Overview: The 2012 season was one of progress for Steve Spurrier's squad as the Gamecocks posted an 11-2 record overall and secured an Outback Bowl victory. The success on the field for South Carolina culminated in one of the most notable plays of the entire football season. The jaw-dropping Jadeveon Clowney hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith shook the world of college football and also set the stage for uncharted expectations for the Gamecocks' 2013 season. Although Spurrier's teams have made major strides in recent years, they still haven't been able to obtain the elusive prize of the SEC Championship. The program's lone opportunity in 2010 was met with Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton, who delivered a six-touchdown performance in leading Auburn to a 56-17 victory.
Lofty expectations are set for 2013 despite the losses of major offensive contributors in running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Ace Sanders. On the flip side, the Gamecocks return senior quarterback Connor Shaw who battled injuries throughout last season and offers veteran leadership and mobility to Spurrier's squad. Junior Dylan Thompson will most likely take snaps as well due to Spurrier's antsy approach in using multiple slingers throughout a season. Wide receiver Bruce Ellington will provide a speedy threat while tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerell Adams will be relied on heavily to move the chains for the Gamecocks. Question marks surround the ground game with sophomore Mike Davis taking the reins at running back, filling the hole left by the departure of Lattimore to the NFL.
South Carolina's statistical rankings were underwhelming in all major offensive categories despite the star power they possessed a season ago. The rushing attack ranked 89th nationally with 138 yards per game while the dual-quarterback approach finished 57th with 238 passing yards per game. The best offensive category for the Gamecocks was their scoring offense, which ranked fifth in the SEC and 44th nationally at 31.54 points per game.
Defensively, the Gamecocks only return five starters, yet one of them – Clowney - is touted as the best defensive player in the country. Both starting cornerbacks, Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, return as well. The 2012 defense was stout and ranked 11th nationally in total defense, allowing an impressive 315 yards per game. South Carolina led the SEC and ranked fifth in the country in totaling 3.3 sacks per contest. The Gamecocks ranked in the top five of every major defensive statistical category in the SEC, including rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, tackles for loss, overall pass defense and scoring defense.
The Tar Heels will travel to Columbia on August 29th to open the college football season. This game was originally scheduled in 2010 but was rescheduled after North Carolina's invitation to play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff against LSU that same year.
Historic Breakdown: The North Carolina and South Carolina football rivalry is chock full of history yet the last meeting between the two neighboring programs occurred on Oct. 13, 2007. The Gamecocks took a 21-15 victory over Butch Davis's Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium. UNC leads the series 34-17-2 overall with its last victory coming on Nov. 16, 1991 in a 21-17 contest. The two schools have scheduled another game in Charlotte on Sept. 5, 2015 in an attempt to resume the rivalry along the border.
"I don't know exactly what our attitude is. We haven't started practice yet. But they've been very good during the summer, from what I understand. We haven't had many misses at all. So the commitment level right now seems to be very good." - Spurrier
"Obviously, Jadeveon Clowney is a disruptive player that every offense has to sort of change their blocking assignments to account for Jadeveon. He's a very good player. I think he told me he ran a 4.4 40 the other day at the end of the summer workouts. He's ready to go. If we're going to have a good year, Jadeveon has to make a lot of those big plays. He's made a lot of big ones the first two years at South Carolina." - Spurrier
James Hurst vs. Jadeveon Clowney
As a true sophomore in 2012, Jadeveon Clowney proved he was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday afternoons after tallying 13 total sacks, 12 of which were solo. Clowney racked up 23.5 tackles for loss, good for second most in the country. The man matched up with Clowney for the Tar Heels will be James Hurst. The senior offensive tackle graded out around 90 percent and allowed just one sack in his first year in Larry Fedora's up-tempo offense. Both were consensus five-star All-American recruits coming out of high school. Hurst is a part of the 2010 class while Clowney followed a year behind. Both are touted as top future NFL prospects and are expected to compete for top honors at their respective positions. Hurst has been placed on the Outland Trophy watch list while Clowney is expected by many to compete for not only the Chuck Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in the nation, but also to make a play for the Heisman Trophy.