ESPN Insider's "20 teams that can win it all" series is previewing each of the top 20 teams in Brian Fremeau's five-year program metric (for a full explanation, and links to all of the previews as they are published, click here), with the help of ESPN's Stats & Information group.
On Wednesday, ESPN's Travis Haney took a look at South Carolina. Haney discussed three reasons why South Carolina can win it all and three reasons why the Gamecocks won't.
Here's a little of what Haney said about the Gamecocks' chances of winning it all this year:
"Spurrier has a quarterback at South Carolina. There are no question marks, with respects to performance -- or off-field behavior -- any longer. Connor Shaw became a long-awaited answer last season, taking over for the much-maligned Stephen Garcia.
The Gamecocks went 7-1 with Shaw at quarterback, losing only at then-No. 7 Arkansas. It's difficult to argue with those results."
My thoughts: Shaw's development is big for South Carolina's offense. There's no doubt that Shaw can make plays with his feet, but Spurrier wants a passer. He was a passer and his quarterbacks at Florida were passers. Shaw showed more of a pass-first mentality during the second half of the season and it sounds like it carried over into the spring. Now, he'll have to continue that this fall. Old habits do die hard, but what would really help him is if Marcus Lattimore is healthy.
Speaking of Lattimore, Haney threw out some pretty interesting facts about Lattimore's running habits when he was healthy. One that I was really impressed with was: "Lattimore was not touched until he was five yards past the line of scrimmage on 94 of his 412 rushes (22.8 percent) in his first two seasons (according to ESPN Stats & Info). Seventy-two of those runs were between the tackles." He also added that it continues to sound like Lattimore is ahead of schedule.
My thoughts: A healthy Lattimore would certainly add some confidence to the thought of saying South Carolina is an SEC title contender and beyond. When he's on top of his game he's one of the best running backs in the country. But no one really knows how he'll respond this season and how healthy he'll actually be. We won't really know until he takes real contact in a real game. Until we know where Lattimore's health stands there will still be speculation surrounding this offense.
Haney also talks about the defensive line, which I think will be very good this fall. Ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor should be pretty annoying to guard and tackles Kelcy Quarles and Byron Jerideau showed a lot of improvement this spring. This line will be pretty darn good this fall, which should help the entire defense.
As for three reasons why the Gamecocks falter, Haney talks the lack of proven receivers, the loss of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and having to play LSU and Arkansas.
My thoughts: I agree with all three and I still feel most of the concern is in the secondary. Starting corners Stephon Gilmore and C.C. Whitlock are gone and DeVonte Holloman is moving back to the Spur, leaving an opening at strong safety. That leaves three spots that need to be filled. Two will be filled by rising sophomores, while veteran Akeem Auguste will take a corner spot. The problem is that he hasn't played since 2010 and hasn't played corner since 2009.
Most likely result: 8-4 (30 percent likelihood)
Projection window: 7-5 to 10-2 (86 percent likelihood)