An East Visits West Headliner!

By Posted on: July 11th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 25 Comments »
Gamecock Preview

South Carolina is an important test for the Tigers.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s time now for another Auburn opponent preview. On October 25th, after a week of rest, the Auburn Tigers host the South Carolina Gamecocks at Jordan Hare Stadium. Both teams will have been tested, and this game will be one Auburn needs to stay atop the SEC West. South Carolina showed in 2010 that it could lose this game, and still win the SEC East. These days in the West, even one SEC loss can eliminate a team.

     Much has been made this season about the difficulty of Auburn’s football schedule, but South Carolina has a tough slate as well. The Gamecocks open with a trio of of home games; beginning with a Thursday night clash with Texas A&M. East Carolina and Georgia then visit. South Carolina closes out September with a road trip to Vanderbilt, then they host defending East champ Missouri. A road trip to Kentucky starts the month of October off, followed by an off week, then a tune up against Furman, before the Gamecocks head to Auburn. With Georgia and Missouri already having been played, South Carolina will know where they stand in their division race, by this time. Auburn will have played Arkansas and San Jose State at home, Kansas State on the road, Louisiana Tech for homecoming, then LSU. The Tigers have an off-week coming into this game, and both teams should be relatively well-rested.

     Despite losing starting quarterback Connor Shaw and leading receiver Bruce Ellington, this should be a pretty dangerous South Carolina offense. They’ve got plenty of play-makers returning, starting with outstanding running back Mike Davis. New starting quarterback Dylan Thompson has plenty of experience coming off the bench for after Connor Shaw injuries, and should be adept as a passer. Where things will be different for South Carolina is that Thompson is much less of a scrambling threat, although he did notch 3 rushing touchdowns last season. South Carolina has depth and experience in both the receiving corps, and the backfield.

     Where it gets interesting for the Gamecocks is on the defensive side of the ball. Both the defensive line and secondary will have to be rebuilt. There is talent in the wings on the defensive line, but I’ve seen several previews that state that incoming signees might win starting cornerback jobs. That’s either a tribute to the incoming class, or a sign of real trouble, probably both. South Carolina will try to build upon experience at linebacker, and talented senior Brison Williams in the secondary. Williams might have to move to corner, if a pair of serviceable starters aren’t found in fall camp.

     On special teams, the Gamecocks return all three of their kicking specialists, and were more or less middle of the pack on both coverage units last season. Concerns include a ho-hum return game, and a fairly short 37.8 yards per punt. Much like Auburn did the past few years with Steven Clark, the idea seemed to be to generate high, floating punts that offered little chance for a decent return. Sophomore kicker Elliot Fry was a revelation as a freshman last season, doing very well.

Unit matchups, after the jump!

Auburn defensive line vs. South Carolina offensive line: Auburn’s final starting lineup next fall is a bit up in the air, at this point. I’d expect senior Gabe Wright to start somewhere, either at tackle or end. Expect tackles Angelo Blackson, Jeffery Whitaker, Montravius Adams, and Ben Bradley to all play prominent roles. LaDarius Owens will likely anchor the run-stopping end spot, with Elijah Daniels now the likely rush end starter. Carl Lawson will likely be a factor by October, but he’s coming off spring knee surgery. As much hype as the Carolina skill players get, the strength of their offense is on the line. It’s a veteran bunch returning, and they had the luxury of swapping some guys around this past spring. South Carolina has likely the biggest two tackles in the league in junior Brandon Shell and senior Corey Robinson. Senior A. J. Cann is a veteran, solid guard, and he’ll likely be joined by talented redshirt freshman Na’Ty Rodgers. Sophomore center Cody Waldrop had a bit of the injury bug as a freshman last season, as well as a few jittery shotgun snaps. By all accounts, he was much better last spring, so much so that he took some snaps at guard. I like Auburn’s chances of causing some disruption in the middle on this bunch, but the matchup on the edge looks pretty tough for the Tigers. Advantage: Even.

Auburn linebackers vs. South Carolina backs: Auburn’s starting linebackers coming out of spring drills are juniors Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Both are veteran, athletic SEC players, looking to make the next move up. South Carolina returns an experienced group of backs. Junior Mike Davis was the star last season with 1183 rushing yards and 34 receptions, but he’s not alone. Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson are experienced as well. Senior fullback Connor McLaurin is a blocking force when the Gamecocks decide to go heavy. I think experience and depth wins this matchup. Advantage: South Carolina.

