South Carolina Gamecocks: CFN College Football Preview 2021

·11 min read

College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the South Carolina Gamecocks season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
South Carolina Schedule Analysis
– South Carolina Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 2-8 overall, 2-8 in SEC
Head Coach: Shane Beamer, 1st year
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 81
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 29
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 70

South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Offense

It wasn’t a fun year. The offense stalled after a promising start and ended up averaging just 355 yards and 24 points per game. There were bright spots, and there’s a whole lot of young talent and potential returning, and now it’s up to new head coach Shane Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield to add more big play ability in all phases. It all starts with …

The offensive line. There might be several position battles across the board, but four starters are expected back on an O line that wasn’t awful for the ground but needs to be a whole lot stronger at keeping defenses out of the backfield.

As long as the group is pounding away for Kevin Harris, everything should be okay. The 5-10, 225-pound junior took over the ground game and became one of the team’s strongest performers, and he’s not alone even with No. 2 rusher Deshaun Fenwick taking off for Oregon State. If former star recruit MarShawn Lloyd can rock after suffering a torn ACL, look out.

And the quarterback will be … Luke Doty? Maybe. Ryan Hilinski left for Northwestern and 2020’s leading passer Collin Hill is finished, but Doty looked the part in offseason practices as the main man left from last season. JUCO transfer is a big 6-3, 225-pound option and freshman Colten Gauthier will get his shot.

Shi Smith is now a Carolina Panther – he led the team with 57 catches – but second-leading receiver TE Nick Muse is back for his super-senior season after catching 30 passes for 425 yards and a score.

Now the wide receivers have to emerge, with Georgia Tech transfer Ahmarean Brown adding some flash and junior Xavier Legette adding a little bit of pop as the leading returning yardage wideout.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
South Carolina Schedule Analysis

NEXT: South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Defense

4. South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense was loaded with upside, and the secondary was full of NFL talent, and it just didn’t work. The wheels came off with a whole slew of key parts missing at the end, finishing the season allowing 452 yards and 36 points per game with the line getting destroyed way too easily. Defensive coordinator Clayton White will try to fix that with the 4-2-5 alignment working around …

The linebackers. The front four has to be far better, but it’s that 2 in the 4-2-5 – if the alignment really does stick with the style – that has to rock. Leading tackler Ernest Jones is off being an LA Ram, but the combination of 220-pound senior Sherrod Greene and 222-pound sophomore Mo Kaba are experienced enough to be terrific as the season goes on.

Now the line has to work despite losing a few parts to the transfer portal – and it will. What turned into a problem should now be one of the team’s biggest strengths. Leading sacker Kingsley Enagbare is a good one start with on the end, and in comes Jordan Strachan from Georgia State after coming up with 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Zacch Pickens leads a strong rotation of 300-pounders in the interior.

The pass rush has to be there to help out the redo in the secondary. Most of the NFL parts weren’t around for most of last year, and for good and bad that threw some inexperienced guys into the fire.

There’s no Jaycee Horn, but the corners are okay even with John Dixon bolting for Penn State. Despite losing key tackler Jammie Robinson to Florida State, getting back Jaylan Foster back after finishing fourth in tackles helps.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
South Carolina Schedule Analysis

NEXT: South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best South Carolina Offensive Player

RB Kevin Harris, Jr.
It was supposed to be MarShawn Lloyd’s offensive backfield. The former star running back recruit suffered a knee injury and didn’t get into the mix, and Harris stepped up and turned into one of the SEC’s best backs.

The 5-10, 225-pounder should promise as a freshman, and then everything worked on a team that couldn’t get anything to go. He not only led the team with 1,138 yards and 15 scores – averaging over six yards per carry – but he was third with 21 catches. Lloyd should be back and fine, and there are other options, but Harris is the easy answer to lead the new attack.

2. TE Nick Muse, Sr.
3. OT Jakai Moore, Soph.
4. WR Ahmarean Brown, Jr.
5. OT Dylan Wonnum, Sr.

Related

2021 South Carolina Gamecocks Football Schedule: Analysis, Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best South Carolina Defensive Player

DE Kingsley Enagbare, Sr.
It was a weird year for the South Carolina D line. It had a ton of talent, size, and options, and it just didn’t work. Now the line is loaded with veterans and gets even more pass rushing help with Jordan Strachan a hybrid outside defender from Georgia State.

Enagbare is still the star of the front four, though. Even with all of the team’s issues, he was still an All-SEC performer with 30 tackles and six sacks with seven tackles for loss. He might not be the speed rusher that Strachan is, but the 260-pounder can move.

