Five storylines for South Carolina’s game at noon Saturday against Coastal Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium (SEC Network):
Who will start at running back?
Coach Will Muschamp says the coaching staff has “a pretty good idea” of how the running back rotation will go Saturday, but he hasn’t shared that publicly. Juniors Rico Dowdle, Ty’Son Williams, A.J. Turner and Mon Denson were all listed with “OR” on the first depth chart of the season. Running backs coach Bobby Bentley said earlier in the preseason that Dowdle and Williams had separated themselves, so it’s likely that one of those two will start, but how South Carolina splits the carries will be interesting Saturday and the rest of the season.
How will Deebo look?
One of the SEC’s most dynamic offensive players hasn’t been on the field since Sept. 16, 2017, when he limped off at the end of the third quarter against Kentucky. Now senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel returns for one of the most anticipated individual seasons in recent memory at South Carolina. Samuel had 474 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in 11 quarters of football last year. He and his teammates insist that he’s fully healthy and full speed, but Gamecocks fans will feel better if they see if for themselves Saturday.
What does Bryan McClendon do next?
South Carolina’s first-year offensive coordinator auditioned for the job in last year’s Outback Bowl, a 26-19 win over Michigan. Now, McClendon has had an entire offseason to fully implement his plan. The Gamecocks have promised they will go fast, at least at times. That looked good in the second half of that game against the Wolverines, not as good in the first half. An overmatched Coastal Carolina defense should give South Carolina the chance to get off to a fast start and build some momentum headed into next week’s game against Georgia.
Javon Kinlaw’s breakout year?
The junior defensive tackle looks like a different person than the player who started the season a year ago. At that time, he was a nearly 340-pound backup. Now he’s a 305-pound starter who’s expected to be South Carolina’s best defensive lineman. It’s possible Kinlaw could be one of the SEC’s best defensive linemen if he fulfills his potential this year. Coastal’s spread run game should give Kinlaw plenty of opportunity to show his run-stopping potential in Week 1. Kinlaw could match the 20 tackles he had last year by Week 3 this year.
Will secondary shake-up pay off?
Three of South Carolina’s four starters in the secondary have starting experience, but it still feels like a new group on the back end of the Gamecocks defense. Part of that is because of how much Muschamp has poor-mouthed the group in the preseason. The other part of that is how inexperienced the backups are. True freshman Jaycee Horn is expected to start at nickel. Graduate transfer J.T. Ibe will start at safety. Sophomore Jamyest Williams, who started six games last year, is listed as the top backup at nickel and safety.
Who: Coastal Carolina (0-0) at South Carolina (0-0)
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia area
Satellite radio: Sirius 99/XM 190
Line: South Carolina by 29 1/2