Auburn corners vs. South Carolina receivers: Auburn is again fairly deep at corner, with veteran Jonathan Mincy hopefully locking down one spot, and either junior Joshua Holsey or junior Jonathan Jones at the other spot. Senior converted wide receiver Trovon Reed also looked pretty good in spring drills here. Auburn should be able to run with any receiving corps, and play physical run defense on the edges. They’ll have to, because South Carolina has some weapons at receiver. Outside, they’ll likely start junior Shaq Roland (25 catches last season) and sophomore Pharoah Cooper (3). There’s depth there as well, with Shamier Jeffery (6) and K. J. Brent (2). Advantage: Even.

Auburn safeties vs. South Carolina secondary receivers and quarterback: Senior Jermaine Whitehead anchors one spot here, and Auburn will feature either junior Joshua Holsey, or JUCO transfer Derrick Moncrief at the other position. Moncrief was a beast in spring drills, this year, and Holsey is a veteran. The top secondary receiver for South Carolina last season was running back Mike Davis. The backfield accounted for a total of 49 catches a year ago. Tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerrell Adams combined for 30 catches in 2013. At slot receiver, seniors Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones had 60 catches between them. A look at pass distribution tells the tale, for South Carolina. There was no one player that could be double-covered. Anyone can and will be targeted by this offense. The triggerman responsible for distributing that ball this season will be senior Dylan Thompson. He’s experienced, having thrown 89 passes last season, and he looked sharp in the Carolina spring game. If there’s a quibble from last year, it’s that he only hit 58.4 percent of his passes, with 3 interceptions to 4 touchdowns. His 8.8 yard per pass average was good. Advantage: South Carolina.

Punting: Auburn must start a new punter, here, going with redshirt freshman Jimmy Hutchenson, who had a really solid A-Day game. Senior Tyler Hull will again punt for South Carolina, and he averaged 37.8 yards per punt, with only 12 of 46 punts returned for an 8.2 yard average.Auburn gave up only 5 returns all season, for 35 yards. Auburn is still auditioning punt returners to replace Chris Davis. Sophomore Pharoah Cooper split time last season at punt returner, and had 9 returns for a 4.4 yard average. Advantage: South Carolina.

Kickoffs: Auburn must replace veteran kicker Cody Parkey, and will do it with redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson. Junior Landon Ard was the kickoff man for the Gamecocks last season, and he generated 36 touchbacks on 83 kickoffs. A concern is that he hit 5 kickoffs out of bounds. USC coverage gave up 22.5 yards per return, while Auburn gave up 25.8. Auburn senior Corey Grant ripped off 5 returns for a 32.0 yard average for Auburn as the top guy coming back. The Gamecocks counter with Pharoah Cooper, who averaged 22.4 yards per return last season. Advantage: South Carolina.

Place kicking: Auburn redshirt freshman Daniel Carlson is the man for Auburn. He hit a monster 51 yard field goal this year in the Auburn A-Day game, but also missed an extra point. South Carolina returns sophomore Elliot Fry, who hit 15 of 18 field goal attempts last season, including 6 of 8 from 40 yards or more. Advantage: South Carolina.

Auburn offensive line vs. South Carolina defensive line: Auburn returns 4 starters on a road-grading, violent offensive line. Greg Robinson moves on to the NFL, but Auburn has talent to replace him. From left to right, it’s sophomore Shon Coleman, sophomore Alex Kozan, senior all-SEC Reese Dismukes, senior Chad Slade, and sophomore Avery Young, with junior Patrick Miller still in the hunt to perhaps unseat one of the tackles for a starting job. South Carolina returns one starter on the defensive line, senior tackle J. T. Surratt, who was productive last season with 33 tackles. Junior Gerald Dixon has experience, and will likely a starting nod either at end or other tackle spot. Sophomore JUCO transfer Abu Lamin is said to be very talented, and may make some noise here as well. Sophomore Darius English played behind Clowney last season, and did pretty well. As to other ends, big things are expected of converted linebacker Cedrick Cooper, but injuries have been a problem. A patchwork defensive line will be a problem against Auburn’s front. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn backs vs. South Carolina linebackers: Although Auburn lost Heisman finalist Tre Mason early to the NFL draft, Auburn should be fine here with seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Grant was this year’s A-Day star, looking even more explosive and unstoppable. Add in a corps of talented newcomers, and it’s no secret Auburn will be able to tote the rock again this season. H-back is a bit thinner. Senior blocking specialist Brandon Fulse moves from end/receiver to take over the starting nod, but depth behind him is questionable. South Carolina returns a capable linebacker unit with junior Kaiwan Lewis and sophomore Skai Moore at Mike and Will, and senior Sharrod Golightly at Spur. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn receivers vs. South Carolina corners: Auburn juniors Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis developed into one of the more dangerous receiving duos in the SEC, last season. Add in monster transfer D’haquille Williams, and this unit became downright scary this spring, with lots of depth behind the big three. This is a position of real concern for the Gamecocks. The penciled-in starters at the end of spring were sophomore Rico McWilliams and redshirt freshman Ali Groves. Advantage: Auburn.

