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2017 SEC Football Season Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

Muschamp will be tested with a more impressive roster in his second season.

South Carolina v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Record Last Year

6-7 (3-5 SEC)

Key Returnees

HC Will Muschamp and most of his staff, QB Jake Bentley, RB Rico Dowdle, WR Debby Samuel, WR Randrecous Davis, TE Hayden Hurst, TE K.C. Crosby, OL D.J. Park, OL Zach Bailey, OL Alan Knott, DL Dante Sawyer, LB Bryson Allen Williams, LB Skai Moore, LB T.J. Brunson, DB Chris Lammons, DB Rashad Fenton, DB Jamarcus King, DB D.J. Smith, K Alex Woznick, P Michael Almond

Key Departures

LB Larenz Bryant, DB Jordan Diggs, DB Chaz Elder, DL Darius English, PK Elliott Fry, DL Kelsey Griffin, LB T.J. Holloman, DB Shannon James, P Sean Kelly, DL Abu Lamin, DL Marquavius Lewis, DB Chris Moody, QB Perry Orth, RB Darius Paulk, DB Benji Russell, DB Jasper Sasser, WR Jamari Smith, RB Rod Talley, LB Jonathan Walton, LS Drew Williams, OL Mason Zandi

Key Arrivals

LB Davonne Bowen, DB Zay Brown, OL Summie Carlay, RB Slade Carroll (RFr.), DB Kaleb Chalmers (So.), WR Austin Connor, RB Stephen Davis (RFr.), OL Dennis Daley (Jr.), DB Jaylin Dickerson, QB Drew Dinsmore, QB Darius Douglas, OL Eric Douglas, OL Nicholas Edwards, LB Sherrod Greene, DB Tavyn Jackson, TE Caleb Jenerette, DL Brad Johnson, RB Caleb Kinlaw (Jr.), DL Javon Kinlaw (So.), LB Mitch Langford (Jr.), LB Sean McGonigal, WR Eddie Moss, TE Will Register, LS Matthew Smith, WR OrTre Smith, WR Shi Smith, K/P Austin Snow, LB Damani Staley, DL Aaron Sterling, WR Chad Terrell, LB Eldridge Thompson (Jr.), QB Jay Urich, DL M.J. Webb, K/P Parker White, DB Jamyest Williams, PK Alexander Woznick


What Happened Last Year

It was a tale of two seasons for the Gamecocks last season.

They started 2016 with a 2-4 record but then finished out by winning four of their final seven games. The biggest win of their season came against Tennessee towards the end October.

The problem for the Gamecocks came on the offensive side of the football. They finished 13th out of 14 in total offense in the SEC. They were last in the conference in points per game, averaging only 20.77. Their offense will have to turn it around this year if they expect to be a team over .500.

It was a step forward for the program in Muschamp’s first season at the helm. Now, with his recruits flying in, it will be time to evaluate how he is evolving this program.


3 Key Players

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-South Florida vs South Carolina Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jake Bentley

It will be very important for the SEC’s worst offense last year to get off to a hot start. Jake Bentley will be the catalyst of this movement. Without strong play from their quarterback, it will be very hard for the Gamecocks to be a bowl-eligible team this season.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2. Rico Dowdle

Like we talked about earlier, the Gamecocks offense struggled tremendously last season. Rico Dowdle finished with 764 rushing yards last season and the offense still struggled. He will have to run the ball with great efficiency to help get to the seven or eight win mark.

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

3. D.J. Smith

South Carolina’s defense was terrific last year, and D.J. Smith was a huge reason why. He led the team with 79 tackles. He will have to play just as well this time around if the Gamecocks want to repeat as a great defensive team.


Best Case Scenario

8-4 (5-3 SEC)

The offense and defense both improve, leading to a more well-rounded team in Muschamp’s second season.

They open the season with four straight wins, but then lose back-to-back road games against Texas A&M and at home against Arkansas. They then take down Tennessee at home and turn that into a three-game winning streak. Then, they drop two of their last three.

They then get consideration for a New Year’s bowl game.

Worst Case Scenario

4-8 (2-6 SEC)

Everything would have to go wrong for the Gamecocks, as they would only get wins against Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Vanderbilt and Wofford.

South Carolina considers firing Muschamp.


Prediction

6-6 (4-4 SEC)

South Carolina wins all of the games that they were believed to win, losing to Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson.

They wind up making a bowl game.