South Carolina’s success under coach Lou Holtz was largely based on the defensive side of the ball. They had multiple All-Americans and All-SEC performers on defense from 2000-2004. The offense under Coach Holtz was more hit or miss. By today’s fast paced, wide open standards, the Gamecock offense was still in the dark ages at the turn of the century. The defense led the way, and for the most part the offense was asked to do just enough to make things work. Unfortunately that balance was not good enough for most of Coach Holtz tenure.
Gamecock Offense; Best Players Under Lou Holtz
South Carolina did have its fair share of highlight plays and big time performances during the Holtz era. Unfortunately, the consistency of the Gamecock offense kept some of those teams from reaching their full potential. Even from an individual standpoint, a lack of consistency among other things hindered some players from becoming as good as they could have. Looking back on the best players from the Gamecock offense under Lou Holtz, there is still a sense of what could’ve been.
There are some guys not listed below that deserve a mention as well. Players like Cory Boyd and Jermale Kelly both had solid careers in garnet and black, but there best years weren’t during the Holtz era. Boyd was a good contributor under Coach Holtz, but blossomed into a star once Steve Spurrier took over. Kelly had his best season as a freshman, and is one of the top receivers in program history. He was the team’s leading receiver as a senior in 2000.
Phil Petty – Quarterback (1998-2001)
The Gamecock offense was never going to be mistaken for a high octane scoring machine under Holtz. However, during the 2000 and 2001 seasons they were efficient and effective. Petty was the lead man under center in both of those campaigns. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he led, what was at the time, two of the most successful teams in program history. His best game was his 291 yard and 3 touchdown performance in a come from behind win of Alabama at Williams-Brice Stadium. For his career he finished with 5656 yards passing and 28 touchdowns.
5. Ryan Brewer – Tailback/Wide Receiver (1999-2002)
Perhaps no player represents the way Lou Holtz wanted his teams to play quite like Brewer. He was a tough, versatile, over achieving player who made the most of his opportunities. The Ohio native was the Swiss army knife of the Gamecock offense. He played tailback, receiver, and returned punts during his time in Columbia. Brewer is most fondly remembered for his MVP performance in an upset victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Outback Bowl following the 2000 season.
He scored three times against his home state school. His running and a stout defense powered South Carolina to its second bowl victory in school history. Brewer left South Carolina with 555 yards and five scores on the ground. He added 107 catches, 1136 yards, and another five scores at receiver.
4. Andrew Pinnock – Tailback (1999-2002)
The big tailback from Connecticut was a battering ram in garnet and black. He led the team in rushing as a junior, and finished his career with 1852 yards on the ground. Pinnock is also fourth in school history with 27 career rushing touchdowns. He enjoyed playing against Vanderbilt, with each of his two career 100 yard games coming at the expense of the Commodores. His best season was as a junior, where he had 622 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He scored in each of the first five games during the 2001 season. Pinnock was the short yardage back for the Gamecock offense his first two seasons, but he went on to average five yards a carry his final two years.
Troy Williamson – Wide Receiver (2002-2004)
Arguably one of the fastest players to ever don the garnet and black, Williamson was a blur once he got going. He was unlucky that his time at Carolina did not coincide with an elite quarterback or a pass happy game plan. His 99 touchdown on a slant play versus Virginia is still talked about among Gamecock fans. He caught a short slant pass and took off up field, splitting the two safeties who both thought they had an angle on him. Williamson was just that fast. He also had 210 receiving yards against South Florida, which at the time was a school single game record. His biggest play may have been his game winning touchdown catch in the closing seconds of a 2004 victory over Arkansas. It sealed Lou Holtz’s last win as the South Carolina head coach.
Travelle Wharton – Offensive Tackle (1999-2002)
There are two ways to look at a lineman being this high up on the list of best players from the Gamecock offense under Holtz. As has been mentioned, the offensive firepower was not at the highest level during the Holtz era, so there was a lack of elite play makers to choose from. However, in the case of Wharton, his inclusion on this list is well deserved. The big man from Fountain Inn, SC is arguably the best offensive lineman in school history. He started 45 games over the course of his career. Wharton was team captain and a 2nd team All-SEC selection as a senior. He allowed only one sack over his four year career, and none over his final three seasons.
Derek Watson – tailback (1999-2001)
Even though he tops this list, the running back from Anderson, SC is a case of what could have been. He was an extremely gifted football player, but could never quite put it all together. His off the field issues eventually caught up with him, as he was kicked off the team before his senior season. However, when he had the ball in his hands he was a special talent. As a sophomore he rushed for 1,066 yards and 11 touchdowns. The former SC Mr. Football ranked in the top three in the SEC in yards, per carry average, and touchdowns during his stellar 2000 campaign.
Watson had the shake, power, and breakaway speed coaches covet in a tailback. He had eight career 100+ yard games, including a 215 yard performance versus Eastern Michigan. If not for off the filed issues. he could have been an All-Time South Carolina great if he had reached his full potential. As it stands, he is still one of the more explosive ball carriers to ever wear the garnet and black.