COLUMBIA — The roars will return to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.

South Carolina football will officially kick off its 2023 season.

The annual Garnet and Black game will turn the knob upward on the expectations for the Gamecocks’ campaign with 10 starters –notably quarterback Spencer Rattler – back in the fold from an 8-5 season. It marked the most victories since they recorded 9 in 2017.

Yet, there are also plenty of questions that will determine if the Gamecocks are ready to take the next step.

Here are 6 of the biggest storyline ahead of Saturday night’s spring game:

Judging Rattler’s progression

There were plenty of sights that indicated Rattler would make the move to the NFL in 2023. However, Rattler, who has 2 years left, reassured the Gamecocks’ faithful that he wanted to help raise the bar.

Rattler finished last year with 3,026 yards and 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, ending the regular season with strong performances against Tennessee and Clemson in which he threw for 798 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Yet, Rattler still showed signs of some immaturity, forcing throws rather than throwing the ball away or taking a sack. His critics surfaced when he had 5 interceptions in his first 3 games, and he was fluid in losses to Georgia and Arkansas. Along with the Tennessee and Clemson games, Rattler was impressive in the team’s Gator Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

So the scouting report remains largely unchanged: Talented but inconsistent.

Saturday night would be an ideal time to show that he is ready to take the next step in his development.

With a trimmed down offense under new coordinator Dowell Loggains, and prime target wide receiver  Antwane “Juice” Wells and versatile receiver Dakereon Joyner both back on the outside, Rattler is expected to mature and develop into the explosive weapon most of the college football world has been waiting to see.

What does Loggains’ offense look like?

This is the big question, right?

Loggains inherited an offense that was under siege most of the season for not generating the expected high numbers and results. Last season, the Gamecocks finished 8th in scoring and 9th in overall yards in the SEC. Rattler was up and down.

Loggains was hired to fix, update and upgrade all of that.

He has had 5 NFL stops as an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, but he had little success. Loggains recently served a year stint as a tight ends coach at Arkansas until he was hired last December.

The early returns are positive. Loggains has been readily received by the players, as numerous reports have stated an early chemistry has been forming with his players.

With Rattler and Wells, Loggains has 2 key components to begin to build an offense, but he’ll have to find solutions to kick start his running game and rebuild his offensive line.

Running game makeover

MarShawn Lloyd transferred to Southern Cal. Christian Beal-Smith is out of eligibility.

That leaves Juju McDowell, who ran for 219 yards last season, as the lead back heading into ’23. The 180-pound McDowell was used primarily as a change-of-pace back instead of an every-down back in ‘22.

Mario Anderson, a transfer from Newberry College who has rushed 3,301 yards and scored 35 career touchdowns, could step in Lloyd’s role, as the team is seeking a workhorse back.

The program had high hopes for Lovasea Carroll, but he took a medical retirement. Freshman Dontavius Braswell, a 4-star recruit, should slowly be worked into the mix.

What about the receivers?

Wells will head the receiving corps along with Joyner, who can play any position in the backfield. Xavier Leggette and Ahmarean Brown, both who were primarily return specialists, will have a larger role on the outside. Fortunately, both have playmaker capabilities. Memphis transfer Eddie Lewis has generated some chatter in reference to a regular contributor.

Jaheim Bell, who also was effective in the backfield, has transferred to Florida State and Austin Stogner went back to Oklahoma, leaving a void at tight end.

The Gamecocks will look to Arkansas transfer Trey Knox and Florida import Nick Elksnis to initially fill the void at tight end.

Offensive line needs to tighten the gaps

With Rattler back, the offensive line will need to better secure their area and zones. They allowed 31 sacks – 20 in SEC play – and were at the bottom of the league in run blocking, which drastically needs to improve. New line coach Lonnie Teasley will look through the summer to find the most effective combinations.

Six-year veteran Eric Douglas was an anchor at center, but the Gamecocks are high on Yale transfer Nick Garigiulo to direct traffic in the middle.

Jaylen Nichols should open at left tackle and Jakai Moore should be alongside him. On the other side, Vershon Lee and Tyshawn Wannamaker are projected starters.

Carson Henry, Trai Jones and Western Illinois transfer Sidney Fugar provide depth, and the recruiting class of Markee Anderson, Trovon Baugh, Oluwatosin Babalade and Jatavius Shivers could all see time. Anderson is regarded as one of the best prospects at his position.

Retooling the edge rush and linebacking positions

Finding a consistent pass rush was an issue all season. USC managed just 20 sacks.

Besides reshuffling and reorganizing the entire unit, defensive coordinator Clayton White will have his share of challenges up front.

Jordan Burch transferred to Oregon. Gilber Edmund (Florida) and Zacch Pickens (NFL Draft) also are gone.

Tonka Hemingway made his mark at tackle last year, and he is back along with Alex Huntley. Jordan Strachan should receive an extra year of eligibility, and will bring back some needed experience.

Terrell Dawkins, Tyreek Johnson and Bryan Thomas saw snaps last season, and their roles will intensify.

Regardless of the scheme and personnel, the bottom line is the pressure needs to intensify.