South Carolina just finished up one of the better seasons in program history just a short time ago. USC capped the season with an appearance in the SEC Championship Game and finished off the season with a close loss to FSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. There was plenty to be proud of for the Gamecocks but certainly finishing the year with two losses and missing out on a 10-win season definitely hurt the Gamecock pride.
Rivals.com has their SEC primer up on the website today with all the storylines that should be followed this offseason for each team in the conference. South Carolina was mentioned and here's what the Rivals.com writer had to say about the Gamecocks:
Practice begins: March 15
Spring game: April 9
The buzz: Look for the offensive line to be tweaked again. The group made strides last season, but now has to replace two starters. The quarterback spot bears watching, too. Starter Stephen Garcia returns, but coach Steve Spurrier seems to really like backup Connor Shaw. Shoring up the secondary is important for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who also needs to do some retooling at linebacker.
A few interesting notes there but stuff we all should know heading into 2011. The offensive line will miss some players like Jarriel King but hopefully JUCO transfer Kaleb Broome and incoming freshman like Brandon Shell really pick up the system and help establish the offensive line.
Stephen Garcia is still your starter and should be. Steve Spurrier does like to mention Connor Shaw at times and while he'll have a chance to supplant Garcia it really shouldn't surprise anyone if Garcia starts the season as the starting QB. Shaw is more mobile and has all the QB tools needed to be successful but you just can't ignore Garcia's production and his experience on the field. He's the guy that will drive the Gamecocks towards a chance at a repeat SEC East division title.
The secondary was the biggest problem for the Gamecocks in 2010 and there will be a lot of focus on the area in the spring. They essentially return all the talent, which could be a good or bad thing, and will certainly work on simplifying the scheme in order to get the most out of players like Stephon Gilmore, Devonte Holloman, and Akeem Auguste. Incoming players like Sheldon Royster, Brison Williams, and Ronnie Martin will have their shots at early playing time given some of the issues the Gamecocks had last season.
I'd have to agree with the article for the most part. I think the QB situation is played up a lot more than what it really is. I do think the offensive line needs to be a big focus and can hopefully improve on 2010. Luckily a running back like Marcus Lattimore makes things easier but they still need to improve on their pass blocking in order for Garcia or Shaw to have more time to read through their progressions. The defense has always been a strong point and it was last year except for the secondary. I'd really like to see some improvements in the offseason and find some players capable of performing to the level of our recent defensive back history.
Anything else to watch out for? I think finding a running back complement for Lattimore will be a priority and also finding a 2nd and 3rd wide receiver to help Alshon Jeffery will be a must as well. Leave a comment if you feel like there is something else you're watching for this spring for the Gamecocks.