The Gamecocks enter the 2010 season with relatively high expectations. They have an experienced QB. Experienced RBs. Potential all-conference receivers. The defense should be good. Some big-time recruits that should be able to contribute immediately are coming to town. The prior season ended with promise, including a close loss to an excellent Florida Gators team and a victory over rival Clemson. There are positive feelings surrounding the program. The heavy hitters in the SEC East all have question marks to deal with.
If it feels like we've been here before, it's because we have--this, in a nutshell, is largely how many of us felt about the 2007 team, and the rationale is largely the same. And that season indeed began with high hopes, with the Gamecocks notching victories against ranked Georgia and Kentucky teams and climbing as high as sixth in the polls. At the mid-point in the year, there was the general feeling that, even if we didn't maintain the top-10 ranking, 2007 would be remembered as the breakthrough year of the Spurrier era. Of course, the rest is history, and I'm not going to do the painful work of recounting how it went down.
In the interim, expectations were largely lowered. I can't speak for everyone, but as for myself, I didn't expect huge things in 2008 or 2009. I would have liked to see us get eight wins in one of the years (there's really no excuse for not having done so in 2008, considering our defensive talent and the general SEC slump that year), but there were enough question marks on those teams (QB play in 2008 and youth in 2009) to prevent indulging in any truly ecstatic predictions. 2010 is different, though. We appear to be ready to make a run, with plenty of talent and no insurmountable obstacles to face.
But will 2010 be another 2007, another case of Gamecocks fans getting worked up over nothing? That's what a lot of our rivals are saying, of course. And they may be right; even if we're in better position to have a successful season than in years past, winning is hardly going to come easy for Carolina this year.
But I'm here to tell you that this won't be another 2007. Find out my reasons after the jump:
I have two reasons to believe this year will be different. They are as follows:
1. Depth. Carolina's five-game losing streak in 2007 didn't come out of nowhere. It didn't happen because of the Chicken Curse. It happened because we suffered more than the usual number of injuries, particularly on defense, and didn't have the depth to weather the storm. That won't happen this year. First of all, lightning won't strike twice; it's unlikely that we'll lose half of our first-string defense to injuries. Second of all, although we'll certainly lose some key players, this year's team has much more depth than 2007's. Although he had just put the finishing touches on a stellar recruiting class, Steve Spurrier was still working with a depleted roster in 2007. This year, he'll have the good fortune of working with a matured 2007 class, another stellar and quickly maturing 2009 class, and good 2008 and 2010 classes. This is the deepest, most talented team of the Spurrier era, a team that will likely place several players on the All-SEC squads.
2. Offensive Line Play. I'm not promising that we'll see Carolina field the league's best offensive line in 2010. However, I do think we'll see that the line has steadily improved since the departure of John Hunt, both in terms of fundamental play and in terms of the staff using a scheme that masks the fact that we're not fielding lines that are as good as what they have in Athens and Gainesville. I expect we'll be very pleased with the work Shawn Elliott is doing.
Thoughts? Will 2010 be like 2007?