So, what’s next?
Connor Shaw is gone. Jadeveon Clowney is gone. Victor Hampton, Chaz Sutton, Jimmy Legree, Ronald Patrick and Kelcy Quarles are gone. Bruce Ellington sure sounds like he’s gone.
So, where does South Carolina go from here? How will they, or can they, build on three straight 11-2 seasons now that the core of those teams is headed off either for the NFL or their otherwise professional lives?
It’s a question the Gamecocks have plenty of time to answer after beating Wisconsin 34-24 on Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl to win finish off their third straight 11-2 season, but it will soon be the question on every South Carolina fan’s mind.
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The Gamecocks aren’t losing much in quantity, but they will have a hard time replacing the quality. The most obvious areas of concern are replacing the winningest quarterback and the most talented defensive player in school history.
While everyone waves goodbye to Shaw today, Dylan Thompson, Brendan Nosovitch and Connor Mitch await their turn in spring practice. Thompson will get the first shot based on seniority and his 2012 successes, but he’s by no means a gimme starter.
If the quarterback situation gets straightened out, then what about cornerback? The only two with any meaningful experience played their final collegiate games on Wednesday. And defensive end, and Well, you get the picture.
The beauty of what South Carolina has done the last three seasons has been its consistency, winning despite the circumstances. That will be a bigger challenge than ever in 2014.