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South Carolina's Offense Needs Things to Break Right // SEC 2012: The New SEC

Marcus Lattimore
Marcus Lattimore

In some ways, South Carolina is in the same position that Arkansas is in. The biggest loss might not be on the field, but in the play-calling department. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has left for a head coaching post at Southern Miss, and Lorenzo Ward is scheduled to take over. So with that caveat, let's look at what are likely to be the most significant changes on the field.

BIGGEST RETURN | RB Marcus Lattimore
This is, of course, based on the notion that Lattimore will be back and will be at something like 100 percent. When the centerpiece of the Gamecocks' offense went down in 2011, he was actually averaging a couple of ticks more per carry (5.0 yards, compared to 4.8) and almost 25 additional yards per game than in his runaway freshman campaign of 2010. And while Lattimore might have made the odds against Arkansas a little less daunting, the fact of the matter is that South Carolina was still 5-1 without its workhorse. Still, Steve Spurrier's new offense works better with a strong running game than without one, and Lattimore will make a huge difference if he returns.

BIGGEST LOSS | SPUR Antonio Allen
Playing the hybrid linebacker-defensive back spot in Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme, Allen made a team-high 88 tackles, 9.5 of those for loss, and picked three passes, tied for second on the team, with one of those interceptions being returned for a touchdown. He also forced four fumbles and recovered three. By the way, he played in 12 of the Gamecock's 13 games -- meaning he did more in fewer games than many South Carolina starters.

The good news for South Carolina is that they have something of a ready-made replacement in DeVonte Holloman, who's played spur before and has started 22 games, though obviously largely at other positions. But Allen's surefire production at the spot is going to be missed.

BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | QB Connor Shaw
Yes, we're going with Steve Spurrier's umpteenth quarterback of the future -- but this one might actually be a quarterback of the future. Shaw rebounded from a disastrous opening quarterback against East Carolina to post a solid passer rating of 148.31, completed better than 65 percent of his passes and had 14 touchdowns to six interceptions. He also ran for 525 yards and eight touchdowns -- both numbers surpassed by only Lattimore. If Shaw is allowed to use his mobility and can continue to put up similar numbers, and Lattimore is close to full strength, the Gamecocks offense might be one of the better ones in the league.