Top 10: Most Valuable Players in 2013

10. Shaq Roland
Roland is listed as a co-starter heading into the fall and must keep improving to see more action this season. During the 2013 Spring Game he was awarded “Most Improved Wide Receiver” sharing the honor with Shamier Jeffery. The talented WR from Lexington saw action in 11 games last season while grabbing 5 passes for 80 yards and 1 TD. Bruce Ellington will need all the help he can get in 2013 and Shaq has shown he has what it takes to be a big time WR in the SEC. He must continue to do the small things and become more consistent. If he is able to improve, Shaq Roland will be a household name.

9. Connor Shaw 
Shaw is one of the hardest workers on the team and will be the key to success once again this season. Shaw must not rely on his feet as often this season if he wants to stay healthy. Shaw gives the offense plenty of versatility with his ability to move outside of the pocket, but cannot risk injury at the same time. Shaw has shown he can play through injury as well, earning the right to be called “one tough cookie”. Shaw is 17-3 as a starter and a 10-0 record at home. Shaw threw for 1732 yards with 15 TD’s and 7 INT’s in 2012. He also completed 67% of his passes.

8. Dylan Thompson 
I know, I know, many of you are probably gasping for air right now. Thompson ahead of Shaw? I believe Thompson will be more valuable to the offense down the stretch. With a wide receiver group that will need all the help it can get, Thompson offers more capability of getting the ball to the receivers and spreading the wealth. Thompson has also showed the ability to perform on the big stage without being hesitant or flustered. During the 2012 season Thompson threw for 927 yards with 8 TD’s and 2 interceptions in limited playing time.

7. Mike Davis
Mike Davis finished fourth on the team in rushing last season with 52 carries (5.3 ypc) for 275 yards and 2 TD’s as a true freshman. Davis exited spring practice as the #1 running back and will have to be consistent during fall camp to hold off a talented Brandon Wilds. Davis showed flashes of his ability last season with the ball in his hands. He is very explosive and a lot shiftier than he looks to be. It would not surprise anyone if he were to jump into the top 3 on this list by season end.

6. Cody Waldrop
Waldrop has an enormous size shoe to fill, left behind by now Cincinnati Bengal T.J. Johnson. After redshirting in 2012, Waldrop is listed as the starter just ahead of Clayton Stadnik. Recognized during the 2013 Spring Game as “Most Improved Freshman”, Waldrop is said to be very competitive with a bright future.

5. Ronald Patrick 
Patrick returns at the right guard position as the veteran of the group. Only T.J. Johnson and Ronald Patrick started all 13 games during the 2012 season along the offensive front. The offensive line as a group is expected to be, maybe the best unit ever to step on the field for the Gamecocks, if this is to be true Ronald Patrick must have a solid season at right guard. Patrick was also a member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2012.

4. Chaz Sutton 
Sutton appeared in all 13 games last season with one start, logging 23 total tackles and 5 sacks. Being one of only four scholarship players on the team, Sutton will forced into a leading role on the defensive side of the ball. He has already become more of a vocal leader in the weight room and now must transfer his energy to the playing field as a starter.

3. Bruce Ellington 
With Ace Sanders departure, the wide receiver core as a whole will have plenty of pressure placed on them to step up and make plays. Ellington led the team with 40 receptions for 600 yards to go along with 7 TD’s in 2012. The two sport standout will have to continue his production going into the 2013 season and solidify himself as the “number one guy” taking some of the pressure off of the younger guys. The question remains as to who will step up and take some of the pressure off of Ellington?

2. Victor Hampton
This may come to be a surprise for some, but with a young and inexperienced secondary Hampton will be asked to become more of a leader and will be forced to make big plays for the Gamecock’s defensive backfield. “The Bandit“started in 12 games last year and had 1 INT to go along with 6 pass breakups tying him for a team high. Hampton is also slated to be the top punt returning entering fall camp.

1. Jadeveon Clowney
There is no argument here, as Clowney will be the best player on the field every game this season. The reigning Hendricks Award winner and 2013 Heisman Trophy candidate finished the 2012 season with 50 tackles, 21.5 for a loss and 13 sacks, becoming the most dominant force in college football. Clowney also finished 6th in Heisman voting in 2012. The sky is the limit as Jadeveon Clowney enters what many to believe is his last season as a Gamecock.

Ryan Hood