Apr 12, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks mascot Cocky during halftime of the South Carolina spring game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Sideline Q&A (2014 SEC Football Preview) - Garnet And Cocky

During the 2014 preseason to the college football season, Ole Hotty Toddy is prepared to bring Ole Miss fans the ultimate coverage preview to the 2014 season. We will be reaching out to fellow FanSided writers of other SEC schools and writers from other networks and publishers of other SEC schools to give us their in depth look of their team with what we call Opponent Sideline Q&A.

Nov 17, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA A South Carolina Gamecocks cheerleader stands on the field prior to the game against the Wofford Terriers at Williams Brice Stadium. South Carolina defeated Wofford 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s Opponent Sideline Q&A, Sydney Hunte of FanSided’s South Carolina Gamecock’s site – GarnetAndCocky.com, was nice enough to share with us his take on South Carolina coming into the 2014 college football season. You can follow Sydney Hunte on Twitter @GarnetNCocky. Below is our sit-down interview with Hunte about the Gamecocks in 2014.

Ole Hotty Toddy – The Gamecocks had an amazing season last year. If you could rewrite the upsetting losses to Georgia and Tennessee it could have been a national championship contending year for the Gamecocks. Are they a favorite for the four team NCAA Playoffs?

Garnet & Cocky - That’s up to them. It seems like every year there’s that one game that trips them up (two last year) that prevents them from getting to where they need to be. At the very least, I see them getting to the SEC Championship because outside of Mizzou (which I think they could beat) and maybe Georgia I don’t think there’s a whole lot of teams at this point that could challenge for the division. If they’re able to do that and take care of business elsewhere (i.e. Clemson) then who knows?

OHT – Who is the next Jadeveon Clowney for South Carolina?

G&C - From an overall impact standpoint, I don’t think there’s that Jadeveon Clowney type player on the team right now. That may be a question that we can revisit probably at the end of the season, but it’s tough because he was such a great player and was a game changer at points during his career. So, in short, I can’t really point to that Clowney-type player, at least not right away.

OHT – It is said more than 1/3 of the 2014 South Carolina recruiting class is struggling to qualify to make the team. What’s your thoughts on this turn of events? How will it impact the future of the program?

G&C - Well, the team took a hit when Dexter Wideman, the #15 DT in the class of 2014 (according to Rivals), missed qualifying (just announced over the past few days), and that’s a big loss because he was one of their better recruits coming in this year. That’s along with Dante Sawyer (#7 strong side DE) who won’t make it and will likely have to go JUCO first and join the team in 2015. I know that all of the players have been working hard to get through and that it’s part of the process with these kids sometimes, but when you have a couple of hopeful high-end prospects missing the boat, that’s not good. Hopefully they get their grades up and are able to hit the field in ’15.

OHT – Who will be the biggest impact players on both offense and defense for the Gamecocks in 2014?

G&C - Offense–RB Mike Davis. He’s slated to do some big things this year, and considering that he’s a junior, consider 2014 an audition year for him as he hopes to improve his draft standing (he’s being slotted to go as early as the 2nd round in some mocks). I’m also going to go with true sophomore Pharoh Cooper on offense–he’s slotted as a WR on the roster but was the kick returner last season and had some strong returns even though he never took one all the way. With a year under his belt he should be a much more dynamic player going into this season.

Defense–this is the great unknown with Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree all gone, so that’s four key players on D right there that you won’t have in 2014. One player I’m keeping my eye on is linebacker Skai Moore who had a solid freshman season (56 tackles, 0.5 sacks, four INTs) and really showed why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. Kaiwan Lewis (54 tackles, one sack) also looked good last year, so I think those are two of the key defenders on the team right now. I’d also watch Sharrod Golightly and Marcquis Roberts to do some good things as well.

OHT – Which game are you most excited to see in the 2014 season?

G&C - A couple stand out: the season opener against Texas A&M. I’m interested to see how the Aggies match up against the Gamecocks in the post-Johnny Football era and I think it will set a tone for the season as a whole. Georgia and Mizzou are very key from a divisional standpoint, of course, because the margin of error is so small that if you lose just one game in the East, your chances of winning it take a huge hit, and certainly losing two games ruins any chance as the Gamecocks saw last year.

And then there’s Clemson. The Clemson game could be a make-or-break for Carolina’s CFP hopes depending on how both teams are slotted at the end of the season. Of course, we’ll know the team’s SEC East standing going into that one, but they won’t want to go into a potential bowl game or conference title game with a loss to their rivals.

OHT – What do you think is the likelihood of Ole Miss and South Carolina meeting up in the 2014 SEC Championship game?

G&C - I feel this is a trick question. In all seriousness, each team will basically paint their own picture this year. The balance of power in the SEC West rests with Alabama, Auburn and LSU (maybe Texas A&M even without Johnny Football) and the Rebels will face three of those four teams this year so their destiny certainly rests in their own hands. You should never say never, though (you all beat LSU, nearly took out A&M, gave Auburn a good game at their place and took a tough loss to Mississippi State in OT last year so Ole Miss certainly looks like they might be a sleeper over there).

OHT – What kind of antics do you predict the old ball coach will pull in this year’s SEC Media Days?

G&C - He’s always the big ticket over in Hoover every year. My prediction: plenty of shots at Nick Saban and Alabama (some veiled, others not so much), more campaigning for paying college football players, and other things along that line. You never really know what to expect with him, so we’ll have to watch and find out together.

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