Auburn secondary receivers and quarterback vs. South Carolina safeties: Auburn senior tight end C. J. Uzomah is a nightmare for safeties to cover. When Auburn needed to go to him late in games last season, C. J. was there every time to haul in the score. Auburn also has senior Quan Bray in the equation, who’s been the career quick screen guy. When guys start to clamp down on him, he can get open down the field. Auburn returns senior quarterback Nick Marshall, and he’s easily the most dangerous guy returning at the position in the SEC this fall. With a spring spent working on a shaky passing game, the sky’s the limit this fall. Marshall was devastating running the zone-read option last fall. Senior Brison Williams should be a steadying factor at the strong safety spot. Sophomore Chaz Elder currently has the nod at free safety. Advantage: Auburn.

     South Carolina is pretty much always dangerous on offense, and last year’s defense was among the better SEC units, giving up just 20.3 points per game. However, much of that defensive production has graduated or defected early to the NFL. With fairly overwhelming advantages at every spot on offense, the only thing stopping Auburn from having a big day will be themselves.

     South Carolina will move the ball and score some points, but I just don’t see them keeping up on the road in this game. Last time Spurrier was in Auburn, he lost his mind and played quarterback roulette in the 4th quarter, and 4 turnovers from that position cost South Carolina the 35-27 loss. I’d imagine we’ll see some visor-slinging in this game, as well.

Prediction: South Carolina can’t keep up with the Auburn fireworks. Tigers win, 41-23.

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  1. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Good write up Acid. I look forward to your piece every week.
    Looked up the all time record of these two teams and I was surprised to find out that Auburn holds a 9-1-1 advantage. But most of those were pre Steve Spurrier. As you pointed out they too have a tough schedule this year but no matter what South Carolina’s record will be coming into this game, Spurrier will have them ready. I’m just glad we have them at home.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Thanks for the kind words. Basically, I think we’re at home, and are a bit better on both sides of the ball. USC has experienced returning kickers and we don’t, so that’s a big unknown.

  2. TigerWoman says:

    Do you think this one will be as tough a home game as LSU? Glad to have South Carolina, Tamu, and LSU all in Jordan-Hare. But I think we got the worse end of expansion scheduling having to play UGa. two years in a row in Athens.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..As far as I can tell, we don’t have UGA twice in Athens. Of course, the SEC could change things at any time, and has in recent years! They did have to play us twice in a row in Auburn, in 2012 and 2013. For what it’s worth, here is what I could find on cross-divisional schedules for the next 10 years.

    • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

      What I don’t like is now having to play both Bama and Georgia (almost back to back) on the road. I know some say yeah but we get them both at home every other year. I don’t care, I don’t like playing them both on the road. Auburn has traditionally had one of the toughest SEC schedules going back to Shug Jordan days. We don’t need to have it any more difficult.

      But hey, it is what it is. If anyone can handle it, I believe Gus can!

  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I think LSU’s the tougher team, but USCe will be just as dangerous at the offensive skill positions. I think LSU has a lot better defense, at least on paper. Having a rebuilt line and secondary at the same time is a recipe for trouble, especially against a veteran, strong offense.

  4. mikeautiger says:

    I live in SC. I was visiting with a friend today at his shop. In came two guys that help with Sr Big Spur the real mascot chicken of SC. After seeing my AU name tag holder a discussion on the upcoming game insued. They are convinced that they will have the best overall team they have ever had this year and felt strongly that they would mop the floor with the blood that Sr Big Spur would exstrack from our tigers.

    They offerd me 14 points on a bet for the game, for supper at Golden Coral. Well it is a home game that gives us 3 points so I said I’ll give you 17 and we will still win which according to the score given above is a one point victory for us.

    The Shop owner, a SC fan, said Auburn slows the Cocks but SC will not be able to contain the Auburn offense.

    We have the potential to have an outstanding year. SC will not be a pushover. But Malzhn knows more about football than just offense. I told them I’d meet them at the shop on the 27th of Oct. and we would go to Golden Coral to eat some chicken.

    • mikeautiger says:

      By the way most SC fans I have talked to over here are thinking we will win the game and are considering not going because they are going to get beat that bad. But we should both be undefeated at the time and it should be a good game and a shorter ride back home to SC for me.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Pulling for you to win your bet Mike,

      This is a big game for me too. While I was raised in West Ga. and East Ala.- all my family are from South Carolina. And so I dearly want to beat them roosters.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I want SO BADLY, for Auburn to beat Spurrier soundly, at his own game, definitively! As to the South Carolina faithful, I’ve really got nothing against them. They tolerated every bit of my arrogant noise in the Georgia Dome in December of 2010. One could do worse for an SEC titlte fanbase to endure.

