South Carolina Football: Will the Passing Game Be a Strength in 2012?

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 26:  Connor Shaw #14 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drops back to pass against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

South Carolina comes into the offseason with myriad questions.  One of the most pressing is how the passing game adjusts with the loss of Alshon Jeffery.

Nationally, the opinion on it is rather sour.  People truly think that with Jeffery gone, the passing game will sink to a new low and the Gamecocks will become a threatening running team with very little in the ways of passing. 

This couldn't be further from the truth. 

With the talking heads already discussing Jeffery's statistics dropping due to terrible quarterback play, one can only imagine they didn't watch much film on the Gamecocks. 

Even with Jeffery out, the Gamecock passing attack will take a major step forward in 2012.  There are many reasons to believe that, starting with the Gamecocks' "terrible" quarterback, Connor Shaw.  Shaw displays touch and accuracy that beguiles the usual stereotype of a running quarterback.  His arm strength, which was a question mark in 2011, has become much improved. Defenses will not be able to just sit back and wait on him to run—he can burn you with his arm. 

Then there is the idea that the wide receiver group is left with very little talent.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  In fact, this may be the most talented squad of receivers the Gamecocks have ever had.  The lack of experience is worrying to be sure, but the talent is there. 

Ace Sanders is a legitimate starter.  He is consistent and has great hands and speed.  Damiere Byrd is possibly the fastest player in the SEC.  Redshirt and true freshmen Shamier Jeffery, K.J. Brent and Shaq Roland could be absolute stars.  Buster Anderson could play a role as a 6'5" deep-threat tight end.  The list goes on and on. 

Then there is the fact that South Carolina established an absolute stable of running backs in 2011.  With Marcus Lattimore returning, you now have a team with three experienced and successful starters in Brandon Wilds, Kenny Miles and Lattimore.  You also have two young backs that are highly touted in Mike Davis and the returning Shon Carson. 

If these factors come together, the Gamecocks will rise in the passing rankings.  Connor Shaw is the type of quarterback to share the wealth and he has a wide range of skilled players to share the ball with.  Defenses will be keyed into the Gamecocks' incredible running game, leaving the passing attack more open. 

Combine this with an incredible defense, and there is no telling how far the Gamecocks can go in 2012.