shell/Mike Matulis

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    Kyle Nunn was a fantastic starter and an All-SEC guy. Brandon Shell has the potential to be an All-American.  He's played extremely well and should end up being better than Nunn.  He has a wide base, excellent hands and is capable of blocking the most ferocious defensive linemen. 

    Rokevious Watkins was also an All-SEC guy.  Mike Matulis did a nice job on the line as a backup and got fantastic experience.  I believe he will take Rok's place.  However, you don't lose two All-SEC tackles and not miss a step.

    Player Grades: B

    Opening Day Starters in 2011: Kyle Nunn/Rokevious Watkins

    Position Stock: Down

Guards: A.J. Cann/Kaleb Broome

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    A.J. Cann is an excellent guard.  He is a very big man and has the capability to run-block and pass-block.  He started in 2011, and that won't change here. 

    Kaleb Broome is likely to step up and play the right guard role.  He outplayed 2011 starter Terrence Campbell in many situation.  With his experience and size, he will be an upgrade. 

    Player Grades: B

    Opening Day Starters in 2011: A.J. Cann/Kaleb Broome

    Position Stock: Up

Center: T.J. Johnson

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    Last year's starter will return for another round.  He played sporadically at times, but became more consistent at the end of the season.  He remains a very strong player with a high amount of upside. 

    He's also a great leader.  The other players look up to him.  He will play very well in 2012.

    Player Grades: B

    Opening Day Starters in 2011: T.J. Johnson

    Position Stock: Steady