South Carolina Football: Power Ranking the Strongest Postional Units for 2013
The South Carolina football team is built to go the distance in 2013, especially with Jadeveon Clowney leading a dangerous defensive line and Connor Shaw at the helm of the offense.
The Gamecocks are full of talent from top to bottom and have the potential for growth throughout the season. Head coach Steve Spurrier will need to piece together the right personnel and motivate his team to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning the SEC.
While some positional units, like the linebackers and wide receiving corps, have uncertainty, the defensive line, offensive line, tight ends and quarterbacks will be the team's stronger units.
Here is a look at the team's strongest positional units for 2013. Player talent, depth of the position, previous success and potential are the key factors in determining the power rankings for each unit.
South Carolina is replacing most of its linebacker unit in 2013.
The Gamecocks have a lot of potential at the position, though there are still many question marks.
Cedrick Cooper, Kaiwan Lewis and Sharrod Golightly appear to be the team's nods to garner a lot of playing time. All of these players are younger and lack game experience, especially Golightly, who has mainly been a special teams player so far in his collegiate career.
The good news for the linebacker position is that there is a lot of depth that can provide assistance.
Kelvin Rainey switched from tight end to linebacker and has shown a lot of progress in a short period of time. He has huge upside since he is extremely knowledgeable on the offensive end and can probably help out with coverage.
T.J. Holloman is another depth linebacker who the coaches like as a player with a high football intelligence and as an on-field coach-like player.
Marcquis Roberts and incoming freshman Larenz Bryant could also have an impact this fall.
Overall, this is not a bad group of linebackers. They are solely plagued by inexperience, which is why they come in last for the strongest positional units for the Gamecocks in 2013.
7. Defensive Backs
The Gamecocks' secondary is also replacing players, but it has some strong talent at the position.
Cornerback Victor Hampton holds down one side of the secondary as the team's top cover corner, though the other side is in limbo. Jimmy Legree will most likely work on the other side and is a redshirt senior who should be able to utilize some of his experience.
Other assistance may come from Ahmad Christian, Ronnie Martin and Sidney Rhodes at the cornerback positions, though the depth is somewhat lacking past the starters.
The safeties are in much better shape, despite having to replace D.J. Swearinger who was a great defensive leader.
The free safety position has a lot of young talent in T.J. Gurley and Kadetrix Marcus, who will be great in holding the top of the defense together.
Strong safety is also in pretty good shape, with Brison Williams as the starter, though depth is a concern because of Chaz Elder's inexperience. Elder has shown promising signs in the offseason, but games are a different story.
The defensive backs are one of the more average groups on South Carolina, leading to a ranking of No. 7 on the team.
6. Wide Receivers
South Carolina lost Ace Sanders to the NFL and are trying to identify who the prime targets will be in the passing game this season. There are a ton of options and a variety of receiving styles, but the unit is young.
While youth is a concern, talent is not.
Shaq Roland is expected to be a potential No.1 target in the passing game, and has the physical build as well as the hands to be successful.
The team's likely top target, Bruce Ellington, has the most in-game experience and will be the unit's motivational leader.
Speedster Damiere Byrd is lightning fast and will be the team's best deep threat because he can win most footraces with opposing defensive backs.
After those three wide receivers, three more should get some playing time, but their impact will be questionable. Nick Jones is a sure-handed receiver, though his size is a bit concerning at just 5'7" and 174 pounds. Shamier Jeffery is trying to burst onto the scene and K.J. Brent is the team's longest receiver, which could make him a good target.
Ultimately, questions remain with this group, but their potential is high, so the receivers are ranked No. 6 on this list.
5. Running Backs
South Carolina's running backs may not have a lot of experience, but there is no lack of talent here.
Mike Davis is ready to have a breakout season in his first season as the team's No.1 tailback. Davis may not be Marcus Lattimore, but he is quite impressive.
He has speed, power and vision that all combine to make him a very good all-around balanced back.
Davis will get a majority of the workload in 2013 and Spurrier will turn to him to produce and establish the ground game.
Brandon Wilds provides a good change of pace, as his sheer power style of running will be a great compliment to Davis's balanced attack. Experience and the patience to find north-south bursts is what makes Wilds a solid backup to Davis.
