Every year, new players rise and perform at unexpected levels. In 2012, the Gamecocks had a ton of offensive questions.
Could Marcus Lattimore regain his pre-injury form? Who would take the place of Alshon Jeffery? Can the offense continue to hum?
Who stepped up? Who came out of nowhere?
These five players exceeded my expectations and led the Gamecocks to another good year. Here are my top five offensive surprises of 2012.
The 6'5" tight end has receiver skills. In this offense, passes are spread around. If you would have thought at the beginning of the year that Anderson would have been the leading touchdown grabber with five (tied with Ace Sanders), you should be playing the lottery.
As a Gamecock fan, you knew Rory Anderson was going to be good. However, he's been a big-play receiver and has been one of the best (if not mildest) surprises of the 2012 season on offense.
While people knew that Mike Davis would eventually be a star, no one knew that he would be such a complete player so quickly.
He's only carried the 37 times, but when he touches the ball he looks like a wrecking crew. He has a great center of balance and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Now that Lattimore is out, Davis will get his chance to shine. He has outperformed Kenny Miles and has showed an ability to block and run routes.
He's the next superstar for the Gamecocks.
Who would have thought that in his senior season, Justice Cunningham would develop into a viable pass-catching threat?
He's caught 20 on the year, which is a career high. He's also been reliable when it comes to earning first downs. He's got excellent hands and great size, and he's finally being utilized for more than just blocking.
He's a great tight end and should have a shot in the NFL.
However, this season, he's been one of the biggest offensive surprises.
Did anyone actually see the Dylan Thompson offensive explosion coming? While it was short-lived, Dylan Thompson's performances against ECU and UAB were amazing for a backup quarterback.
It had to have been one of the most shocking developments of the season. The Gamecocks had a viable backup? No way. Most people thought that when Connor Shaw went down, so did the Gamecocks' chances.
He struggled against Florida (as did the rest of the team), and he needs to work on his accuracy (he's a bit of a gunslinger), but he threw for 600 yards and five touchdowns in limited work.
That's great for a backup.
For my money, the biggest surprise of the year on any side of the ball has been the play of Bruce Ellington. He leads the team in receptions, yards and is second in touchdowns with four.
He's been a big-play machine.
He finally looks like a wide receiver. He runs like a running back, catches like a receiver and blocks well. At this point, he's a much better football player than a basketball player.
I love the basketball team, but I think Bruce could develop into an NFL-caliber player. He's only a football sophomore and could be a top target for years to come.