In 1992 the fans voted on a USC Modern Era All-Time Team that covered the period from 1946 through '92. For me to merge that list with those I picked as my Top 5 at every position, I had to use formations and backups, especially offensively, to do it justice.
To begin with, instead of a two I would use a four-wide receiver set.
Fred Ziegler (1967-69) was not in my Top 5, but he is certainly deserving. He partnered with Tommy Suggs to form a dynamic passing duo that led the Gamecocks to the 1969 ACC Championship. Fred was named All-ACC in '68 and '69. Fred was a master at getting his feet down just before falling out of bounds.
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Sterling Sharpe (1983-'85-'87) was No. 3 on my Top 5, and the other receiver on the Modern Era team. Sterling's name is splashed across the USC receiving records. He is 10th in receiving yards for a game (167), and 8th in receptions for a game (11). For a season he is 3rd in receiving yards (1,106), 3rd in receptions (74), and 2nd in receiving touchdowns (10). For a career he is 3rd in receiving yards (2,497), 6th in receiving TDs (17), 3rd in 100-yard receiving games (10), and 3rd in consecutive games with a reception (34). He has a school-record 104-yard kickoff return against Duke in '85.
Sterling's No. 2 jersey was retired by South Carolina at the end of the 1987 regular season, making him only the second Gamecock to be granted this honor while still playing. He was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2000.
Sidney Rice, whose name appears in 11 USC receiving categories, is my third receiver. For a game, Sidney is 5th in receiving yards (191), 4th in receptions (12), and 1st in receiving touchdowns (5). For a season he is 2nd in receiving yards (1,143), and 4th (1,090), 4th (72) and 5th (70) in receptions, and 1st in receiving TD s (13).
For a career he is 5th in receiving yards (2,233), 1st in receiving TDs (23), 10th in yards per reception (15.7) and 2nd in 100-yard receiving games (11).
Alshon Jeffery, who holds the No. 1 spot in six receiving categories, rounds out my four-receiver set. He is 1st in average yards per reception for a game (37.0 yds), receiving yards for a season (1,517), receptions for a season (88), and 100-yard receiving games for a season (8). For a career, he is 1st receiving yards (3,042), 100-yards receiving games (12), and tied for 1st in receiving TDs (23).
Alshon was the leading receiver for the Gamecocks in 2009 (46), '10 (88), and '11 (49). He was runner-up for the 2010 Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the best college wide receiver. At the beginning of the 2011 season, he was named by ESPN as the best overall player in the SEC.
Jay Saldi (1973-75) did not make my Top 5, although he certainly could. A very physical blocker, Jay had a combined 10 catches for 227 yards in USC's 7-4 season in '73 under coach Paul Dietzel, and 7-5 in 1975, Jim Carlen's first season as head coach. The fact that he played eight years in the NFL is a testament to his toughness.
The other tight end on the Modern Era team is Willie Scott (1977-80), who was No. 2 in my Top 5, behind J.R. Wilburn. Willie led the Gamecocks in receiving in '80 (34 for 409 yds), and he's tied with Wilburn for the 26th spot on the USC career receiving list (70 for 896 yds). He was a big part of the offensive line that blocked George Rogers to the Heisman.
When I first considered who would make my Top 5 offensive linemen, I considered naming the five players who blocked for Rogers as a group. I should have. Two on that unit were right tackle George Schechterly (1978-80), who was No. 1 on my top five, and left tackle Chuck Slaughter (1978-81), who made the Modern Era and my all-time team. Chuck was an eighth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 1982 NFL Draft.
We both had Dave DeCamilla (1968-70) as the other tackle. Dave followed Dietzel from West Point to South Carolina, and he anchored the offensive line for the Gamecocks for three seasons, including the '69 season when Carolina won the ACC title.
Dave was named first-team All-ACC in both 1969 and 1970, and he was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame this year.
Mike McCabe (1973-75) was our choice for center. A Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner under Dietzel, Mike was drafted by Detroit in the 12th round of the 1976 NFL Draft. He returned to Columbia, and he is a successful banker. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
The Modern Era team had two centers, but Bryant Meeks’ last season, 1946, was the year I was born, so my second pick is T.J. Johnson (2009-12). T.J. Started every game from his true freshman year on with a school record 53 consecutive starts. He was a team captain as a senior last season, and he was a second-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches and he played in the East-West Shrine Game. T.J. is currently a member of the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Both our lists had Del Wilkes (1980-81, '83-'84) at one of the guard spots. Del began his career under Carlen, and finished it under coach Joe Morrison He was a member of the '84 Black Magic team, that was the first in USC history to win 10 games.
In '84 he was a consensus All-American. He signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but when that didn't work out, he turned to professional wrestling, where he spent nine years under the ring names The Trooper and The Patriot.
I picked my Top 5 linemen without regard to position, and Steve Courson (1973-76) was the Modern Era pick at the other guard spot, and it's a great choice. Steve was a very physical player, who teamed with Saldi and McCabe on the seven-win '73 and '75 squads. Steve was 5th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the '77 NFL Draft. He later admitted he used steroids during his sophomore year at Carolina. He spent his post-football career making nearly 100 speeches a year to high school and college athletes about the dangers of using steroids, until his tragic death in 2005, when he was cutting a treedown in his yard, and it fell on him.
Modern Era had Jeff Grantz (1973-75) as their quarterback, and pre '93, he is my No. 1 pick as well. Jeff directed those seven-win teams with his arm and his feet. Jeff is tied for first for passing touchdowns in game (5), in the 56-20 rout of Clemson in '75. He is 9th in passing touchdowns for a season (16), and 10th in passing TD s for a career (26). He was inducted into USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985.
