Fourteen players currently on an NFL roster helped decide the outcome the last time South Carolina and UCF played a football game against each other.
When they meet Saturday, pro prospects will be in short supply.
The Gamecocks are 1-2 and the Knights are 0-3 heading into a noon game at Williams-Brice Stadium, and everyone associated with the teams is wondering what has gone so wrong since that last game.
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It feels like it was forever ago. It was actually two seasons.
On Sept. 28, 2013, South Carolina beat UCF 28-25 in Orlando, Fla., on the way to an 11-win season and a No. 4 national finish. The Knights went on to win the rest of their games, beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and finish No. 10 in the nation with a 12-1 record.
Five months after the game, Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles were selected Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, in the NFL Draft.
“Certainly, that was one of their best teams ever down there,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Bortles and the wide receiver (Breshad Perriman) are both starting in the NFL now, so that was a very talented team. They had a good defense, too. And we had a good team, obviously, back then.”
The Gamecocks started an NFL quarterback (Connor Shaw) that day and then put another one (Dylan Thompson) into the game when the first one got hurt. Eight players on that USC offense are currently taking their paycheck from a professional football team. This season, there won’t be that many pro prospects combined on the field for both teams.
South Carolina has three players who are considered future draft picks – linebacker Skai Moore, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper and offensive lineman Brandon Shell – and the Knights have none, according to NFL Draft analyst Josh Norris at Rotoworld.com.
The gap in the talent level between South Carolina’s 2013 team and the 2015 team may be one reason Spurrier hasn’t, as he put it, “screamed and yelled at too many of them too much.”
“Hopefully, they will get mad themselves,” Spurrier said. “We’ll encourage. I think they need encouragement and want to. If they want to really play well I still think we’re very capable of turning this thing positive. We’re not very positive right now, that’s for sure.”
A talent dropoff hasn’t been the only issue. Injuries have taken a toll as well. Both teams have lost their starting quarterback to injury. The Knights have lost nine offensive contributors due to injury and dismissal, and South Carolina’s starting tailback, Brandon Wilds, is questionable due to a rib injury.
The problems go deeper than that, though.
“We’re not playing as well as we thought we would be right now,” Spurrier said. “That’s a fact of life. We’re going to try to turn it around. We’ve got plenty of time. We’ve played three of 12 games, and we’ll see if we can get something going this week.”
The Knights -- who have lost to Florida International, Furman and Stanford – are sounding the same tune.
“Obviously, no one is as disappointed as I am,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “We have to stay together. You win and lose together, and you have to stay together.”
On to the NFL
The future pros on the USC and UCF rosters in 2013:
Damiere Byrd, WR – Carolina Panthers practice squad
Mike Davis, RB – San Francisco 49ers active roster
Bruce Ellington, RB – San Francisco 49ers active roster
Corey Robinson, OL – Detroit Lions active roster
A.J. Cann, OL – Jacksonville Jaguars active roster
Rory Anderson, TE – San Francisco 49ers injured reserve
Connor Shaw, QB – Cleveland Browns injured reserve
Kelcy Quarles, DT – Cleveland Browns practice squad
Jadeveon Clowney, DE – Houston Texans active roster
Dylan Thompson, QB – San Francisco 49ers practice squad
Blake Bortles, QB – Jacksonville Jaguars active roster
Terrance Plummer, LB – Washington Redskins active roster
Breshad Perriman, WR – Baltimore Ravens active roster
Clayton Geathers, S – Indianapolis Colts active roster