South Carolina football: 5 bold predictions for 2021 season

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BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – OCTOBER 24: Kingsley Enagbare #52 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

2. The Gamecocks won’t have a 1,000-yard rusher for a second straight season

Last year, Kevin Harris became the first Gamecock to rush for 1,000 yards in almost a decade, as he won the SEC’s regular season rushing crown. Harris will again be a focal point in a South Carolina offense that’s got youth under center and inexperience at wideout.

But Harris isn’t the only rushing threat in the backfield. Five-star freshman MarShawn Lloyd will see a ton of playing time, and former JUCO All-American ZaQuandre White will also get into the rotation, meaning Harris could receive less touches than he did as the feature back in 2020.

We’re expecting Harris to have another productive season, but we think the presence of White and Lloyd will affect the workload just enough to see the junior fall short of the 1,000-yard mark.

3. The defense will record 30+ sacks

Last year’s defense recorded just 14 sacks in 10 games. Why do we expect the Gamecocks to make such a significant jump in 2021? There are a few different thoughts behind the reasoning.

First is the return of Kingsley Enagbare and Aaron Sterling on the edge. Enagbare led the team in sacks a year ago, tallying six in eight games of action. That came against an all-SEC slate, and the pass rusher landed among the conference’s top five performers in the category despite missing two games. Sterling, meanwhile, led the Gamecocks in sacks in the 2019 season before suffering a lingering injury in 2020. Those two have combined for 20 sacks in their respective careers, and they will end their tenures in Columbia with productive final seasons.

Second is the addition of Jordan Strachan on the outside. Strachan transferred from Georgia State after leading the nation in quarterback takedowns a year ago (10.5 sacks). He’ll filter into a defensive line rotation that features preseason all-conference selection Zacch Pickens and five-star prospect Jordan Burch, along with Tonka Hemingway, Alex Huntley, and Rick Sandidge.

Finally, the Gamecocks will play 12 games rather than 10 in 2021, and they’ll get three out-of-conference matchups against Troy, ECU, and Eastern Illinois as opposed to the all-conference slate we saw last year, which could help bolster those sack totals.

The Gamecocks are deep up front, and they should boast one of the league’s top pass rushes in 2021. The team hasn’t recorded more than 30 sacks since 2012, when Jadeveon Clowney and Co. finished sixth in the country by recording 43. We see that streak coming to an end soon.

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