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November 22, 2013

Rush's Roundtable

In this special feature, Gamecock Central's football insiders answer five questions about the Gamecocks.

1. The question has been asked to almost every South Carolina player and coach this week so, how much attention do you believe this team will pay to Missouri Saturday night and possibly next weekend?

JOSH LOW: This weekend is fair game. The South Carolina game Saturday will be over well before the Missouri game is going to start. The players and coaches don't have anything better to do Saturday night than possibly watch Ole Miss help them clinch the SEC East. I don't see anything wrong with the players and coaches admitting that they will watch the game Saturday night. The next weekend is a totally different story. They are going to have to be completely focused on Clemson and whatever happens in the Missouri/Texas A&M game happens. I think it is obvious that South Carolina would benefit from Missouri losing this weekend so they don't have to worry about it next weekend.

AVERY WILKS: The Gamecocks will have their eyes glued to the TV for the Missouri game this week. Kelcy Quarles said Tuesday that the entire defensive line is going to coach Deke Adams' house to "eat up all his food" and watch the game, and I'm sure the rest of the team will find somewhere to watch it as well. If Missouri wins and the SEC East comes down to next week's 7:45 p.m. Missouri vs. Texas A&M game, I don't think the Gamecocks will be distracted by that game at all. They should have no problems focusing on taking care of Clemson at 7 p.m.

RON AIKEN: The game will have South Carolina's full, undivided attention. How could it not?

CHRIS CLARK: The team will pay a ton of attention to the result of the Ole Miss/Missouri game on Saturday since the Gamecocks will have already wrapped up a home game against Coastal Carolina earlier in the day and the Rebels/Tigers matchup is in prime time. USC needs Missouri to lose another game so no doubt the team will be big Rebel fans on Saturday night. Should Missouri win, USC will not be able to do much the following weekend since the Gamecocks will be playing Clemson the same night.

2. Do you think South Carolina will use this week to rest some of its key players? If so, who are the players that could get the week off?

JOSH LOW: Steve Spurrier isn't going to sit somebody unless they can't play. With that said, I do think they try to be safe with Mike Davis, Jadeveon Clowney, and possibly a few others this week. Davis is obviously banged up and would benefit from an easy week. It would be nice to get Connor Shaw some rest, but I think he needs to continue to play and get back into rhythm.

AVERY WILKS: I could see Jadeveon Clowney and Mike Davis sitting out this weekend's game, though the coaches have said they will play. Clowney missed the Wofford game last season and responded by recording 4.5 sacks against Clemson the next week. And with Shon Carson being named the starter against Coastal and Brandon Wilds still waiting to play his first snaps since Sept. 28, this could be a good week for Davis to take it easy.

RON AIKEN: They should, but they won't. USC could likely beat the Chanticleers with its scout team, but Steve Spurrier believes in playing his starters if they're capable. And while it would seem like a great time to rest key guys for whom the Gamecocks will rely heavily upon against Clemson - Jadeveon Clowney, Mike Davis, Connor Shaw, Kelcy Quarles and company - who's to argue with Spurrier's results?

CHRIS CLARK: The ideal scenario for USC would be to come out strong, build a big lead and be able to rest many of the starters but with Coastal Carolina being one of the strongest FCS programs in the country that may not be a likely scenario. To that end, it will depend on how the game plays out as far as how much rest key guys get on Saturday. Mike Davis is banged up, so Shon Carson will get the start and it remains to be seen how much number 28 will play at all. If possible, I would expect Jadeveon Clowney and possibly Connor Shaw (especially since Dylan Thompson is set to play some) to sit for a portion of the game.

3. The topic of players leaving early for the NFL Draft has been talked about over the last week. Which Gamecock players do you believe should leave early this year and who would benefit from another year in college?

JOSH LOW: Jadeveon Clowney is the biggest no brainer in college football. He is going to be a top pick, probably still the number one pick. Kelcy Quarles, Victor Hampton, and A.J. Cann are the other three that have a case for leaving early. If anyone else besides those three leaves early, then it is a mistake. Quarles' stock has went up the the most on the team. It is probably time for him to cash in. If I'm the personal advisor for all four, then I would advise Clowney and Quarles to leave and Hampton and Cann to stay. Hampton is the hardest one for me. I don't see him getting drafted that high, but I don't know how much he can improve his stock coming back for another year. With all of that said, I do expect Clowney, Quarles, and Hampton to all declare after the season.

AVERY WILKS: Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles should both leave. Both are NFL ready right now, and Quarles' draft stock is arguably as high as it will ever be as he continues to have a monster junior season. A.J. Cann is NFL ready as well, but I think he could raise his draft stock by staying one more season. One player who seems itching to turn pro is Victor Hampton, but he would almost certainly be better off sticking around another year. He's got a lot of talent, but seems to require more refining before NFL teams would feel good about using a draft pick on him.