Beyond these two, most running backs on the roster won't see too much action, but depth is important. Kendic Salley is young and raw, but he has a similar running style to Davis. Salley has a lot to learn as he battles back from missing his freshman year due to injury.
A sleeper in this group is Shon Carson who is also on the baseball team. Carson has blazing speed, which is always a positive in a group of running backs, especially since he is the only true speed back. Yet, he lacks experience with the team, since he plays baseball in the spring.
South Carolina's running backs have a tough act to follow in Lattimore, but this should not take away from how good this group can be.
4. Offensive Line
The Gamecocks' offensive line is young, talented and experienced.
This unit is very similar to last year's, and is good with both run blocking and pass blocking.
Anchored by guard A.J. Cann and offensive tackle Brandon Shell, South Carolina has two rising stars on the line. Shell had a very successful first year on the line and earned a spot on the first team freshman All-American list. Cann is the most experienced lineman, and is also a key part of the line.
Corey Robinson, Cody Waldrop and Ronald Patrick will more than likely round out the rest of the line.
The SEC is a tough place for lineman to play, as they work hard the trenches and the Gamecocks have players to turn to if needed.
Will Sport is versatile enough to backup most of the position or potentially earn his way into a starting spot in place of Patrick. Mike Matulis also provides depth at the tackle position.
One of the brightest spots for the Gamecocks is D.J. Park who is a highly rated tackle recruit that could have an impact on the team, barring the decision to redshirt him.
All in all, there is very little tinkering to do with this unit and they will be a strong unit as they battle tough SEC defenses. The offensive line comes in at No.4 on this list.
3. Tight Ends
South Carolina's tight ends could wind up being the best tight end unit in the country this season, but they only come in at No.3 on this list.
Spurrier gets the most out of his tight ends, and loves to use multiple tight end sets which will make this group very successful in 2013.
Rory "Busta" Anderson and Jerrell Adams are the top-two tight ends, and are amazing receivers as well as blockers.
Anderson is long, built and has great hands. Adams is similar in style to Anderson, but has the ability to make spectacular catches and possesses explosive bursts of acceleration and speed.
Both tight ends will impress all season long, and are great red-zone targets.
Drew Owens is the team's third tight end, and would be a starter on a lot of college football teams. Owens follows the team's trend of good receiving tight ends with big, strong bodies, and will make his presence known on the field when he gets the opportunity.
The tight ends could wind up ranking higher throughout the season, but right now the other two units are that good.
South Carolina has a senior leader at the quarterback position, and a backup who would be a starter on most college football teams.
Connor Shaw flat out wins football games. He may be injury prone at times, but he is a tough player who is determined to win football games. Every coach loves a player like that.
Shaw is the starter this fall and has an efficient arm. He is also a dual-threat quarterback with the ability to scramble and pose a threat in the zone-read running game.
Dylan Thompson has had to step up and win games when Shaw has been out. So far, Thompson has delivered in Shaw's absence.
He has a cannon of an arm, good pocket awareness and has established strong relationships with his teammates. Thompson will be ready to play at any time.
The Gamecocks have proven winners and great leadership at the quarterback position.
This will be one of the strongest units of 2013, and South Carolina's second best.
1. Defensive Line
The defensive line may not be the best from top to bottom, but any unit with the nation's best player on it is more than likely the team's best unit.
Jadeveon Clowney is the mighty force on the South Carolina defensive line.
As a Heisman hopeful, the nation's best pass-rusher and a great character player, Clowney does it all for the Gamecocks. Clowney is a total game-changer and there is no debate about it, just ask Michigan's Vincent Smith.
Everyone knows about Clowney, but the rest of the defensive line is strong, too.
Chaz Sutton finally gets to start opposite Clowney, but he has a lot of game experience despite being a depth player. He should thrive as Clowney collects most of the attention. Sutton has the speed and strength to swallow up offensive tackles and attack the backfield.
In the middle of the line, Kelcy Quarles, J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon Jr. hold down the fort.
Quarles and Surratt will be the starters on the interior of the defensive line. Quarles can pass rush and Surratt is the big man who can clog up the middle.
Dixon Jr. will be the third defensive tackle, who will sub in and out and has a lot of potential, too.
South Carolina prides itself on having the nation's best player, but this whole defensive line is impressive.
The Gamecocks' defensive line is their No.1 positional unit for 2013.