2010 CFBZ Prediction: 3rd Place in SEC East
2010 Actual Finish: 1st Place in SEC East (9-5, 5-3)
In 2010 the South Carolina Gamecocks finally reached the top of the SEC East.
Thanks to down years from Florida, Georgia and Tennessee and wins over all of those teams the Gamecocks finally took their turn at the top in their half of the SEC. South Carolina had some big wins this year with the biggest coming against Alabama as they knocked off the #1 team in the country. Freshman RB Marcus Lattimore was amazing at times, finishing 3rd in the SEC in rushing yards, and showed how one guy at a skill position can really make a difference for a team. The other guy who should be singled out is Alshon Jeffrey. In a league of stud receivers (A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, etc) Jeffrey led the league in receptions, receiving yards and TD receptions. 2010 ended on a sour note for the Gamecocks as they got spanked by eventual National Champion Auburn 56-17 in the SEC Championship Game and then lost to FSU in the Chik-fil-A Bowl 26-17. Those two losses might just help to keep the Gamecocks heads on straight going into next year as they challenge for their second consecutive SEC East Crown. We caught up with South Carolina blog Leftover Hot Dog to find out their thoughts on the Gamecocks of 2010.
Despite ending the season on a down note (losses to Auburn and FSU) South Carolina finally broke through and won the SEC East. What were your favorite memories from the season?
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Doing the impossible...beating then number one Alabama at home on national tv, beating Florida in the "Swamp" for the first time to claim the SEC East and then taking part in the SEC Championship Game itself. Those are my favorite things about 2010 Gamecock football and what will be used to build the program.
Which player was the biggest surprise of the season?
The biggest surprise was the quick development of Marcus Lattimore. Everyone knew he was good coming out of high school but he was really good his freshman season at USC. He is one of the main reasons South Carolina had a special season. He accounted for 19 USC touchdowns and won many postseason Freshman of the Year awards. Safe to say, he is the real deal and will be a topic of conversation in 2011.
Which player are you most excited about for next season?
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I could say Marcus Lattimore or potential USC recruit Jadeveon Clowney but I will go with Alshon Jeffery. The Gamecocks key passing target was another reason the Gamecocks had success in 2010 and are primed for more good things in 2011. The wideout can catch anything and has the speed to stretch the field. He had 88 catches for 1,517 yards and 9 TDs in 2010. Expect even more in 2011 as he will claim sole possession of the "Best WR in SEC" title now UGA's Green is gone.
Stephen Garcia has one more year in Columbia. Is he the man next year or will we continue to see more of Connor Shaw?
Stephen Garcia is someone you love and hate. 2010 was a great year for him as he threw for 3,059 yards and 20 TDs. But the backup QB is the most loved player and Connor Shaw has the talent to lead the team. I don't see it happening in 2011, at least to start. This is Garcia's team and he guided them to the SEC Championship. You will see Connor Shaw get a chance but I feel Garcia will get the nod to begin 2011 as the QB for Coach Spurrier. Now will Garcia hold onto the starting spot...well that is up to Garcia.
5. What does South Carolina need to improve the most this off-season to try and retain their SEC East Title?
South Carolina needs to add depth all around, improve linebacker play, get the secondary playing better as a unit, improve the offensive line and not be satisfied with what was accomplished in 2010. Do all that and hello SEC title as Carolina will return a lot of talent and the SEC East is still building so the opportunity to repeat as champs is present in 2011.