South Carolina is heading into the summer of 2017 feeling pretty good about its offense. The wide receiver and running back positions seem somewhat well-stocked. Tight end has depth and experience, and Jake Bentley looks like one of the better young passers in the SEC. The line has four starters back.
But the defense, that’s not so clear.
“I’m concerned about our depth,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “I don’t like leaving spring practice with unknowns of, positionally, where some guys are going to be. I like to, at least, have a comfort level of where some guys are going to be.”
He said the defensive front and secondary both worried him, which stands out because linebacker was precariously thin, and the line should be the deepest spot, considering the recruiting that’s been done there.
That reality had Muschamp publicly saying his team faces a conundrum.
“We’re going to be asking some guys that are not on campus yet to contribute in a major way to our football team,” Muschamp said. “That’s hard to do, because you don’t ever know from a work ethic standpoint and the transition, being away from home for the first time, how are these guys going to adjust and how are these guys going to handle it.”
Fans often want to see the quickest transition from the buzz that surrounds an incoming recruit to on-field production, but that sometimes undercuts the process. USC had good luck with Bentley, running back Rico Dowdle and wide receiver Bryan Edwards a season ago, but those good breaks aren’t often reliable.
The team should get infusions of talent across the defense. The line is adding three players, including massive, touted tackle Javon Kinlaw, plus, potentially, one or two Buck prospects. Five more defensive backs are coming, including a junior college addition (Keisean Nixon), an intriguing high-level athlete (Jamyest Williams) and a slew of potential safeties.
A year ago, the team had a lot of questions, and got answers from a wide range of spots. That team was more in transition, and in year two, more questions loom than the staff would like.
“We’ve got some unknowns as we go into fall camp, which is concerning as a coach from a standpoint of some guys that aren’t on campus that are going to need to help us, will need to play for us,” Muschamp said. “That’s not always good leaving spring ball, but that is what it is.”