South Carolina has been playing football since 1892 and the Gamecocks have fielded some good teams during that time.
But which teams were the most talented?
The Gamecocks have had some solid seasons and a few great seasons, but it’s more difficult to assess which of those teams had the most talent on the roster. The win-loss is record is obviously important, but the team that wins doesn’t always have the most talent. Here are the ten most talented football teams the Gamecocks have ever put on the field.
10. 1952 Gamecocks
5-5 overall, 14 NFL draft picks, 1 second-team All-American, 5 All-Southern Conference selections
Nine juniors on the 1952 Gamecocks were selected in the NFL draft, the largest draft class in program history. Frank Mincevich, a fifth-round draft pick of the 49ers, is regarded as one of the greatest linemen ever to suit up for the Gamecocks. Norris Mullis, a second-team AP All-American, was just the third Gamecock to be named an All-American in six years.
9. 1953 Gamecocks
7-3 overall, 18 NFL draft picks, 1 third-team All-American, 4 All-ACC selections
The senior class, led by third-team AP All-American end Clyde Bennett, produced South Carolina’s biggest draft class ever. The Gamecocks upset eighth-ranked West Virginia on the road that season and continued a five-year streak of not losing to Clemson. In their first season as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, South Carolina finished with a .500 league record.
8. 2001 Gamecocks
9-3 overall, 14 NFL draft picks, 2 All-Americans, 6 All-SEC selections
South Carolina’s roster included 14 NFL draft picks and the first quarterback in school history to win two bowl games, Phil Petty. The Gamecock seniors wound up with 17 wins in their final two seasons, the most wins ever at that time for the Gamecocks over a two-year stretch. Linebacker Kalimba Edwards became just the 16th Gamecock to ever be named a first-team All-American.
7. 1956 Gamecocks
7-3 overall, 19 NFL draft picks, 2 All-Americans, 1 All-ACC selection
For just the third time in school history, South Carolina had multiple All-Americans. The Gamecocks were led by tackle Sam DeLuca, the second first-team All-American in program history. South Carolina recorded its first winning record ever in ACC play. There would be at least four freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors on the ’56 team taken in the draft, the only Gamecock team ever to hold that distinction.
6. 1958 Gamecocks
7-3 overall, 12 NFL draft picks, 1 third-team All-American, 3 All-ACC selections
Led by dynamic tailback Alex Hawkins, the Gamecocks finished the season ranked 13th in the final AP poll. Hawkins was named a third-team AP All-American and would be selected 13th overall by the Packers, making the highest draft pick ever for the Gamecocks at that time.Five seniors and four junior would wind up being drafted by NFL organizations.
5. 1954 Gamecocks
6-4 overall, 14 NFL draft picks, 2 All-Americans, 2 All-ACC selections
South Carolina upset 18th-ranked Army in West Point in the season opener. The senior class won 13 games in its final two seasons, the best two-year stretch for the Gamecocks in nearly three decades. Frank Mincevich became South Carolina’s first player ever to earn first-team All-American honors and center Leon Cunningham was the first Gamecock to be named an All-American by multiple outlets.
4. 1987 Gamecocks
8-4 overall, 14 NFL draft picks, 3 All-Americans, 9 All-South Independent selections
Led by Todd Ellis, who would win more games than any South Carolina quarterback ever at that time, and Sterling Sharpe, who would have his jersey retired by the school, the Gamecocks recorded their first of two consecutive eight-win seasons. Sharpe was a first-team All-American and became South Carolina’s second first-round draft pick ever. Brad Edwards and Roy Hart were also named All-Americans.
3. 2009 Gamecocks
7-6 overall, 15 NFL draft picks, 3 All-Americans, 3 All-SEC selections
The ’09 Gamecocks pulled off the school’s first win over a top-five team when they upset 4th-ranked Ole Miss at home. They also started South Carolina’s current five-game winning streak over Clemson. The Gamecocks got a glimpse of how bright their future could be when Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffrey were both named freshmen All-Americans.
2. 2010 Gamecocks
9-5 overall, 16 NFL draft picks, 3 All-Americans, 6 All-SEC selections
South Carolina advanced to its first ever appearance in the SEC championship game. Alshon Jeffery became the first Gamecock receiver to earn first-team All-American honors since Sterling Sharpe and sensational tailback Marcus Lattimore was named the national freshman of the year by five different outlets. Although he had little impact on the season, 2010 also marked Connor Shaw’s first year as a Gamecock.
1. 2011 Gamecocks
11-2 overall, 15 NFL draft picks, 5 All-Americans, 7 All-SEC selections
The first 11-win team in school history, the 2011 Gamecocks were stacked. Melvin Ingram, Antonio Allen, Jadeveon Clowney, A.J. Cann and Mike Matulis each earned All-American honors, the most ever in a single season for South Carolina. Connor Shaw, the winningest quarterback in program history, became the starting quarterback and Marcus Lattimore was fantastic in an injury-shortened season. Kelcy Quarles and Busta Anderson were only freshmen as South Carolina ended the year with its first top-ten ranking ever.