South Carolina football: Five key questions for 2014
01/04/2014 9:50 PM
01/04/2014 9:54 PM
Who will play quarterback?
Dylan Thompson is the obvious answer, but maybe not the right one. After a 2012 season that put him in position to compete for the starting job in 2013, Thompson threw 89 passes this season, all in a reserve role, completing 58.4 percent of them for 783 yards, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch and freshman Connor Mitch each will have a chance to compete for the job in spring practice. Nosovitch rushed for 2,000 yards in his final two high school seasons, while Mitch is 6-foot-3 and threw for more than 12,000 yards in his high school career.
Where will the cornerbacks come from?
Secondary coach Grady Brown says at least one of next year’s starters is probably in high school at the moment, which is a troubling thought. This season’s starters, Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree, played their final games in the Capital One Bowl, and Rico McWilliams is the only cornerback left on the roster with experience worth mentioning. Ronnie Martin and Ali Groves could compete at the spot, but South Carolina’s coaches will be recruiting cornerback as hard as any position on the field for the next month.
Who will replace Jadeveon Clowney?
Gerald Dixon looks like he’ll be the best defensive end on the roster next season, but it will take a lot more than filling a starting role on the end of the line to replace Clowney. The Gamecocks need a defender to emerge who requires opponents to do extra work during the week like Clowney did, and it’s not obvious right now who that might be. Linebacker Skai Moore could be headed for an All-SEC type season next year, and defensive end Darius English looks like he could be a force if he can add another 20 pounds.
How tough will the schedule be?
After lots of debate the past three seasons about which team in the SEC East has the hardest schedule, the only thing that seems to have been proven is that it’s impossible to tell in the summer. The Gamecocks will open the season by hosting Texas A&M, but it’s hard to handicap that game until Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel decides if he’s coming back to college or not (Hint: He’s probably not). The Gamecocks’ other SEC West opponent is Auburn, which this time last year would have seemed great. As it stands, that could be a matchup against the defending national champion. The good news: division opponents Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee all come to Williams-Brice Stadium, where South Carolina has won 18 in a row.
Who will be the next All-American?
South Carolina has had at least one first-team All-American each of the past five seasons, which is a school record. However, none of those players remain on the roster. The most likely candidate to extend the streak appears to be tailback Mike Davis, or at least that seemed true a month ago. After becoming the eighth South Carolina player in history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, Davis saw his production drop in the final four games. He carried the ball nine times for 49 yards against Wisconsin, his best game since gaining 128 against Mississippi State, but not close to the pace he was setting at one point this season.