2018 South Carolina projections on the Hour Glass
John Luke McCord
In his second time around as a head coach Will Muschamp has things on the up and up at South Carolina. The program is back stable and healthy following the dip off that began with the end of Steve Spurrier’s tenure. The overall talent is improving, there’s a young, talented QB on the roster and the program is forming an identity. Under the defensive-minded Muschamp, they are going to be athletic and relentless on defense, and offensively they are going to be exciting. The latter half of that statement is what Muschamp’s teams at Florida lacked.
Jake Bentley completed over 62% of his passes last season, and that was after his favorite target Deebo Samuel went down in the game in the first half of the season. This season Bentley returns with plenty of experience behind him and an Hour Glass QB stamp of 9.7, which ranks 7th in the SEC and just above the cut off line for good returning signal callers in the conference. His play will provide a building block for what should be an improved offense.
Leading rusher AJ Turner is back, as are the two players who backed him up in Ty’Son Williams and Rico Dowdle. At receiver, Samuel is back, and that should help star outside pass catcher Bryan Edwards. The Gamecocks will be without star tight end Hayden Hurst this season, but the ascension of OrTre Smith and Shi Smith should be enough to replace the lost production. As well, the offensive line is positioned to have success this season, with guys now seasoned and in the correct positions. The focus in the offensive trenches will be to develop depth, which Muschamp said as much following the conclusion of spring workouts.
While the offense gets their playmaker back in Samuel, the defense will get two guys back in the fold this season. Bryson Allen-Williams went down in the same game as Samuel last season, after they were both off to promising starts. Williams is a guy that will bring production on the edge, as well as leadership. The other player is Shameik Blackshear, who will finally get his chance to emerge after signing as a touted recruit in the class of 2015. Another edge player, DJ Wonnum, was named one of the defensive players of the spring and he is line for a big season.
With the graduation of Skai Moore Muschamp will now count on a new linebacker, and the team’s leading returning tackler, TJ Brunson to be the alpha and leader of the defense. He, alongside Wonnum, was named defensive player of the spring. Daniel Fennell, on the defensive line, was also a big contributor in the spring and should be another playmaker in the front seven of the defense.
The defensive secondary will, no doubt, be led by Steven Montac and Keisean Nixon. They combined for five interceptions between them a season ago and should find their way to the ball even more in 2018. Speaking of being around the ball, Nixon was also honored as the special team’s player of the spring, so his impact is two-fold.
From year one to year two under Muschamp the Gamecocks went from 6-7 to 9-4. While it would be hard to continue stepping forward in the difficult SEC, thats exactly what the talent and experience this USC team has would lead you to believe is the case. Though, the Cocks rank in the middle of the pack as far as coaching stamp, QB stamp and three-year recruiting stamp, the Hour Glass likes them to make that jump.
HG analytics pick: 9-3, 2nd in SEC East
My pick: 8-4, 3rd in SEC West
2017 Hour Glass projection was 6-6; actual finish @ 8-4 (82 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 21st – inside our Realistic College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Mark Stoops on HG Scale: 57th (Muschamp Stamp at 2.4) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning South Carolina quarterback play rated 57th in the country in out of 130 teams ntionally. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. South Carolina has a stamp of 2.4.