Dr. Saturday's Frank Schwab argued today that Steve Spurrier is a coach who could use a big season in 2013. Basically, Schwab claims that while Spurrier deserves credit for the firsts he's achieved at Carolina, the program remains on the outside looking in at the SEC's elite programs. That could change this year, Schwab points out, but if it doesn't, Spurrier might be out of luck in his goal to win an SEC Championship at Carolina, given the talent we're losing after next season.
I'm not buying this one.
I agree with the premise that despite all of the success Spurrier has achieved at Carolina, we're not a truly elite program until we win a conference championship. Two consecutive top-ten finishes is great, but anyone who thinks we're on a level with Alabama, LSU, and other SEC elites is dreaming. A championship is needed to put us in that conversation.
Is Spurrier's dream done if he doesn't achieve it this year, though? Only if he says so and retires, in my opinion. Schwab seems to believe that we won't be able to compete at the same level once Jadeveon Clowney moves on. No doubt Clowney is a game-changer, and our recent success more generally has been spurred by the play of a handful of high-profile elite talents, especially Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Melvin Ingram, Marcus Lattimore, and Clowney. However, these players aren't the entire team, as proven when the Gamecocks continued winning in 2012 without Gilmore, Jeffery, and Ingram, as well as with a hobbled Lattimore who again missed the latter part of a season. The Gamecocks have been able to keep winning by upgrading talent not only at the positions played by these elite players but across the board. Certainly, you need some elite players to win big. However, Spurrier has put enough talent in place on the team that we should be able to continue to compete post-Clowney. Clowney isn't going to be replaceable, per se, but his loss will be mitigated by a general increase in talent, and while we may not find another once-in-a-generation talent like him anytime soon, we're likely to continue to be able to compete for relatively elite players in future years given our increased visibility.
One thing that strikes about the next couple of years is that while the defense is likely to be in rebuilding mode, the offense should get progressively better. Lattimore will be gone, but unlike 2010 and 2011, we'll have enough weapons at every position not to need to rely on a single player so much as we did with him. Connor Shaw and, so far, Dylan Thompson are upgrades over Garcia. Down the road, Connor Mitch impressed in the spring and may very well be the Fun-n-Gun QB Spurrier has been looking for. The 2013 offensive line should be one of the best we've had in a long time and will be even better in 2014. The current tailbacks aren't quite on Lattimore's level, but they're good, and Mike Davis has the chance to be special. There are questions at receiver, but there's talent, and we are targeting some good ones in the 2014 recruiting class. In short, losing Clowney won't hurt as much if we take the next step and become an elite offense.