The Ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier has put together quite a program at South Carolina, one that includes two absolute blue-chip prospects on the radar for the 2012 and/or 2013 NFL Drafts, as well as a top 25 pre-season ranking. The Gamecocks have had trouble finishing games as well as finishing out seasons under Spurrier’s watch, but the hope is that with Stephen Garcia having more lives (metaphorically speaking) than a cat, this crew can finally win an SEC title in 2011.
This team has a bunch of NFL talent, it’s just a matter of when these guys decide to come out of school…
73 Rokevious Watkins (RS Senior), OT, 6’4″ 319
Entering his third season with the Gamecocks after transferring from a Military Academy. Big, powerful offensive lineman who returns as the leader of the South Carolina offensive line. Started at both guard positions in 2010, but projects as a right guard or tackle for this coming season with inexperience at the right tackle position. Definitely a road-grader and a hard worker who has done a lot and given up a lot to finally play for the Gamecocks. Probably has the most potential at the next level as a right or left guard, where he can stay in a “phone booth” situation and dominate his man one one one.
1 Alshon Jeffery (Junior), WR, 6’4″ 233
Bar-none the best wide receiver in the class of 2012 if he decides to come out, in my opinion. Jeffery has the total package. He is a hard worker with fantastic size and athletic ability. Incredible body control and field vision. Sure-handed receiver prospect who is shifty after the catch. He’s not going to blow away anybody with his speed, but he can get downfield with the best of them and make plays. South Carolina really likes to get him the ball out in space and allow him to use his ability after the catch. Such a physically imposing player who dwarfs literally anyone and everyone who attempts to cover him. He will remind people of an even better version of Brandon Marshall. Good quickness in and out of his breaks, and great concentration. In just two seasons, he has an astounding 134 receptions for 2,280 yards and 15 total touchdowns. With every snap that I watch, his size and strength continue to impress. He’s always keeping his eyes downfield to gain that extra yard, and like I said before, he really reminds me of Brandon Marshall in that regard. Right now, he is averaging right around 17 yards per reception, which is phenomenal considering the amount of bubble screens designed for him. Able to absorb the big hit and is not afraid to take a shot in the middle of the field. Bottom line here is that Jeffery is a physical specimen who warrants a top 10 grade after just two seasons against the top competition in college football. His dominance is clear, and his physical abilities are unlike any other receiver even possibly entering the draft next year. I think the only thing that keeps him from being a top 10 pick as well as coming out in 2012 is a serious injury.
21 Marcus Lattimore (Sophomore), RB, 6’0″ 230
I don’t care that Lattimore is not eligible until 2013 at the earliest, he is so freaking special that he needs to be written about. This man missed a game in 2010, and had one game where he had one carry for negative one yard, and he still managed a true freshman campaign that included 1,197 yards on 249 carries highlighted by 17 rushing touchdowns. He also showed that he is a man among boys in the passing game, where he caught 29 passes for 412 yards and two more touchdowns. He should be a leading Heisman Trophy candidate for the 2011 season, and is arguably the best overall running back in the country. He is the most complete back I have seen coming out since Adrian Peterson. He is very well built, powerful, and hard to bring down. Lattimore also has deceptive speed for his size, and he is a hard worker off the field. Just a big back with excellent power, who will be a very high draft pick in 2013 or 2014.
5 Stephen Garcia (Senior), QB, 6’2″ 227
It really seems like Garcia has been around South Carolina forever, and it’s because he’s been there for the better part of half a decade–through both very thick and thin. Garcia has had more extra chances than most college players receive, especially from a major university which has kicked off the likes of Weslye Saunders over the last couple of years. Still, Garcia has allegedly turned his life around (according to Spurrier), and he will start the 2011 season with a suspension coming off of the best season in his long USC career. Garcia has been suspended FIVE times by South Carolina, so it’s a wonder he’s still on the team. However, when his game is on, he is a very, very good quarterback. He is suspended indefinitely to start this season as well, but he is coming off of a year where he threw for 3,059 yards (64.2 percent) as well as 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His prior two years, his highest completion percentage was around 55 percent, and he really struggled with 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in his first two seasons. Garcia is an excellent athlete who has 12 career rushing touchdowns as well as a three yard receiving touchdown. If he is drafted to the NFL, he will probably be a later round pick but he could definitely out-play his draft status because the talent is there, but will he be a problem off the field?
