The air in Columbia, SC is different this year, the Gamecocks Football players seem to walk a bit taller with pep in their step and the vibrancy surrounding the program unusually high. For the Gamecocks to maintain this new found level and have a successful 2010 season there are seven keys.
Let's take a look....
Forcing Turnovers on Defense
The Gamecocks ranked 81st in TO margin in 2009 (-4, .31 per game) which has to improve, correct that it statement as it must improve for the Gamecocks to have any resemblance of a successful season.
Last season, Eric Norwood led the Gamecocks with 2 INTs. He was the linebacker. The USC secondary needs to put some stick’m on those gloves and catch some of those balls they put their hands on.
If the Gamecocks can improve upon this area on defense, then this defense should move from Top 15 to Top 10.
Improved Kickoff Coverage
The Gamecocks had a thing for allowing the opposing team to seize the momentum by acquiring good field position off a kickoff or worse getting a touchdown off the Gamecocks special teams unit. This is an area that has to improve or simply don’t make mistakes than can hurt the team as a whole. The Gamecocks do not have the luxury of a kickoff specialist that can kick it in the end zone like Ryan Succop so it is imperative for the Gamecocks to shed blocks and make tackles.
If USC can make strides in limiting missed tackles on kickoffs then frustration from coaches and fans will not be as bad as it was in 2009.
Maturation of Garcia
USC qb Stephen Garcia has to step up in 2010. Much has been written about him and his offseason relationship with Spurrier. Coach Spurrier knows that Garcia has the potential thus the motivation.
Garcia was second in the SEC in passing yards per game and finished the season with 2,862 yards for the 2009 season. Along with stepping up, he needs to be the leader on offense. A stat that he has to improve upon is his TD-INT (17-10) ratio as it was decent last year but decent does not win SEC Championships.
Another area that expectations are high for him to correct is in dealing with pressure, meaning throw the dang ball away kid. Don’t take the sack and don’t force a bad throw.
If Garcia can step up, be a leader, make the right throws and handle the pressure. Well good things are in store for USC in 2010.
OL Blocks and Protects Better
Former Appalachian State assistant Shawn Elliott is the Gamecocks third offensive line coach in as many years. He inherits a line that allowed 37 sacks in 2009. To say this must improve is an understatement. Along with protecting the QB and giving him time to throw, the line must create running lanes.
The running game at USC has to go from 91st national to something more respectable. Winning the battles in the trenches is where it all begins for potential SEC glory for the USC Gamecocks.
Commit to the Run
For the Gamecocks offense in 2010, it is about committing to the run. I know this depends on the offensive line hence they were a key earlier. The Gamecocks are loaded in the running back stable so it is not for a lack of talent. Someone in this group as to make the plays and it likely will come from Miles, Giles and Lattimore.
Pressure from the Defensive Line
DE Cliff Matthews must seize the role as the disrupter now that Eric Norwood is in the NFL. He has to spend a lot of time in opposing offenses backfield. He will need some help from DE Devin Taylor, who will have a breakout season, and DT Ladi Ajiboye.
These three must lead the charge, pressure the opposing QB and stop the opposing run.
Take it One Game at a Time
For Coach Spurrier, he knows he has the best squad he has ever had at USC. He also knows that the SEC is vulnerable in 2010. For USC to achieve all its’ set goals it must take it one game at a time.
Meaning don’t overlook anyone and went wins over Georgia come, don’t get too confident.
If the USC Gamecocks can execute these seven keys – look out SEC East as here come the Fighting Gamecocks.