Josh Kendall

Positive, not drastic, improvement on tap for USC football in 2015

South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (11) has a legitimate shot to be an All-American in 2015.
South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper (11) has a legitimate shot to be an All-American in 2015. gmelendez@thestate.com

The question, to review, was, “What do you think about the Gamecocks in 2015?”

Most of the answers I received from the fan base did it credit. There is a nearly unanimous belief that South Carolina’s football team will be improved in 2015. There’s also an understanding it appears that that progress won’t necessarily extend all the way to the College Football Playoff.

“Maybe 8-4 season?” Carroll Gray wrote after a largely positive review of the changes he expects.

“I know I tend to be very optimistic and I am surely wearing garnet colored glasses, but I really, really think everybody is sleeping on the Gamecocks,” wrote High Jinx (not his real name obviously) via email. “I just don’t see it being as bad as everybody wants to make us. You saw the games last year. How quickly some forget that in three games, if we could have had merely one stop on defense, we would have been 10-3.”

Here’s what I think about the Gamecocks: They will be improved. Will it make a difference? That’s a tougher question to answer. First, some details:

▪  Pharoh Cooper will be an All-American. That’s great news for a team whose streak of first-team All-Americans was snapped at five years in 2014. However, it might not be great news for the offense. Cooper will be an All-American because he has that type of ability … and because Steve Spurrier might not have many options after Cooper.

▪  The offensive line has plenty of bodies to make up for the loss of A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson. Mason Zandi will be a standout in his first year starting at tackle (left tackle it seems). Once again, the difference between good and really good could be Mike Matulis’ health. If Matulis can take Cann’s place at guard, it will stabilize a lot of other positions at the same time.

▪  Brandon Wilds and David Williams will be a solid SEC backfield, good enough to get the required yardage but not able to break open a game. Those waiting for Williams to become an All-SEC running back will have to wait.

▪  Connor Mitch will be in good shape at quarterback if he gets off to a good start. Opening the season against North Carolina and Kentucky, two defenses that don’t frighten anybody, will help.

▪  The defense will be better because, as everyone from the coaching staff to the fans has pointed out, it can’t be any worse. (That, of course, is not true. Ask the Tar Heels.)

▪  Defensive end Marquavius Lewis won’t have to improve the pass rush by himself, but he will. Lewis is the physical presence at end that the Gamecocks sorely missed last year.

▪  The six other newcomers on the defensive line will help as well, and two will be part of the regular rotation along with Lewis – Dexter Wideman and Dante Sawyer.

▪  An improved defensive line will give the linebackers and secondary a chance they never had last year. What those two groups do with that chance has to be seen.

None of these qualify as drastic pronouncements, but they are all that May will allow. Things will change in the next four months. Rosters reshape. Fall camp brings injuries. Things happen.

We’ll ask a lot of people this question this summer and let you know what they say.

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