NFL draft helps explain USC’s 2014

Kentucky's Alvin "Bud" Dupree sacks South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw in a 2012 game. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Nothing in sports is hyped more than the NFL draft. Two reasons: So much football down time after the Super Bowl and we can’t get enough of Jon Gruden breaking down film with wide-eyed quarterback prospects.

If only Gruden could come to your office and go over film with the hiring manager, or grill a rookie burrito assembler.

“What were you thinking here? C’mon. Huh?”

But the draft isn’t strictly about hedging for the future. Just like The History Channel app or Bob Costas, it can help explain the past, too.

As in, “Oh, so that’s why we lost to Kentucky.”

Or, “No wonder Texas A&M had all day to throw the (darn) ball.”

South Carolina had a disappointing 7-6 record in 2014, and some of the guys projected to go in the first round Thursday night had a say in that.

In chronological order:

Cedric Ogbuehi started at left tackle for Texas A&M in the 2014 opener in Columbia. The Aggies won, 52-28, and he was a big reason why. Very big (6-5, 305). The Gamecocks got only one sack (linebacker Skai Moore) in 60 pass attempts as quarterback Kenny Hill and Texas A&M rolled up a staggering 680 yards of total offense.

Missouri’s Shane Ray made a mess of South Carolina’s offense on Sept. 27. A 21-20 Gamecock loss was the first of back-to-back Saturday night collapses that shaped the season. The Tigers’ defensive end probably will slip in the first round after a recent marijuana arrest, but he had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry at South Carolina.

The country will meet Alvin “Bud” Dupree on Thursday night. Gamecock fans know him as that Kentucky guy in the No. 2 jersey who picked off a Dylan Thompson pass and ran six yards for the game-winning touchdown in the Wildcats’ 45-38 victory in Lexington on Oct. 4.

Clemson’s Vic Beasley was no stranger to South Carolina fans last November but added to the misery with one of his best games of the season in the Tigers’ 35-17 win: Three tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble. The Atlanta Falcons might take Beasley with the 10th overall pick, if he lasts that long.

Of course, the Gamecocks had to deal with first-round prospects in wins, too.

And barely survived.

Former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo (now the head coach at Colorado State) should have given running back Todd Gurley the football on first-and-goal at the 4 late in South Carolina’s 38-35 victory on Sept. 19.

Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. had four quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and a sack as the Gators lost to South Carolina, 23-20, in overtime, on Nov. 15. Fowler and tackle D.J. Humphries are Florida teammates bound for the first round.

Miami lost to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, but wide receiver Phillip Dorsett scored the game’s final touchdown and massive left tackle Ereck Flowers (6-6, 324) played well.

Clemson can relate.

Gurley went nuts in the season opener, scoring on a 100-yard kickoff return and rushing or 198 yards and three more touchdowns in Georgia’s 45-21 rout.

The Tigers on Sept. 20 in Tallahassee didn’t have to face sure-fire first overall pick Jameis Winston (suspended) and didn’t have trouble with left tackle Cameron Erving (five Clemson sacks). But defensive end Eddie Goldman was an issue (sack, forced fumble, tackle for loss) in a 23-20 overtime loss.

Louisville might have won at Death Valley on Oct. 11 had wide receiver DeVante Parker (injured) been available. Instead, the Cardinals sputtered the game away at the Clemson goal-line in a 23-17 loss.

When Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson’s name is called Thursday night, remember that in the Tigers’ 34-20 win at Winston-Salem last Nov. 6 he had an interception, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.

Beasley didn’t do much against Wake Forest. But he was a difference-maker against South Carolina, the way Jadeveon Clowney (4½ sacks) was on the same field in the Gamecocks’ 27-17 win two years earlier.

It doesn’t completely explain South Carolina’s 7-6 record, but at least the Gamecocks didn’t lose to a bunch of free agent candidates.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff