Sapakoff column: Why the Gamecocks will open the college football season with a bang
NASHVILLE – Asked about the 2012 South Carolina football team, head coach Steve Spurrier got personal this week.
“We like each other,” the Head Ball Coach said, implying more about previous South Carolina teams than the current bunch.
Some good players have left since the Gamecocks defeated Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, defensive lineman/fake punt specialist Melvin Ingram among them. But for the first time in his eight seasons at South Carolina, Spurrier trusts his quarterback (Connor Shaw). He likes his rebuilt coaching staff.
Harmony works, particularly on the duress. That’s just one reason why the Gamecocks, favored by a touchdown, will perform better than projected tonight in the season opener at Vanderbilt (ESPN, 7 p.m.).
Marcus Lattimore. The Heisman Trophy campaign starts now for a junior running back with 30 touchdowns in 20 college games.
Jadeveon Clowney. Without Ingram around to occupy blockers, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward knows Clowney gets extra attention this season. So the 6-6, 256-pound defensive end will move around on the defensive line and step back into linebacker spots to baffle offenses. Expect havoc.
Connor Shaw. A proven runner and a more efficient passer than advertised, he has enough help –even without Alshon Jeffery – to consistently produce scoring drives.
Last year’s opener. It was ugly, the 56-37 victory over East Carolina in Charlotte. The Pirates and head coach Ruffin “Ready” McNeil jumped out to a 17-0 lead as the Gamecocks clearly were not ready.
This time, focus on an SEC foe has them prepared.
South Carolina 31, Vanderbilt 11
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff