Gamecocks spring football wrap: 5 questions for fall

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on April 13, 2014 

South Carolina Gamecocks cornerback Jamari Smith (27) returns an interception for the Garnet Team in the first half of the Garnet & Black spring game.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com

Five things we don’t know as USC concludes spring practice

LOCKDOWNS

Who’s going to play cornerback? Brison Williams can play the position, but he’s best left at safety. Rico McWilliams and Jamari Smith had solid springs, and that might be enough to replace the void left by Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree. They, at least, will have the game experience and extra practice time spent learning the spot. But, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said Saturday that the five newcomers will play because he has to find out if they can do the job. Wesley Green, Chris Lammons, Darin Smalls, D.J. Smith and Al Harris will arrive this summer. They’ll play in the fall, but how much won’t be determined until Aug. 28.

WHO’S NO. 2?

Dylan Thompson is ready to keep the Gamecocks rolling. He knows what it took to get here, and with so many weapons around him, USC’s offense has a chance to be formidable. The only question is what happens if Thompson gets hurt. Connor Mitch appears to be the backup, but he has yet to play in a game. Brendan Nosovitch and Perry Orth also will be on call. Perhaps Michael Scarnecchia, whom Steve Spurrier recruited, comes in this summer and makes an impression. Best-case: Thompson stays healthy, and the backups play in late-game blowouts. Worst-case …

BAIL ’EM OUT

No offense is going to score on every possession. There will be a few where the Gamecocks’ punter will have to kick them out of a bad spot. That punter appears to be Tyler Hull, who has started the past two years and helmed the first-team role this spring. Hull nor special-teams coach Joe Robinson have been made available to the press during the spring, but it’s been Hull who has gone out first during scrimmages (on Saturday, he punted once for 40 yards). Hull’s average dipped last year, but he did boom a 55-yarder at UCF. There aren’t any others on the roster who will take his spot, and it seems doubtful the fall newcomers will challenge him.

SO HOW GOOD?

Spurrier’s an old hand at this. He knows not to judge solely by the spring. “We have to prepare and play to see if we’re any good or not,” he said. The offense has a lot of weapons, and the defense, while filling holes, is working with a new package to take advantage of its veterans. Like last year, the defense might struggle before coming into its own at midseason (last year, it was linebackers; this year, it’s the secondary), but the offense hopes to pick up the slack. The Gamecocks aren’t hoping to be good, they expect to be good. But will they match or surpass the 11-2 record they’ve had the past three seasons?

EXPECTATIONS

It’s a dangerous word, but it’s necessary after three stellar seasons. USC is expected to keep being a top-10 team and post double-digit wins. Paul Finebaum predicted the Gamecocks to win the SEC East this year, and Joe Tessitore was raving about the offense. Preseason picks and magazine covers will be adorned with Gamecocks, and while the spotlight might not shine as brightly as it did on Jadeveon Clowney, Thompson, Mike Davis, Skai Moore, etc., will be looked at as the stars of this team. USC twice lived up to its inaugural 11-win campaign. Can the Gamecocks make it three?

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