6 Melvin Ingram (RS Senior), DL, 6’2″ 271
A bit of a tweener who is versatile enough to play defensive end and kick inside to play tackle on passing downs. With the arrival of top ranked recruit JaDaveon Clowney, he could move inside permanently this season. Last year, he really broke out as a pass rusher, with nine sacks on the season to go along with 11 more tackles for loss. His production came when he wasn’t even a starting defensive end, so we’ll see how productive he can be when given the chance to be an every down starter for the Gamecocks. Converted linebacker who has solid athletic ability, and one of the top performers on a very, very talented South Carolina front seven.
98 Devin Taylor (RS Junior), DE, 6’7″ 250
Big, lanky defensive end prospect who is nothing short of a playmaker. He burst on to the scene as a sophomore last year when he had 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and an astounding 8 passes broken up. Taylor also had 11 quarterback hurries, and proved to be one of the most valuable pieces of the South Carolina defense. First team All-SEC selection who could add weight and become a dominant force at the defensive end position. Taylor is also on Phil Steele’s first team All-American list for the 2011 season, an indication of how much progress he made last year. Taylor also had an interception for a touchdown this past season against Tennessee. Only 19 career starts, but right now, he has the makings of a special player. He could really emerge in 2011 with the overall talent of the South Carolina defensive line.
42 Travian Robertson (RS Senior), DT, 6’4″ 298
Robertson has had problems staying healthy at South Carolina, but he is a leader of the defensive line and an anchor for one of the best units in the SEC, possibly the nation. Last year, he had 42 tackles, 10 for loss to go along with four sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. Robertson will be 24 years old during his rookie season, but he has good experience and is well-coached. Also named to the SEC academic honor roll. Not an overly flashy player but he is productive and consistent.
21 DeVonte Holloman (Junior), S/LB, 6’2″ 226
Former highly touted five star recruit who has been a solid contributor for the South Carolina defense since he stepped on campus, but he is ready for a breakout season. Last season, he had 62 tackles, a forced fumble, and two interceptions. South Carolina is planning to move Holloman to linebacker in 2011 as he will battle with Antonio Allen for the SPUR linebacker position. He is a great athlete with obvious tackling ability, but if nobody emerges at the strong safety position over the Spring, look for him to move back to safety. My best guess is that he will come back to the Gamecocks for a senior season, but if he has as big a season as he is capable of, he could be an early entrant.
3 Akeem Auguste (Senior), CB/S, 5’10″ 183
Auguste is a leader in the secondary with a lot of experience, but no interceptions to his name, which is a bit concerning. He has shown great versatility, starting at both safety at cornerback (where he will start in 2011). The USC secondary struggled last year, but with four returning starters, they should have some consistency. Last year as a free safety, he had 58 tackles and four for a loss. He’s not an elite NFL prospect, but he has some upside as a special teams player and reserve in the secondary.
5 Stephon Gilmore (Junior), CB, 6’1″ 194
One of the best cornerback prospects in the nation, and only a junior this coming season. Gilmore has excellent size to go along with his tackling ability and playmaking ability at the cornerback position. In fact, he could be one of the best cornerback prospects that you will scout over the next few years. Last season as a sophomore, he had 71 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions (one for a touchdown), six tackles for a loss, and a fumble recovery. He is literally always around the ball, and always making plays for the Gamecocks. He showed his skills early on when he had 56 tackles, three sacks, and an interception as a freshman. He should be on every All-American and All-SEC list heading into the 2011 season. He’s also on the Academic Honor Roll, so he’s obviously no slouch in the classroom. Gilmore is one of the top cornerback prospects in the class of 2012/13.
36 D.J. Swearinger (Junior), S, 5’11″ 206
Hard hitting safety who is still very raw, but he has a ton of potential. As a sophomore, he had a very solid all-around season with 66 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. He also had two tackles for a loss, and showed that he is capable of being a solid kick returner (five returns for 21.8 yard average). Highly sought after high school recruit who is growing into his role in the South Carolina secondary. He has a long way to go in his development as an NFL player, so he could certainly be back for his senior year unless he has a huge junior season.
26 Antonio Allen (Senior), S/LB, 6’2″ 208
Allen is a rugged player who can play both the linebacker and safety positions. He showed he is certainly capable last year starting at the SPUR linebacker position, finishing the season with 70 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception which he returned for a touchdown. He also showed his ability to get into the backfield with 10.5 tackles for a loss. Allen is simply a playmaker, and if he’s not starting at the linebacker position he held last year, he’ll likely be starting as a safety. He will make his mark in the NFL on special teams, and could develop into a starting linebacker if he gains weight, or a starting safety as well, potentially.