Steve Spurrier’s 10 best players with the Gamecocks

July 1, 2014 

(from left) Connor Shaw, Jasper Brinkley, Eric Norwood, Melvin I

(from left) Connor Shaw, Jasper Brinkley, Eric Norwood, Melvin Ingram, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney

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    SPURRIER TOP 10s

    Because coach Steve Spurrier will be starting his 10th season at USC, Josh Kendall has compiled several Top 10 lists for his seasons as the Gamecocks’ Head Ball Coach.

    To read a Q&A with Spurrier, as well as lists of his Top 10 quips, top 10 wins and 10 worst losses, go to GoGamecocks.com

    Top 10 players: Tuesday

    Top 10 plays: Thursday

1. JADEVEON CLOWNEY

The No. 1 high school recruit in the country coming out of South Pointe High in Rock Hill, Clowney (right) lived up to the hype and left after three seasons to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. The 6-foot-6, 266-pound defensive end set the school’s single-season record for sacks (13) and tackles-for-loss (23.5) as a sophomore in 2012. He finished his career with 24 sacks, 47 tackles-for-loss and nine forced fumbles in 36 games.

2. MARCUS LATTIMORE

If it was a list of Most Important Players in Spurrier’s tenure, the running back from Duncan would be tops on the list. Lattimore carried the Gamecocks to the SEC East title as a true freshman, carrying the ball 249 times for 1,197 yards, the third-best rushing season in school history. He was named the national freshman of the year and finished sixth in school history with 2,677 yards despite two devastating knee injuries in his three seasons.

3. STEPHON GILMORE

The player who started USC’s run of signing four straight Mr. Footballs in the state went on to become the No. 10 pick in the NFL draft. In between those two accomplishments, he did a little bit of everything for South Carolina, from quarterback to punt returner to All-SEC cornerback. Gilmore, 6-1, 193 pounds, started all 40 games of his college career at cornerback and finished with eight career interceptions.

4. ALSHON JEFFERY

After sparking a controversial recruiting battle with Tennessee, Jeffery proved worth it by catching 183 passes for 3,042 yards. The 6-4, 229-pound wide receiver from St. Matthews was a first-team All-American as a sophomore, when he set the school’s single-season records for catches (88) and receiving yards (1,517). A second-round pick by the Chicago Bears, he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards in his second NFL season.

5. MELVIN INGRAM

It took a while, but Ingram proved to be one of the best athletes of the Spurrier era. He led the Gamecocks with nine sacks as a reserve his junior season and held off Clowney for a starting spot during his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 264-pound defensive end was a consensus All-American in 2011 after recording 10 sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss. He was picked 18th in the NFL draft.

6. SIDNEY RICE

He wasn’t a Spurrier signee, but the 6-foot-4, 202-pound wide receiver flourished under Spurrier, setting what then was the school’s single-season receiving yards record (1,143) as a redshirt freshman. He caught touchdown passes in his first eight games and is fifth in South Carolina history in career receiving yards (2,233) despite playing two seasons. Rice was selected in the second round of the NFL draft.

7. ERIC NORWOOD

A 6-foot-1, 241-pound linebacker, Norwood was the first Gamecock to be named first-team All-SEC three consecutive seasons. He was a first-team All-American in 2009 and remains the school’s career leader in sacks (29) and tackles-for-loss (54.5). Playing multiple roles on the defensive side of the ball, he had 175 career solo tackles and was a fourth-round selection in the NFL draft.

8. KENNY MCKINLEY

The 6-foot, 187-pound Georgia native is South Carolina’s career leader in catches (207) and consecutive games with a catch (43). His 2,781 career receiving yards stood as the record until Jeffery surpassed it. His former teammates and coaches were devastated in 2012 when McKinley, a member of the Denver Broncos, committed suicide. “Kenny was one of my all-time favorite players,” Spurrier said.

9. JASPER BRINKLEY

A 6-foot-2, 275-pound linebacker spent two years at a junior college but was an immediate starter when he arrived in Columbia in 2006. In his first year, he was the team’s leading tackler with 107 stops, more than twice the total of any other player. He received a medical redshirt after a knee injury in 2007 and had 65 tackles in 2008. He had 7.5 career sacks.

10. CONNOR SHAW

The only player on this list who wasn’t an NFL draft pick, Shaw (he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent) earned his spot by being the school’s all-time winningest quarterback with 27 career wins versus five losses. He was a perfect 17-0 as a starter in Williams-Brice Stadium. Rated a three-star prospect and recruited as a wide receiver by many schools, Shaw was responsible for 74 touchdowns, the most in school history.

Josh Kendall

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