Published March 28, 2011 - 2:02pm
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The following guest post was submitted by Leftover Hot Dog, a leading South Carolina Gamecocks blog.
The South Carolina Gamecocks entered the offseason as the SEC Eastern Division Champions and have begun spring practices with the goal to maintain the crown yet take it one step further and not leave Atlanta empty-handed this time. Offseason workouts and spring practices is where the journey to a SEC Championship begins for the Gamecocks football team.
Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier has built the program into a contender and has arguably the most talent on the team in USC history. The Gamecocks are bringing in a top 15 recruiting class and the nation’s top recruit. Reloading is what USC does now and with a SEC going through growing pains the SEC Championship looks to be ripe for the taking in 2011.
- Who will be the number two running back? Marcus Lattimore is the top running back at USC and quite possibly the nation but even USC’s superman needs to have a backup. Figuring out who can provide adequate relief for the primary workhorse is a must for Coach Spurrier’s offense in 2011. Look for either Eric Baker or Kenny Miles to emerge as the number two.
- Can Defensive Coach Ellis Johnson find the right personnel in the secondary? USC believes it now has the talent to fill the two-deep roster spots in the secondary, as depth was an issue in 2010. DeVonte Holloman has moved to the Spur position from the strong safety spot he played in 2010. Antonio Allen is getting reps as the starter at strong safety. Newcomer Brison Williams, who enrolled in January, and sophomore Corey Addison are trying to compete for depth at strong safety. Greenwood native D.J. Swearinger returns as the starter at free safety, Coach Ward is hoping redshirt freshman Sharrod Golightly or Martay Mattox will emerge to provide depth. Akeem Auguste is playing opposite All-SEC performer Stephon Gilmore at cornerback, players like redshirt freshmen Victor Hampton and Cadarious Sanders are competing with lettermen C.C. Whitlock and Jimmy Legree for two-deep position.
- What is the right mix for the offensive line? Anyone who knows collegiate football knows that success begins with a strong offensive line. Two new starters and depth must be found. A talented group of newcomers who have talent but lack experience appear prepared to fill the void. Among the leading candidates are A.J. Cann, Cody Gibson, Corey Robinson, Ronald Patrick and Kaleb Broome. Along with the new guys, the old men on the offensive line like Kyle Nunn, Rokevious Watkins, Terrence Campbell and T.J. Johnson need to step up.
- What will the “John Butler” special teams unit look like? Gone is Spencer Lanning, who handled most of the punting and kicking duties. Along with finding a kicker and punter, the Gamecocks need a holder and deep snapper. This need to identify players to fill these roles is on top of having a new special teams coach, John Butler, which will bring in a new philosophy. Look for Jay Wooten to handle KO/FG, Patrick Fish to be the punter, Adam Yates to handle PAT, Seth Strickland could be the holder and Walker Inabinet could be the deep snapper. Aside from the kicking, is the need to find playmakers to field the kicks in such a manner that it creates good starting field position for the offense or do something rarely seen at USC – special teams TDs.
- Will quarterback Stephen Garcia be the leader under center the team needs? Garcia is not your average quarterback on so many levels on and off the field of play. He has the talent but sometimes his decisions are suspect – on and off the field. He has had a delayed start to spring practices because of an off-the-field issue during bowl week and this allowed backup Connor Shaw to get some extra reps. Shaw is getting a chance to state his case on why he should be number one and along with him, Dylan Thompson, has been doing some good things in practices. The push, hopefully, will motivate Garcia to be better. If Garcia progresses as a decision-maker and becomes a leader, a SEC championship is a reality for Gamecock Nation.
South Carolina has the opportunity before them and has a very deep talented squad. As long as these five questions are addressed in spring practices, it could yield unprecedented results come December for a thirsty fan base.