Josh Kendall

3 reasons South Carolina football will be better in 2018

South Carolina’s 2018 football season begins on Sept. 1 against Coastal Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are three reasons Gamecocks fans should be looking forward to the upcoming season.

Deebo Samuel

It’s hard to overstate the impact Samuel could have on the South Carolina offense this fall. His numbers are well-documented — 474 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in 11 quarters of football before breaking his leg in 2017 — and the confidence he brings quarterback Jake Bentley, offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon and head coach Will Muschamp will have a tangible impact as well.

Samuel has a chance to be the SEC player of the year, which would be the first time a wide receiver wins the award since LSU’s Wendell Davis in 1987.

Javon Kinlaw

Kinlaw has the potential to be the first elite defensive lineman South Carolina has had since Jadeveon Clowney.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior college transfer finished with 20 tackles after working himself into shape in 2017. If he can take another step forward this year, he will give Muschamp something he hasn’t had since he came to South Carolina and something he desperately covets — a big, athletic body in the middle of the line of scrimmage that is capable of a dominant play on every snap.

That kind of impact will reverberate throughout the other 10 positions on defense.

The schedule

SEC football is a zero sum game. If someone is going to get more wins, someone else has to get fewer. Florida and Tennessee won’t be struggling forever. The Gamecocks need to take advantage of the situation now.

On top of that, South Carolina’s two cross-divisional opponents — Texas A&M and Ole Miss — are in flux. South Carolina will be an underdog against Georgia and Clemson, but it’s possible it will be favored in its other 10 games.

Regardless of the point spreads, this slate offers a real chance for double-digit victories in 2018.

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*=SEC game

Sept. 1 Coastal Carolina, noon (SEC Network)

Sept. 8 Georgia*, 3:30 pm (CBS)

Sept. 15 Marshall, 7:30 pm (ESPNU)

Sept. 22 at Vanderbilt*

Sept. 29 at Kentucky*

Oct. 6 Missouri*

Oct. 13 Texas A&M*

Oct. 27 Tennessee*

Nov. 3 at Ole Miss*

Nov. 10 at Florida*

Nov. 17 Chattanooga

Nov. 24 at Clemson