South Carolina Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Lee SchechterContributor IIIJune 25, 2014

Jan 1, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier puts on his headset as the South Carolina Gamecocks beat the Wisconsin Badgers 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier is quiet, perhaps a little too quiet. But that could mean great things for this year's South Carolina squad. 

With a promising young roster that now has a respectable amount of experience after another 11-win season, the 2014 season has huge potential for the Gamecocks. They can assert their dominance at most positional units and can unleash a flurry of talented offensive and defensive weapons.

Here is a look at the strengths, weaknesses and secret weapons for the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2014. 



Strength No. 1 is, without a doubt, the man in charge, head coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier is one of the most elite coaches in college football, and he is ready to lead his team to newfound success in 2014. 

Year after year, Spurrier delivers double-digit wins, but he has yet to haul in an SEC championship. That could change in 2014 given South Carolina's depth and Spurrier's ability to achieve goals as a head coach. 

The second strength is Mike Davis and the ground game. Davis is one of the nation's best running backs. 

With his quick bursts and his excellent vision to hit gaps, Davis is the perfect back for Spurrier's offense. Davis' ability to find holes, consistently chew up yardage against defenses and break free for the big plays makes him an offensive force and also opens up the passing game for Dylan Thompson and Co. 

Davis could be in for a monster season of productivity if he receives enough carries. And don't forget the impact he can have on the passing game. 

And how can I give all the credit to Davis when he has a top-tier offensive line leading the way up front?

The Gamecocks offensive line is big, agile and talented at blocking in both running and passing situations. A.J. Cann and Brandon Shell lead the way, though Mike Matulis, Cody Waldrop and potential All-SEC player Corey Robinson are no slouches at their positions. 

This will be an intimidating and scary offensive line for any defense to match up against. Thompson and Co. should have a sufficient amount of time to work with and execute big plays. 



Even though the Gamecocks are a strong team across the board, there are some positional unit concerns.

The cornerback position is the red flag right now. With the reliance on a trio of freshmen to step in and play right away, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is going to need all of his other units to elevate their levels of play and help the secondary in whatever ways they can. 

The talent level is entirely there, but the transition from high school to college, especially at cornerback, can be a giant leap for even the most talented players. 

Another weakness is the pass rush, though that is because it is a relatively unknown and unproven area of the team. The Gamecocks need to recover from the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, who were all key factors in the South Carolina pass rush. 

Aug 29, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back A.J. Blue (15) runs for yardage as South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Darius English (5) pursues in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA T

With the changing of the guard to Darius English, Cedrick Cooper, Mason Harris and Gerald Dixon on the edges, the Gamecocks need players with fewer repetitions to step up. The speed rush will be a strength, though power-rushing with a bulldog-like approach at offensive lineman will be a struggle considering the lack of power and size for a handful of the rushers off the edge. 


Secret Weapons

The secret is probably out at this point, but wide receiver/running back Pharoh Cooper is the ultimate offensive weapon for South Carolina. 

He can make plays out of the backfield and line up in the slot or beat the defense over the top with his elite speed and on-field smarts. With crisp route-running skills, Cooper will be a menace in 2014. 

Cooper can even take over in the Wildcat formation, where he ran the football 20 times for 202 yards and a touchdown. And when he doesn't run or hand the ball off in the Wildcat, he can display some trickery with the occasional pass, as he went 2-for-3 for 29 yards and a score. 

Cooper's versatility to be an impact player at multiple positions makes him a potent option in the Gamecocks offense and special teams.

Another secret weapon to highlight is a fast-rising player who is now ready to be a starter. Safety Chaz Elder has gone from a redshirt freshman who probably aligned as a solid depth player in the secondary to the starting free safety with the potential to earn a multitude of accolades.

Elder is long and quick, and he has spectacular range that will make him difficult to deal with. He is a superb athlete who gets involved in plays by having a nose for the football and wrapping up tackles.

With the lack of experience at cornerback, South Carolina will needs its safeties to pick up the slack, which could open up the door for Elder to have a huge season. He's a little under the radar for the time being, but Elder's quick progress and potential make him a secret weapon for the defense and an impact player.