USC Gamecocks Football

South Carolina football’s biggest questions before practice starts again

Muschamp offers spring assessment, shares his message to team for offseason

What South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp learned about the Gamecocks this spring.
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What South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp learned about the Gamecocks this spring.

South Carolina football has a range of questions coming out of spring practice. The schedule is set going toward August.

Here are the biggest places where the Gamecocks need answers.

What’s up with Rico Dowdle, the running backs?

The Gamecocks’ top tailback was MIA all spring, and the coaches have hammered home the point that practice production earns game reps. That said, he’s led the team in yards two of the past three seasons and led them in carries before his injury in 2017. His health has been a particular nagging issue, as has the effectiveness of the South Carolina ground game overall. Will Muschamp said A.J. Turner and Mon Denson were his top backs coming out of camp, so unless a younger player like freshman Kevin Harris makes a move, it will be up to known quantities to simply step up their games.

Who is healthy, ready at safety?

This position was all but a black hole before last season and proved to be a quagmire of injury and effectiveness during it. With veteran Steven Montac gone and the coaches hoping to move R.J. Roderick to nickel, the spot remains highly unproven. Muschamp has highlighted his main question, which is the health of Jamyest Williams, who appears to be a main option to start there. If he and J.T. Ibe can prove solid and competent, it goes a long way toward solidifying a spot that chewed up a lot of resources last season. The best Gamecock defense under the current staff had some stability at safety with Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith. They need to find something close to that again.

How’s OrTre’s knee?

South Carolina has two wide receiver options it knows it trusts in Shi Smith and Bryan Edwards. It has some potential in guys like Josh Vann or Chad Terrell, plus a trio of incoming players. But then there’s the guy with double-digit starts under his belt. OrTre Smith is a big target who at worst gives the Gamecocks a competent starting unit. But OrTre Smith missed all of last year with a genetic knee issue and was limited through camp. His return gives the team stability, something it can’t say with the other options.

One more step for Jake?

Jake Bentley is entering his fourth year as a starter for South Carolina. He’s gone from promising freshman to productive, if inconsistent, junior. He lost his best pass catcher and saw last season end on a low note (the Akron and Virginia games) after a red-hot run the second half of the season. He’s got one more shot and a couple young players nipping at his heels. Does he leave USC fans with a good taste as he leaves?

Any freshmen ready?

South Carolina coaches might well get tired of their mantra that if a freshman is good enough, he’ll play (and if he’s the best he’ll start), but it doesn’t seem that way. Through spring, several linemen showed promise, as did bruising back Kevin Harris. There’s still a small army of defensive backs and receivers set to arrive. At the moment, the Gamecocks feel a little short on exciting players, so will any of these guys provide something to look forward to?

Is there a next level for the linebackers?

Sherrod Greene and T.J. Brunson were South Carolina’s top two linebackers last season. That group was deemed to be lacking. Based on everything we’ve seen, Greene and Brunson will be South Carolina’s top two linebackers this season. Maybe Ernest Jones, Damani Staley or Derek Boykins steps up. But more likely than not, Year 2 post-Skai Moore will have all the faces of Year 1, looking for results that look decidedly better.

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