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South Carolina Gamecocks: 5 Players Who Exceeded Expectations in 2011

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2011

South Carolina Gamecocks: 5 Players Who Exceeded Expectations in 2011

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    The South Carolina Gamecocks had a wonderful year, win or lose versus Nebraska.  They played with a ton of heart through a ton of injuries. 

    One of the reasons the Gamecocks were able to fight through such a dramatic year was the play of the players who weren't originally expected to be stars.  Some of these guys weren't even supposed to be contributors. 

    Here is a toast to the players who stepped up and helped this team. 

Connor Shaw

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    Early Expectation

    Connor Shaw was supposed to sit behind fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia.  When Garcia got kicked off the team, people thought this season was a wash with a quarterback who was in getting experience for 2012. 

     

    Actual Production

    After an explosive start against Kentucky, Shaw took a couple of games to get used to the offense.  However, by the end of the year, this true dual-threat quarterback showed that he is a legit SEC quarterback capable of huge things. 

     

    Final Regular Season Stats

    1,218 yards, 65.5 percent completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions, 483 yards rushing, seven touchdowns

    Nineteen total touchdowns in seven games as full time starter—impressive. 

Bruce Ellington

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    Early Expectation

    The basketball star without a position, and an unknown quantity, Bruce Ellington wasn't expected to make quite the splash he did this year. 

     

    Actual Production

    I am going to start calling Bruce "BP,"  as in Bruce "Big Play" Ellington.  While his stats aren't gaudy (no receiver's were), he made big play after big play for the offense, in many different positions. 

    He has such a bright future in football.  I hope he continues to play both sports.

     

    Final Regular Season Stats

    Seventeen receptions for 211 yards and one touchdown, 17 carries for 106 yards and one touchdown, 27 yards passing and 360 yards on 15 kick returns. 

    He was limited in a few games due to injury, but 684 total yards with two touchdowns is great production for a football rookie (basketball sophomore). 

Brandon Wilds

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    Early Expectation

    Brandon Wilds was to redshirt.  He was going to learn the ropes and be a serviceable backup or emergency back in the future. 

     

    Actual Production

    After an impressive spring showing where he played his way out of a redshirt, he found himself sitting at the bottom of a pretty solid list of running backs, including All-American Marcus Lattimore and 4-star freshman phenom Shonn Carson. 

    Well, one thing led to another, and the preseason No. 5 became the No. 1... and what do you know?

    The boy can ball. 

     

    Final Regular Season Stats

    486 yards with three touchdowns, 4.5 yards per carry, with 106 receiving yards. 

    That was mostly done in five games as a starter. His full-season projection for a 12-game season is roughly 1,100 yards with 10 touchdowns. 

    That's SEC starter material. 

Antonio Allen

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    Early Expectation

    Antonio Allen was going to be a solid starter at linebacker.

    Or maybe safety. 

    But possibly spur. 

     

    Actual Production

    Raise your hand if you saw Antonio Allen as an All-American in 2011?  Anyone?  You put your hand down—you're lying. 

    The truth is, everyone knew Allen was a good (but not great) player who would be in rotation all season long at a couple of different positions.  Little did we know he would garner All-American honors at the end of the season and position himself to make big money in the NFL. 

     

    Final Regular Season Stats

    82 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and two touchdowns. 

    In other words—stay out of his way.

Melvin Ingram

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    Early Expectation

    Melvin Ingram was to concede his starting spot to the much ballyhooed freshman, Jadeveon Clowney.

     

    Actual Production

    Even though Clowney was as advertised, Ingram was straight-up better.  In fact, he put together quite possibly the best season as a defensive end in the country. 

    He wasn't gaudy with his stats again, but that didn't stop him from earning All-American honors on almost every notable All-American list. 

     

    Final Regular Season Stats

    8.5 sacks, two interceptions, 44 tackles, three touchdowns (one on a 68-yard fake punt against Georgia). 

    He also put innumerable pressure on the quarterback—what a great player.  He played his way into the first round of the NFL draft.

    I cannot wait to see who ends up on this list next year. 

    It's great to be a Gamecock!

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