2. S Jaylan Foster, Sr.
3. LB Mohamed Kaba, Soph.
4. DT Zacch Pickens, Jr.
5. DE Jordan Burch, Soph.

Top Incoming South Carolina Transfer

WR Ahmarean Brown, Jr.
Jordan Strachan is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end who tied for the national lead in sacks last season at Georgia State. He’ll make a huge difference, and it’s possible that JUCO transfer Jason Brown ends up making a big impact at quarterback. But for a team that needs receiver help, getting Brown is a big deal.

He’s not all that big – just 5-9 and 165 pounds – but he can move, averaging 18 yards per catch with eight scores in his two years at Georgia Tech. He’s not going to be a volume catcher, but he’ll stretch the field.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Key Players, Games, Stats
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
South Carolina Schedule Analysis

NEXT: South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

South Carolina Biggest Key: Offense

Pass protection. For all of the things the new coaching staff wants to do – like open it up a bit more, generate more of a rhythm, start to keep defenses on their heels – it’s not happening unless the offensive line is stronger.

There’s experience and size with the four expected returning starters and all of the options looking the SEC part, but the cohesion has to be there from the beginning.

The Gamecocks allowed 27 sacks and an SEC-most 78 tackles for loss in just ten games, and now there’s a new offensive style, new wide receivers, and a green quarterback in – most likely – Luke Doty who needs all the time he can get.

And on the flip side …

South Carolina Biggest Key: Defense

Get into the backfield. It’s no coincidence that the Gamecock D couldn’t come up with a third down stop and was a disaster against the decent passers. South Carolina was bad at generating pressure and worse at coming up with tackles for loss.

There’s no excuse this time around.

The defense has the All-SEC end in Kingsley Enargbare, it has the speed rusher from the transfer portal in Jordan Strachan, and it has the bulk on the inside to let everyone else work.

The team came up with ten sacks in the first four games of the season, and it won two games and wasn’t awful in the other two. It came up with just four sacks the rest of the way and went 0-6.

Going back to 2016, South Carolina is 13-2 when generating three or more sacks.

South Carolina Key Player To A Successful Season

QB Luke Doty, Soph.
The 6-1, 204-pounder isn’t a lock for the starting gig, but it’s going to take something big from Jason Brown or Colten Gauthier to knock him out. He’s mobile, has a solid arm, and he has a little experience.

It wasn’t pretty, but he took over the last three games of the 2020 season and hit 61% of his passes for 405 yards and two touchdowns with three picks. For the most part, he handed off to Kevin Harris and made a whole lot of safe throws, but now he has to start stretching the field and make the O go for the new coaching staff.

South Carolina Key Game To The 2021 Season

Kentucky, Sept. 25
No one will be expecting too much out of the SEC opener at Georgia, but the Gamecocks should be 2-1 if they can get by Eastern Illinois and East Carolina. Kentucky will be the big moment to possibly become the big surprise team of the first half of the season.

Tennessee is still gettable, even on the road. Beat UK, and with Troy, the Vols, and Vanderbilt to follow, there’s a real shot to be bowl eligible by the time the brutal second half of the season rolls around.

Lose, and then Tennessee is a must win considering how the schedule plays out over the last five games. More on that in the next section.

South Carolina Schedule Analysis

2020 South Carolina Fun Stats

– Tackles For Loss: Opponents 78 – South Carolina 39
– 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 192 – South Carolina 89
– 4th Down Conversions: South Carolina 17-of-23 (74%) – Opponents 8-of-15 (53%)

NEXT: South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

South Carolina College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Shane Beamer is walking into a decent situation, even after the program’s ugly 2-8 2020 season that crashed after a 2-2 start including the firing of Will Muschamp with a few games to go.

Now it’s up to Beamer to take all the positive in place and make this work right away. The expectations won’t be that high for 2021, but he might be able to pull off something interesting.

No, he’s not be the proven superstar powerhouse head man some might have wanted for the gig, but he knows the program as a former Gamecock assistant, he paid his dues to go along with the family name, and he’s more than ready to run his own show.

There’s a whole lot of talent coming back, the lines should be a whole lot better, and there’s enough in place for a quick turnaround as long as the first half of the season is tremendous.

Set The South Carolina Regular Season Win Total At … 5

Last year’s team desperately needed a few record-padding games, and this year’s version has them with Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, and Troy – at least the hope is to rock against those three.

Vanderbilt has to be a home win, and the Gamecocks have to at least split against Tennessee and Kentucky. There can’t be too many – if any – misfires in the winnable games over the first seven because …

At Texas A&M, Florida, at Missouri, Auburn, Clemson.

Of course, the whole idea is for South Carolina to improve as the season goes on and take down a few of the tough games over the finishing kick, but this is still a program that went 2-8 last year, 4-8 in 2019, and went through four losing seasons in the last six.

There’s building to be done, but don’t be stunned if Beamer is able to do it quickly with this bunch.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
South Carolina Schedule Analysis