GoGamecocks’ Josh Kendall and David Cloninger take stock of the Gamecocks after their first six games of the season:
Josh Kendall: Connor Sha w. One of two quarterbacks in the country with at least 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions, the senior is on pace to be the school’s all-time leader in career wins and career completion percentage. His 68.5 completion percentage ranks 14th in the country.
David Cloninger: Connor Shaw. With a nod to Mike Davis for posting five 100-yard games in six tries, Shaw has been the one directing USC’s offense and bringing a dimension of unpredictability with his rushing talents.
Kendall: Jadeveon Clowney. Despite the issues surrounding the junior defensive end, he has been the Gamecocks’ best defender. Granted, it’s been a down production year for Clowney (14 tackles, two sacks) and the entire defense, but his presence has been felt by opponents more than anyone else on the field.
Cloninger: Jimmy Legree. He leads the team in tackles, has two interceptions (including a game-clincher) and forced a fumble.
Kendall: Mike Davis. The sophomore running back has been borderline great this season. He leads the SEC with 123.7 yards per game and leads South Carolina with 154.5 all-purpose yards per game. His lowest rushing output of the season is 77 yards against Vanderbilt.
Cloninger: Mike Davis. He runs well.
BIGGEST OFFENSIVE SURPRISE
Kendall: Pharoh Cooper. The true freshman wasn’t an offensive player when fall camp began. Now, he’s a regular in the wide receiver rotation and the team’s Wildcat quarterback. He has one catch for 12 yards, six carries for 71 yards and a completed pass for 3 yards.
Cloninger: Damiere Byrd. I never thought he’d get past the “track guy playing football” tag, mostly because he couldn’t hold onto the ball. That’s changed.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Kendall: Elliott Fry. The freshman walk-on has done everything asked of him, connecting on all six field goal attempts with a long of 41 yards. What Fry hasn’t had to do yet is hit a pressure kick. We’ll see if he gets the chance this season.
Cloninger: Elliott Fry. The most sturdy performer in a unit marred with inconsistency.
BIGGEST DEFENSIVE SURPRISE
Kendall: Skai Moor e. Another freshman, Moore was not among the most heralded members of the team’s linebacker recruiting class. Most people thought Larenz Bryant would be the first true freshman linebacker to play. Instead, Moore is getting more and more playing time and drawing more and more praise.
Cloninger: J.T. Surratt. Having the best season of his more heralded D-line mates.
Kendall: The role reversal of the offense and defense. For the past three years, the best three years in school history, it has been the Gamecock defense that has carried the bulk of the load. This season, that unit has struggled more than most thought it would, and the offense is on pace to set the school record for yards per game (averaging 486.5 through six games).
Cloninger: That USC remains heavily in the SEC East race despite losing to Georgia. That was thought to be a death strike.
Kendall: Clayton Stadnik. The redshirt freshman center was an afterthought in the recruiting process behind his more heralded brother Brock. Because of Cody Waldrop’s foot injury, Clayton has started four games at center, and USC’s offense hasn’t missed a beat.
Cloninger: Clayton Stadnik. Cody Waldrop was far and away the best center on the team, but Stadnik has shown no dropoff in relief.
MOST IMPORTANT INDIVIDUAL PLAY
Kendall: Victor Hampton’s interception of Blake Bortles in the first half of a 28-25 win against UCF on Sept. 28. The Knights look like they may be the second-best team USC has played this year behind Georgia, and they outplayed the Gamecocks in the first half. If UCF had converted more of its first-half chances, like that pass deep in Gamecock territory, the Knights probably would have won.
Cloninger: Bruce Ellington catches an onside kick and returns it 31 yards against UCF. The Knights had cut the score to 28-25 when Ellington caught the ball. That allowed USC to run out the clock.
Kendall: Beating Arkansas. This was not just the biggest win by margin. The Gamecocks entered the game 4-1 but looking a little shaky. They left Fayetteville with a swagger and are back in the SEC East race, thanks to Georgia’s loss to Missouri the same day.
Cloninger: Beating Arkansas. The Razorbacks aren’t a strong team, but USC shut down an elite running back, started a crucial road swing with a win and got itself back in the race for the SEC championship.