If I had to name a No. 1 today, it would have to be Connor Shaw. His 26-5 school record speaks for itself. He also holds the record for 30 consecutive passes completed. This season Connor completed 61.0 percent of his passes, for 2,135 yards, and 21 touchdowns, with just one interception. Connor has a career total of 53 TD passes, which ranks him second all-time. This year, he rushed for 511 yards and scored five TDs, leading the Gamecocks to a 10-2 regular season. Connor has been invited to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Jan. 18.
The Modern Era team had three running backs, including arguably the two best running backs in USC history -- Steve Wadiak (1948-51) and Carolina's only Heisman Trophy winner, George Rogers.
George is the career leading rusher in school history by a margin of over 2,000 yards (5,204), and he is second only to Carl Brazell (1952-55) in yards-per-carry average (5.7 to 5.5). George’s accolades are almost endless. His other career figures include: 113.1 rushing yards per game; 129.0 all-purpose yards per game; 202 points, touchdowns (31 touchdowns and two 2-point conversions); and 12 kickoff returns for 339 yards (28.3 avg.).
Other accolades include:
-- 1980 Heisman Trophy winner and consensus first-team All-American
-- 1980 NCAA Back of the Year and the ABC-TV 1980 Player of the Year
-- No. 1 overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints
-- 1981 NFL Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl selection
-- 1981 leading rusher in the NFL
-- 1988 Super Bowl Champion with the Washington Redskins
-- 1997 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductee
-- No. 38 jersey retired by South Carolina following his final home game in 1980.
George is a member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame and New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.
Harold Green (1986-89) was our pick for the running backs. Harold was the state's 1985 4A Back of the Year, a prep All-American and MVP of the Shrine Bowl, where he set records for touchdowns (4), points scored (24), while rushing for 101 yards. He rushed for 2,203 yards his senior season at Stratford High, and turned down offers from Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Penn State to join Morrison's program.
Harold is No. 3 among career rushing leaders with 3,005 yards, second in rushing TDs for a season (15), tied for second in career touchdowns (31), and second in career rushing attempts (702). He was an instrumental part of the back-to-back 8-4 seasons in '87 (1,022 yards), and '88 (606 yards), under Morrison, and the 6-5 1989 season under Sparky Woods (989 yards). Harold played professionally for Cincinnati, St. Louis and Atlanta, and was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2002.
My pick to update the list to three is Marcus Lattimore. Although back-to-back season-ending injuries prevented him from placing higher on the career rushing record lists, I put Marcus Lattimore at No. 2 on my all-time list, as much for who he is, as a person, as for what he has meant to USC's program with his skill as a player.
Marcus holds the No. 1 spot for rushing touchdowns for a season (17), rushing attempts for a game (40), and rushing touchdowns for a career (38). He is fourth in career rushing attempts (555), and sixth in career rushing with 2,677 yards. A native of Duncan, Marcus led Byrnes High School to two state championships. He was named the 2009 South Carolina Mr. Football, after he gained 1,898 yards, and scored 31 rushing TDs as a senior. Marcus was drafted in the 4th round by the San Francisco 49ers. He is sitting out the season, but has recently started practicing with the team.
The Modern Era did not pick a fullback, but I think an all-time list should include Pat DiMarco (2007-10). The Gamecock coaching staff has never really found a replacement for the versatile DiMarco, a devastating blocker who could catch the football out of the backfield. As a true freshman he caught four passes for 32 yards and scored his first career touchdown on a seven-yard pass reception in the win over Kentucky. He also had a pair of kickoff returns, netting 41 yards.
As a sophomore he played in all 13 games making five starts. Pat had one carry for three yards, but caught five passes for 45 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown catch, against Clemson, which earned the Ernest A. Brooks Memorial Award as the MVP of the 2008 Carolina/Clemson game. His junior year Pat was one of four team captains. He made eight starts, rushed 10 times for 31 yards, and caught 14 passes for 78 yards, with one touchdown. As a senior he caught 15 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns.
The Modern Era and I picked Collin Mackie (1987-90) as the kicker. Collin is tied for the school record for field goals in a game (5), and the number one spot for field goals attempted (25) and in field goals made (25), in a season.
Collin has the top spot for a career in field goals attempted (98), field goals made (72), and consecutive field goals (15). He is second on the list for PATs attempted (115), and PATs made (114), and is third in PAT percentage at .991 (114-of-115).
As a freshman, he led the NCAA with his 25 field goals, and established a USC singe-season scoring record with 113 points. Collin had two field goals in the win over Clemson (45 and 49 yards), which earned him MVP of the game by ESPN, in the nationally-televised victory over the Tigers. Collin was named an honorable mention All-American by the AP, and he was an All-South Independent first-team selection.
As a member of the Playboy preseason All-American squad heading into his senior season, Collin made 16-of-22 field goals, and he was 28-of-29 on PATs. He also kicked a record-setting five three-pointers in the 29-10 victory over West Virginia.
The pick for kick returner by Modern Era was wide receiver Robert Brooks. He was USC's kickoff return leader in '88, '89 and '90, with 1,437 yards, which included a 98-yarder for a TD against Virginia Tech in '88.
My No. 1 return specialist would have to be Dickie Harris (1969-71), who was legendary for his returns. He made a combination of 162 punt, kickoff and interception returns during his career. He holds the top spots in seven return categories: most punts returned in a game (6); most punt return yards in a game and (143) for a season. He is No. 1 in punts returned in a season (37), most punts returned for a touchdown (3), and most kickoff return yards. For a career, he leads in most punts returned (77), most punt return yards (825) and most punts returned for a TD (3).
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!