David Cloninger

The best-case scenario for South Carolina football in 2016

Here is the best case scenario for USC in 2016. Check the worst-case here.


One quarterback, be it Perry Orth, Brandon McIlwain or Jake Bentley, takes over the full-time role and the offense begins to gel. Orth has experience and would depend on the rest of the unit making him better. McIlwain or Bentley make the rest of the offense better. Whoever wins the job is poised and commands the team at every moment, leaving no doubt the Gamecocks will go as far as QB1 will take them.

Yes, USC needs a quality backup QB, but whoever that is should be a backup. He shouldn’t be a part-time starter. Whichever quarterback earns the job is identified early in camp, makes the spot fully his and embarks on a great season.


The quarterback can’t do everything. The Gamecocks have to have a running game that will grind clock and stabilize the offense. They have a prime candidate to lead them in David Williams, and he then harnesses the talent he’s displayed in bursts the past two years.

Williams has a workmanlike season, earning 50-75 yards per game, while the crop of backs behind him (Mon Denson, A.J. Turner, Rico Dowdle, C.J. Freeman) spell him. The pressure is taken off the QB to do everything, and the Gamecocks get into grind-it-out games, where they reach the fourth quarter with a small lead or within striking distance of a win.


All of the freshmen who play limitmistakes and display the promise that got them a college scholarship, eliminating the need for constant second-guessing from coaches. Of course there will be a rotation, but as the season progresses, definite starters and definite backups are identified.

The future is penciled in as all of the freshmen have stable, solid years.


The Gamecocks’ defensive front seven becomes the perfect SEC unit, able to supply pressure against the opposing quarterback and stop the run. Will Muschamp mixes in so many stand-up rushers and threatens to blitz so often, the other team has no idea what it can do effectively, saving an inexperienced secondary from constant patrol.

The defensive backs are challenged, but a couple of early turnovers give them confidence and they play well over their capability. With the line and linebackers doing their jobs, they’re spared a lot of make-or-break chances and the defense becomes one of the SEC’s best.


The Gamecocks beat Vanderbilt in the season opener, then win two of the next three games (at Mississippi State and Kentucky, hosting East Carolina). They’re 3-1 and coming home for a month, and there are definitely three more wins on the schedule.

USC qualifies for a bowl game, a miracle considering the circumstances before the season, and six wins is just a start. The Gamecocks win seven or eight and everybody who was questioning if Muschamp was the right guy, or if the program can get back to where it was in 2013, is silenced.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC