Pre-Spring Offseason Forecast: South Carolina

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With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up, South Carolina.

What’s changing

The one major coaching change South Carolina will endure this spring is replacing defensive line coach Brad Lawing. Lawing leaving for Florida had more to do with his divorce than to get away from USC or the coaching staff. However, Lawing has been a great coach and developer for the Gamecocks, as they led the SEC in sacks with 43 and finished 6th in the country. Of course, Jadeveon Clowney is the major reason for those numbers, but Lawing has a reputation to get the most out of his players. Spurrier hired Deke Adams away from North Carolina to replace Lawing. Ironically, Adams will be facing his former team the first game of the year. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott flirted with Alabama, but he is staying with South Carolina.

Position of concern

The biggest concern for Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward right now is at linebacker. The defense loses four of the top five tacklers, along with two staples at linebacker in Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bown. Depth players like Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery also graduated, and combined these four accounted for 273 total tackles in 2012. Seven linebackers are left on the current roster this spring, with Edward Mudrow, Mason Harris and Cedrick Cooper as the three who must develop and emerge as starters. They’re the most talented of the seven. But even if the trio develop, the Gamecocks can’t feel good about the position heading into 2013.

Emerging spring player prediction

With arguably the best receiver in Ace Sanders now gone, it opens the door for freshman Shaq Roland. The former South Carolina player of the year should be a breakout player this spring. Roland only managed five catches for 80 yards and one touchdown in ‘12, and the Gamecocks’ offense will be more reliant upon Roland to produce in 2013. And he’s a star in the making. Roland is my pick for the spring’s breakout player.

Three signees to be excited about

1. Larenz Bryant, OLB: With four linebackers having graduated, Bryant steps in this fall to fill an immediate need to the position. He’s athletic enough to play running back, safety or linebacker, and he’s the future of the Gamecocks’ second level of defense in the coming years. His impact will be felt year one.

2. Kelsey Griffin, DT: Griffin was a huge get for the coaching staff from Georgia, and he could have a big impact in just his first season. Spurrier and Lorenzo Ward have a future star to work with and build around in Griffin.

3. David Williams, RB: The 6-0, 205-pound Williams is ready to make an impact as a freshman. With only proven backs Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis, South Carolina has a need for immediate depth at the position. And Williams can fill that need as a rookie. The Pennsylvania native not only has size, but he has burner speed, too.

Position Battle

With Sanders gone to the NFL and Bruce Ellington playing basketball during spring practices, there’s a hole the size of Columbia at wide receiver. Of course speedster Damiere Byrd will have an impact, but can Shaq Roland break out of his freshman non-existence? He has to become the one receiver the quarterbacks trust in the passing game. Outside of Byrd and Roland, Shamier Jeffery, KJ Brent, Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller are the other four who should rise to the occasion and form a formidable receiving corps. But keep an eye on this position throughout spring practice.

One position to keep an eye on

Starting quarterback Connor Shaw will miss the spring with an injury, and backup Dylan Thompson will take all the first-team reps. Spurrier has an interesting decision to make moving forward about his quarterbacks, and it could come to playing both next fall. Shaw’s ability to run makes him much different than the strong-armed pocket passer Thompson. Shaw threw for 1,956 yards and 17 touchdowns in ’12, while Thompson threw for 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns. Either could start and play at a high level, but Spurrier must decide what direction he wants to head on offense and how he plans to attack teams come fall. And Shaw missing spring only clouds that decision.

Previous Offseason Forecasts:

Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

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