Josh Kendall

USC numbers you might have missed during long, hot summer

Freshman Boosie Whitlow is one six newcomers on South Carolina’s defensive line.
Freshman Boosie Whitlow is one six newcomers on South Carolina’s defensive line. mbergen@thestate.com

It’s officially football season again. The South Carolina Gamecocks are a week into fall practice, and the season-opener against North Carolina is less than four weeks away. With that in mind, we wanted to catch you up on the things you might have missed during a long, hot summer.

Here are some numbers, some serious and some silly, to give you an idea of what has happened since the Gamecocks capped off last year’s 7-6 season with a win over Miami in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27.

13 — Starters returning from the 2014 season. That includes eight defensive players, four offensive players and kicker Elliott Fry. The team’s returning players accounted for 54 percent of the rushing yards, 47 percent of the receiving yards and 3 percent of the passing yards last season.

1 — Number of media members at July’s SEC Media Days who picked South Carolina to win the SEC Championship this season. Four-hundred-and-fifty media members voted, and the Gamecocks were projected by the group to finish fourth in the SEC East, behind Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri.

1 — USC player on any first-team preseason All-SEC teams. Junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is expected to be one of the conference’s top players, but no one is expecting much from the other Gamecocks individually. Of the 78 positions selected for first-, second- and third-team preseason All-SEC at SEC Media Days, five spots were filled by Gamecocks – Cooper as a first-team all-purpose player, a second-team wide receiver and a second-team return specialist; Elliott Fry as a second-team place-kicker, and Brandon Shell as a third-team offensive lineman.

36 — South Carolina’s position in the first coaches poll of the season. The poll ranks 25 teams, but the Gamecocks fell in the “others receiving votes” category and their 18 points were the 36th-highest total in the country.

2 — Players from February’s 30-man signing class who failed to qualify academically. Defensive back Octavis Johnson of Homerville, Ga., and defensive end Devante Covington of Georgia Military Academy did not meet NCAA qualifying standards.

1 — Number of impromptu news conferences called by coach Steve Spurrier to address the program’s “enemies.” Upset by the opinion of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist that ran in The State, Spurrier called together local media members during July and expressed his frustration with some characterizations of his team. “As most of you know, I’m a big believer in Attila the Hun’s book, he said it very simply – ‘It’s a simple truth that the greater your accomplishments, your victories, the greater opposition, torment and discouragement your enemies will throw in your path. Expect it and don’t become a victim of it. Expect it,’” he said, among other things. “So I’m telling our fans, expect those people that are our enemies to talk bad about us, we finally won enough games, although it wasn’t all that much last year. We finally won enough that they’re trying to convince us that my age has something to do with it and I can’t coach anymore.”

78 — Passing yards last year by the team’s leading returning passer, who happens to be junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. The four players who are competing for the starting quarterback position – Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and Lorenzo Nunez – have thrown a combined eight collegiate passes, completing two.

6 — New defensive linemen on the team. South Carolina finished 119th in the nation last year in sacks with 14 and had the most porous defense of the Steve Spurrier era. The Gamecocks responded by rebuilding their defensive front with a half dozen new defensive linemen, including four who last year played at either a junior college or prep school.

14 — Number of players who have made verbal commitments to South Carolina for the 2016 season. The class is ranked No. 34 in the country by 247Sports.com. Ten of those players have committed in the past two months.

2 — Number of passes caught last year by senior wide receiver Shamier Jeffery, the only wide receiver on the roster other than Pharoh Cooper who has a collegiate catch.

1 — New defensive coaches as Spurrier hired former assistant Jon Hoke to serve as co-defensive coordinator along with Lorenzo Ward. Hoke spent the past 13 years as an assistant in the NFL. His last collegiate defense, at Florida under Spurrier in 2001, was ranked No. 1 in the SEC.

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