Aug 28, 2012

2012 SEC Previews: South Carolina with Garnet And Black Attack

We’re previewing the upcoming season with help from SBNation.com. Today, Garnet And Black Attack discusses South Carolina and the return of Marcus Lattimore.

South Carolina won 11 games for the first time in school history last season and must win some big games in 2012 to match that total. A three-game stretch that includes Georgia, LSU and Florida is the Gamecocks’ toughest test before the defending Capital One Bowl champions end the season at in-state rival Clemson.

2011 Record: 11-2

2011 Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, 30-13

2012 Bowl Projections:

Orlando Bowl History

1975 Tangerine Bowl vs. Miami (OH), 7-20
2012 Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska, 30-13

Q&A with Garnet And Black Attack

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Strangely expected. In the preseason, we were projected to have our best team ever. We did, indeed, break our previous wins record, but it didn’t happen how we thought it would, with our best player, Marcus Lattimore, missing half the season to injury and our senior, fan-favorite QB, Stephen Garcia, losing his spot on the team due to disciplinary issues. It was a strange year, but we ended it more or less where we thought we would.

What’s the biggest difference between this USC team and last year’s Capital One Bowl champions?

New faces on defense. We lose some of our biggest defensive playmakers, including first-round draft picks Melvin Ingram and Stephon Gilmore. That said, we’ve recruited well in recent years, and although there are still questions in the secondary, we’ve got some promising players replacing them. Jadeveon Clowney should also be more mature and will be ready to take on a bigger role.

How will the offense rebound or reload following the departure of bowl MVP Alshon Jeffery?

Jeffery will be hard to replace. We have some talented receivers, including last year’s second-leading receiver Ace Sanders and incoming freshman phenom Shaq Roland, but we probably don’t have anyone who will be able to replace Jeffery as the team’s undisputed go-to guy. We’ll have to rely on a committee approach. Also watch for South Carolina to get the tight ends very involved in the passing game. We have multiple NFL-caliber tight ends, and Steve Spurrier plans to take advantage of that by using more two-TE sets. It’s also big for the offense that we have Marcus Lattimore back from injury and that Connor Shaw is more mature now. And last but not least, we have a big, deep offensive line. Even without Jeffery, this has the potential to be Spurrier’s best offense yet at South Carolina.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

LSU, for sure. Georgia and Arkansas will also be tough games, but we have to play LSU in Death Valley. That’s the only game where I feel we’ll be decided underdogs. Not an unwinnable game by any means, but it’ll be very tough to win.

One Question In The Other Direction

My question is about the MVP Award that Alshon Jeffery won. If you could say something about the selection process, that would be great. In particular, I’m wondering if anyone else was seriously considered (Connor Shaw?), and if the fact that Jeffery was ejected from the game had any bearing on the selection process. Many Carolina fans felt that Jeffery didn’t deserve his ejection, and some have speculated that he received the MVP Award as some kind of compensation. I doubt that’s the case (although feel free to explain if I’m wrong), but I do think my readers might be interested in hearing anything you have to say about the situation.

Answered by Director of Digital Media Matt Repchak

I think the 2012 Capital One Bowl will always go down as “The Alshon Jeffery Game” in my mind (if not the annals of history). The monster first half, the crazy Hail Mary leap and the ejection basically told the story of the game. That being said, the ejection and the MVP award were two parallel decisions made by people OTHER than myself and my coworkers at Florida Citrus Sports (the bowl organizers). Obviously the officials assigned by the NCAA were responsible for the ejection – that’s common sense but I bring it up because USC fans were initially irate that Nebraska’s Alfonzo Dennard was on the field for five minutes or so following his ejection, and that was up to either the officials or the team; we had nothing to do with it.

As for the MVP award, that distinction is bestowed by the credentialed media who attend the games. That small detail was overlooked by most people reporting on the MVP award, including some who were at the game and actually turned in a ballot. We have no influence or veto over the decision, we just tally the votes and hand out the trophy. Jeffery was far and away the top vote-getter in the press box, with Connor Shaw second. I even re-counted the ballots myself amidst a flurry of social media ire from angry fans, most of whom were doing their best Maude Flanders impression. With no policies stating that an ejected player CAN’T be given a postgame award, we followed through just as we would for any other player. But the discussion on our end was never “Alshon should get the MVP award because he got ejected,” because we’re not even in a position to make that call. It was more like, “Look at those stats, Alshon is going to end up getting MVP even though he got ejected…”

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