1. MYSTERY MAN
Will Muschamp said Monday that he and Kurt Roper hadn’t yet told a quarterback that he was going to start, meaning we may not know until warm-ups. Muschamp did say that two QBs will play, but which two? It stands to reason that Perry Orth has the best chance to start, given his experience, but if he hasn’t separated himself from freshmen Brandon McIlwain and Jake Bentley by now, doesn’t that say something?
2. AND HIS BAND OF MERRY UNKNOWNS
If the QB is Orth, USC has solid experience under center and a lot of veteran leadership on the line. Tight ends are also good to go. Other than that – a redshirt freshman starting tailback and seven receivers on the two-deep who have caught 17 balls between them, 12 by Deebo Samuel. Dreak Davis, Chavis Dawkins, Bryan Edwards and Korey Banks are true freshmen, while junior Jamari Smith has zero career catches.
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3. I KNOW DEFENSE
No one has ever questioned Muschamp’s defensive touch, which after watching the last two USC defenses, is Gershwin to Gamecock ears. He’ll try everything he knows to make his team great on defense, although results may be slow to come by – the talent simply isn’t there. Yet, Muschamp won’t trot out one scheme that’s clearly not working just because that’s the style (see Hoke, Jon).
4. YOU, IN! YOU, OUT!
With so much youth on the team, Muschamp has no choice but to play some of it, and likely most of it. But considering it’s the first game for many, and on the road, how much leash does he give to Player X before he pulls him and tries another hand? It may be a season-long process.
5. JUST GIMME THE BALL
Rashad Fenton did something no Gamecock had done since 2002 last year when he broke a kickoff return to the end zone – at LSU, no less. Fenton is listed as the backup kick returner to A.J. Turner but the primary punt returner, and may get a better chance to return one there. In a game that is likely to feature struggling offense, a big play on special teams may be the winning edge.
FIVE KEY NUMBERS
Rushing yards per game that USC and Vanderbilt each averaged last year. The Commodores are leaning on Ralph Webb (2,064 career yards). The Gamecocks are starting redshirt freshman A.J. Turner (0 career yards).
Number of returning Vandy starters from last year’s 4-8 team. USC returns nine starters from a 3-9 team.
Freshmen or redshirt freshmen on USC’s 118-man roster. Only one, Shamiek Blackshear, has played in a game.
Number of Vandy coach Derek Mason’s career SEC wins. USC coach Will Muschamp has 17.
Years since a coach lost his first game at USC (Lou Holtz, NC State, 1999). Even interim Shawn Elliott won his first game.