The South Carolina Gamecocks have had modest success in football over the years. When you think about national powers in college football, the Gamecocks usually don’t come to mind. If you think of college football in the South you are probably going to come up with Alabama or LSU or several others, but not South Carolina. If you were to consider college football in South Carolina you may even think of the Clemson Tigers before you contemplate the Gamecocks of South Carolina.
But, things can change.
In 1980, the South Carolina Gamecocks did have Running Back George Rogers who won the Heisman Trophy that season, after rushing for over 1,700 yards.
They went 10-2 in 1984 but that success was short lived as they followed that with a below average 5-6 record and then a 3-6-2 record in 1986.
In 1999, they lured Lou Holtz out of retirement. Holtz had gone 60-21-2 at Arkansas and later 100-30-2 at Notre Dame, and he promptly went 0-11 in his first season in Columbia. The Gamecocks did recover and go 8-4 the following season but after the 2001 season and an impressive 9-3 showing, they slipped back to 5-7 for a couple of seasons. Holtz retired again after the 2004 season but his 33-37 overall record is pretty indicative of the history of football at South Carolina. Any success they ever had was usually followed by mediocrity.
The football outlook at South Carolina took a big change with the hiring of Steve Spurrier before the 2005 season.
Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as a QB at Florida back in 1966 and then played in the NFL for 10 years. After his playing career was over, Spurrier obviously went into coaching. He was the head coach for the short lived United State Football League (USFL) Franchise Tampa Bay Bandits and had a fairly impressive record of 35-19.
His college coaching career began at Duke. Apparently, he impressed his old school, the Florida Gators with his 20-13-1 record. The Gators hired him as their head coach in 1990 and he found success instantly with a 9-2 record.
At Florida, Spurrier guided the Gators to an extremely impressive 122-27-1 record over a twelve year period and one national title.
Spurrier left Florida to coach the Washington Redskins of the NFL but failed miserably and was gone after 2 seasons.
The Gamecocks hired Spurrier to take over the program before the 2005 season.
Building a top program at a school like South Carolina that hasn’t had that much success takes time, even for a top football coach like Steve Spurrier.
In 2005, the Gamecocks went 7-5. Not a stunning turnaround success story, but they did upset #25 Tennessee, 16-15. Plus, they beat the #12 Florida Gators, 30-22.
2006 was pretty similar with an 8-5 record but all 5 losses were to highly ranked teams. The following season, 2007 was brutal for the Gamecocks. After a promising 6-1 start, they lost the last 5 games and finished up at 6-6.
Slowly building a program brought 2 years of 7-6 records. But, things started to improve and come around in 2010. It was only a 9-5 season, but they won the SEC East and played in the SEC Championship game against soon to be National Champion Auburn. Granted, they were defeated soundly by the Auburn Tigers and their Heisman Trophy QB, Cam Newton, but it was the start of better things for their football program.
Better things did happen and they happened right away.
The 2011 recruiting class was an example of better things happening. They signed the top player in the country in Jadeveon Clowney and several other outstanding players that were huge contributors.
Clowney and a few others combined to make 2011 one of the best seasons in South Carolina Gamecocks football history. They did not win the Eastern Division of the SEC, but they finished the season at 11-2. This was the first season in the history of South Carolina football that they won 11 games.
They finished the season with a 30-13 beat down of Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Optimism was at an all time high in Columbia, South Carolina and with good reason.
2012 was also a success with another 11-2 record. They lost to Florida and LSU and they were both top 10 teams.
For the 3rd year in a row, 2013 saw another 11-2 finish. 3 years of 11 wins in a row has never been done in Columbia, South Carolina.
33-6 record over the last 3 years is the tops in South Carolina football history.
They have an all time 41-65-4 all time record against Clemson. As more prove of these being the glory days in South Carolina football history, the Gamecocks have beaten Clemson 5 years in a row. They have beaten Clemson several years in succession before, but Clemson has a really good football team these days and 5 times in a row is an impressive feat.
The Gamecocks enter 2014 with plenty of optimism. They did have some big losses in personnel this year with Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles leaving early for the NFL and the loss of long time QB, Connor Shaw.
But, in spite of huge losses like the number 1 pick in the entire NFL, the South Carolina Gamecocks have a lot of talent returning.
Back up QB Dylan Thompson has had a lot of playing time due to injuries to Connor Shaw and he should be really good in 2014. RB Mike Davis is one of the best in the country. Their Offensive Line is really good and experienced with A.J. Cann at Guard one of the best around and Left Tackle Corey Robinson is excellent.
The Gamecock defense will still be solid without Clowney and Quarles.
Even if South Carolina only wins 9 or 10 games this season, we have not seen this kind of consistency out of them before.
This is indeed the golden age of the University of South Carolina football and 2014 will be fun to watch. It all starts in a couple of weeks on the brand new SEC Network against the Aggies.