Pass rush, skill positions under microscope in Gamecocks' spring game
What to watch for in South Carolina’s Garnet and Black Game on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium:
3. Seize control defensively at the line of scrimmage: With numerous injuries along the Gamecocks’ offensive line causing depth issues this spring, South Carolina’s oft-criticized — and rebuilt — defensive front could have its way in Saturday’s scrimmage. JUCO transfer Marquavius Lewis has been a welcomed addition thus far off the edge and gives Lorenzo Ward and Jon Hoke’s unit a much-needed physical presence in passing situations. He’s already earned first-team reps and should trot on the field with the starters this weekend.
Defensive line coach Deke Adams was lucky to keep his job after last season’s pass rush debacle and says it’s been much easier this spring with help up front (Ward). Redshirt sophomore David Johnson, a starter for the final five games last fall, continues to develop and is battling for the other end spot.
2. Have an idea of a starting quarterback: There’s no rush to name the first-team signal caller for the opener in Charlotte against North Carolina just yet, Steve Spurrier would however like to see a player take control of the competition and create a little separation among other competitors. Connor Mitch, who will take the majority of first-team snaps, has a chance to do that Saturday. He’ll likely play at least two quarters against Perry Orth, Mitch’s primary adversary in the other huddle. Mitch can ease the stress level of an entire offense by staying turnover-free and getting the ball where it needs to be against pressure.
Play design is often super vanilla in public scrimmages, but this will be the first time much of the nation gets to see Mitch, a third-year sophomore, throw more than a handful of passes. It’s important he makes them count.
1. Determine a wide receiver rotation behind Pharoh Cooper: It hasn’t been mentioned enough during spring ball, but the elephant in the room is the Gamecocks’ lack of depth on the outside. Behind their returning All-American and arguably the SEC’s best pass-catcher heading into the season, South Carolina’s extremely inexperienced. Assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. won’t finalize the rotation until August, but he’ll have a preliminary depth chart in his notes based on what he’s seen throughout spring and on Saturday.
Many players like Carlton Heard and Deebo Samuel will use the spring game as an opportunity to shine. Terry Googer, at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, has a great chance to impress the coaching staff thanks to his size and leaping ability. Wide receiver is one position group we all should be watching intently this weekend.