  6. spanky says:

    Does anyone know what mincy’s punishment was?

  7. mikeautiger says:

    Mincy and now possibly Marshall. Gus has to set the standard and give these guys severe punishment. To put the whole team on notice that pot will not be tolerated, I am even in for them both being kicked off the team. We have other good players. We will not loose much on backup QB, he can throw and with basketball moves he can learn to run the option effectively.

    • spanky says:

      I would imagine over half of the college football players would test positive for pot at some point of another throughout each year. Gus has a real problem on his hands. Apprarenly the Chizik era issues are still here.

      • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

        Maybe your right, over half do it. I don’t know but if so that’s no excuse for a senior leader who was giving a second chance by Malzahn to redeem himself. He’s not some incoming freshmen that has to find his way. Nick has said he was thankful for the opportunity Gus gave him and he would make the best of it. Just so sad that he’s let Gus down. Also hate it for Gus who now has to answer questions about this at Media Days instead of the normal things other coaches will be able to cover about their programs. Disappointing just so disappointing.

      • mikeautiger says:

        My mother used to say if everyone was jumping off the Empire State Building would you do it too? We had a problem with pot under Chizik with Dyer and other players. Now this the second under Malzahn in under a few weeks of each other After, yes after both had been leading D. A. R. E. Class for kids. This is a cancer and it needs irradiacting now! He needs to send a clear message Now that this will not be tolerated, period. At the very least marshall and mincy need to loose some playing time. Marshall came to us as a second chance case, as far as I’m concerned he should be out of here. It may cost us a National Championship, but it could help us win several too, cause this will hurt the program if not handled. Johnson can handle the QB job and can lead us to a NC. After all Gus probably wants to keep his record in tact of never having a QB 2 yrs in a row, but he has only had record setters with the one and done qbs, he can do it again.
        War Eagle!

  8. restless6 says:

    Spanky, that’s a horrible statement. Fair weather fan, much?

    • spanky says:

      Absolutely not. Gus does have a problem on his hands. I want a team of character, because I that is what auburn represents. I have little for tolerance for people who break laws, commit crimes, violate team rules, bring embarrassment to their schools, etc. This was Marshalls second chance. Give him a third? Sure, but make sure he’s punished accordingly, don’t bring it under the table because he’s our best player. I live for auburn football. Do not question my love for this team

  9. restless6 says:

    Wow. Some of you want to throw Nick under the bus for tinted windows and less than an ounce of weed. Unbelievable. It’s only a citation in Georgia, unlike the draconian laws in Alabama.

    • mikeautiger says:

      It’s only about a little weed? No it’s about character. It takes character to be a leader and a winner at what ever you do to be successful. It affects others this will affect the whole Auburn team in one way or another. Marshall is showing a trend in lack of character, can we trust him now to have character and do the right things or will he let himself and others down again in the big moment when we need him most. It’s just a little weed, it’s just a ball game, it’s just a job, it’s just a wife or kid, it’s just, it’s just a death, it’s just…..it’s just…it’s just….it’s about a life that can be good or bad….

      • restless6 says:

        From weed to death? A bit dramatic, to say the least. The young man goofed up. It’s a citation.

        • mikeautiger says:

          It’s not just a citation, it’s a pattern of lack of character and that always leads down a trail. It may be a life long trail of just a little citations but they lead no where, and in most cases if not corrected it will be a road down hill. I hope this is the thing he needs to get on the right path and that will only happen if he is disciplined til it hurts. Because he told media before I messed up and I’m grateful for a second chance and I’m going to do rt and make Gus proud. How proud is Gus today? Will nick be disciplined to help him learn a lesson I truly hope so, I ony want the best for him and everyone all,the time.

  10. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..In the real world, one positive drug test gets you canned at a lot of jobs. And nothing stays in your system as long as marijuana…

  11. wpleagle says:

    Just got the bad news about Marshall, not much to add about what’s already been said! Never having used the stuff, I don’t even know how much 8 grams represents! However, for a senior and the kingpin of the offense, Marshall has blown his leadership rights. My daddy always said that you should always live in such a way that there’s no taint of suspicion about your actions and associate only with those who are of sterling character. Even if the weed was left by someone else, there’s always going to be a question.
    This really puts the coaching staff in a pickle. It’s pretty hard to come crashing down on an offense that’s only a misdemeanor, but if you don’t do something you might as well write off everything you stand for.
    How stupid can today’s young folk be? Just the idea of throwing away a potential NFL career boggles my mind. And, what a great way to be an example for those younger folk coming along. Arrggghhh!

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