BRYAN -- South Carolina had plenty of football firsts in 2011. Their first 11 win season, their first top ten final ranking in both major polls, and a perfect record against the SEC East. However, there’s another first the Gamecocks missed out on last year are looking for in 2012: their first SEC Championship.
South Carolina may be coming off the best season in program history, but they’re not content with what they accomplished a year ago. The Gamecocks won the SEC East in 2010, and a trip to the Georgia Dome is on their minds in 2012.
“We still haven’t won the SEC, said head coach Steve Spurrier. “There’s still a bunch of firsts out there that we can shoot for.”
Wide receiver Ace Sanders agrees. “The more wins, the higher the expectations. Over in South Carolina the entire fan base has high expectations of us so we’re looking to win more games than we did last year.”
Junior Connor Shaw is one of seven returning starters on the South Carolina offense. He took over as starting quarterback midway through last season, and won eight of nine starts. The dual-threat threw for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran 525 and eight more scores.
“Last four games of the season I think Connor Shaw had the highest quarterback rating in the country. I think he completed like 74, 75 percent, eight touchdowns, only one pick,” said Spurrier.
Sanders has faith in his quarterback, whether he’s passing or running. “I expect Connor to be the playmaker that I know he can be. His ability to run the ball is as best as any running back that I’ve ever seen and passing the ball, with a scrambling quarterback defenses usually tend to stack the box so passing wise should be even easier for him. He’ll have the whole defense opened up so all he’ll have to do is make the right read.”
Shaw will be aided on offense by the return of running back Marcus Lattimore. The junior ran for 818 yards last season before injuring his knee in October. He should be back at 100 percent this fall and will be a force for the Gamecock offense.
“He’s doing just about everything I think in our summer workouts, and our trainers say August 3 when we report he should be 100 percent,” said Spurrier.
Shaw is very happy to have his top back returning. “I think it’s very key for our offense. He’s a great, big time player for this offense and I’m really anxious for him to get back on the field this season.”
Six starters return on the South Carolina defense. They finished third in the conference in scoring defense and total defense and feel like they’re on their way to becoming one of the best units in the nation.
Free safety D.J. Swearinger said, “We like our defense. We like the chances our defense has of being great this year. It would mean a lot for me and the senior on defense to lead this team to a national championship.”
The Gamecocks open with an SEC contest at Vanderbilt on August 30.
South Carolina 2012 Schedule
Thu, Aug 30 at Vanderbilt
Sat, Sep 8 East Carolina
Sat, Sep 15 UAB
Sat, Sep 22 Missouri
Sat, Sep 29 at Kentucky
Sat, Oct 6 Georgia
Sat, Oct 13 at LSU
Sat, Oct 20 at Florida
Sat, Oct 27 Tennessee
Sat, Nov 10 Arkansas
Sat, Nov 17 Wofford
Sat, Nov 24 at Clemson