The Shawn Elliott era is now underway at South Carolina, and for the first time since 2004 there will not be a visor or a slight southern twang on the sidelines.
Steve Spurrier has resigned and Elliott is now staring down the barrel at his first game as a head coach as Vanderbilt comes to Williams-Brice Saturday.
Elliott has proven himself as an assistant coach; he’s been loyal to the program for the past six years, coached All-Americans and has been a part of conference and national championship teams at Appalachian State.
But once Elliott dons the head coach headset and the game kicks off, it’s just another game in the Gamecocks’ struggle to make a bowl game this year.
Vanderbilt is probably the team South Carolina matches up with the best in the SEC, and it poses some intriguing matchups. Here are three things to keep in mind when the Gamecocks take the field against the Commodores.
How will the players play under Elliott?
The culture is seemingly already changing just two practices in for the new interim head coach: the pace of play is up-tempo and music is blasting through the entire practice. Maybe this is the spark the players needed to get out of their slump. If they come out and play inspired, mimicking the personality of their new coach, it could mean a victory against the ‘Dores.
Can the defense capitalize on a sluggish Vanderbilt offense?
Vanderbilt’s offense is sluggish and can be one-dimensional. Joe Webb has 437 rushing yards this season and is paired with a sputtering passing attack. It’ll be important for the Gamecocks to stuff the run, something they haven’t been able to do this season, if they want to beat Vandy. If they make quarterback Johnny McCrary step back and throw, make him uncomfortable in the pocket and play good defense on receivers, then they make be able to force mistakes defensively.
Will offensive impact players step up this week?
It’s been a while since a Gamecock offensive player has taken over a game. Pharoh Cooper did it some last year (most notably the Tennessee game) but no player has stepped up this year and had a big performance other than maybe Lorenzo Nunez against UCF. Cooper had a good day against LSU and could continue that this week. Brandon Wilds is coming off injury and could make a statement. It’ll take one of the big names on offense such as those two, or Perry Orth and Jerell Adams to step up and take control if the Gamecocks want to come out successful.
For years it seemed like the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game went down to the wire -- even in 2012 when the Gamecocks won 11 games. Now, USC is on the decline and Vanderbilt sits at the bottom of the slide. The Gamecocks come out inspired and wanting to put on a good show. This game could be tight late, but in the end USC should have more talent than the Commodores.
Final Score: South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 17