RON AIKEN: Clowney, Quarles and Victor Hampton seem likeliest to me, along with A.J. Cann. Of those, I think Cann and Hampton have the most room for improvement.

CHRIS CLARK: I believe every eligible underclassman should ask for an evaluation from the advisory committee to see where they stand. We have certainly seen players in the past leave too early because of bad advice or believing they will go higher than projected, but for some it makes sense. Jadeveon Clowney should obviously go pro because he's a guaranteed first-rounder and will go in the first few picks. Kelcy Quarles is having a big season and sometimes it's wise for players to cash in on high stock. Could Quarles improve? Sure, but if his projection is a pretty good one perhaps he should go. A.J. Cann has been one that has been talked about (he said on Tuesday he was looking to stay for his senior season), but his stock could probably rise by returning for a final season and having a good one. The biggest question mark to me is Victor Hampton. I think he has been likely to go since the preseason. On one hand, perhaps he is as ready as he will ever be for the pros. He has a lot of natural ability and some of the characteristics he has will always be a part of his game and who he is. On the other hand, perhaps if he returned for a final season and showed that he can be consistent for a large stretch, it could heighten his profile even more to scouts.`

4. What is one thing on both sides of the ball that you will be looking for this weekend against Coastal Carolina?

JOSH LOW: It is all about Connor Shaw on the offensive side of the ball for me. Ever since his heroic-type performance against Missouri, he hasn't been the same player. Obviously his mobility isn't what it was ever since the knee injury against Tennessee. I want to see him in rhythm again passing the ball and just as important, I want to see him making a few plays with his legs. On defense I want to see how they defend the spread offense Coastal Carolina is going to run. They have another team coming in next weekend that runs sort of a similar offense so it will be good practice.

AVERY WILKS: I'm looking for Connor Shaw to be Connor Shaw again. He hasn't been a threat to run since his injury at Tennessee, and he's been a little off through the air too, completing just 50 percent of his passes since the Missouri game. A game against Coastal could be an opportunity for him to work out the kinks. On defense, I'd like to see how the linebackers match up to Coastal Carolina's battering ram of a running back, Lorenzo Taliaferro. Can they contain him, or will they resort to their first-half form against Florida, when the Gamecocks missed tackles, took bad angles and allowed the Gators to rush for 169 yards and two touchdowns?

RON AIKEN: On offense, I want to see two things (I'm cheating) from one position - QB. I want to see better mechanics and passing from Shaw, and I want to see Dylan Thompson look something, anything like the quarterback of a year ago. He really hasn't been impressive in any action so far this entire year. On defense, I want to see the young linebackers continue to improve their run defense and fly to the ball.

CHRIS CLARK: On the offensive side of the ball, it would be for the Gamecocks to develop some more consistency and polish things up not only to beat Coastal, but to tune up for the final two (or three?) games after Saturday. USC did score 34 points at Mississippi State, but the team was aided by Bulldog turnovers and performed badly in third down situations. Ever since a 52-point outburst at Arkansas, the Gamecock offense has been up and down even though Florida is an elite defensive team. Playing turnover-free ball the past couple of games has helped and will remain a key down the stretch, so that needs to continue but some more big plays would be a boost for the offense. Defensively, it's just staying focused, playing assignment ball and not allowing an FCS team to take the ball up and down the field and score.

5. What is something about this Coastal Carolina football team that Gamecock fans need to know going into the game Saturday?

JOSH LOW: They have one of the best offenses in the FCS. They are going to spread it out and then try to run it with their running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. He is a big bruiser at tailback and has some speed. They do like to throw the deep ball and receiver Matt Hazel is their biggest target. Quarterback Alex Ross is a good FCS quarterback. He does a good job of escaping pressure and can make some plays with his legs.

AVERY WILKS: Gamecock fans should keep their eye on Coastal Carolina tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro. He's listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, and he can flat out run the football. This season alone, he's piled up 1,466 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns and a record-five Big South Offensive Player of the Week awards. He could remind Gamecock fans of former Wofford tailback Eric Breitenstein, who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in a 24-7 loss to South Carolina last season.

RON AIKEN: Two things - one, they're the Chanticleers, not the Chandeliers, as I heard a sports radio talk-show caller refer to them as, and second, a Chanticleer is a male chicken, a.k.a a Gamecock, and there's only room for one of those in this state. Also, their coach is stinking rich and they have a sasquatch for a running back. So that's four things. You're an expert!

CHRIS CLARK: Coastal has some solid players particularly on offense. It's tough to measure an opponent that's been playing FCS competition against an SEC school, but USC still needs to play well defensively. Former Gamecock Demario Bennett obviously was a guy that some thought could play at a high level out of high school and leading Coastal receiver Matt Hazel is someone that Steve Spurrier said on Tuesday could play just about anywhere. Coastal has a few running backs that are good players, and offensive line that is bigger than one would think at just about every position and the quarterback plays smart.

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