Sophomore Connor Mitch is the real deal The 6-foot-3 sophomore QB has all the right pedigree. He threw for 12,078 yards in high school and was recruited by Alabama, LSU and Auburn among others. What he doesn’t have is experience. He completed two of his six passes in mop-up duty last year.
Pharoh Cooper is a Heisman Trophy contender The junior wide receiver has the ability. He’ll need to do something crazy in the first two or three games, and he’ll need to make some big plays in the return game and at quarterback. The addition of Lorenzo Nunez might hurt him in this regard if Nunez takes over the Wildcat quarterback spot.
The new defensive linemen contribute immediately Specifically, three of the seven newcomers need to be able to play regularly. End Marquavius Lewis (6-3, 266 pounds) will start right away and looks like an immediate upgrade. Dexter Wideman, Dante Sawyer, Ulric Jones, Shameik Blackshear, Devante Covington and Quandeski Whitlow give the coaching staff plenty of new faces to evaluate.
The Gamecocks are 4-0 headed to Columbia, Mo., on Oct. 3 That will mean South Carolina is 2-0 in the SEC with a win over preseason favorite Georgia. It also will mean some much-needed confidence for a team that lacked it at points last season.
David Williams has a breakout season Williams – a 6-1, 216-pound sophomore – has the confidence to be a standout tailback in the SEC. We’ll see if he has the game. If he can be a difference-maker at tailback and complement the solid Brandon Wilds, the Gamecocks ground game will be fine.
North Carolina wins on Sept. 3 South Carolina has won five of the past six games in this rivalry, and last year’s Tar Heels looked like little threat to change that. North Carolina was 6-7 and gave up 40 or more points eight times. The Heels have hired Gene Chizik to run the defense, and if they upset the Gamecocks, those confidence issues will return in a hurry.
The quarterback position is unsettled If Mitch can’t win and keep the job, and it becomes a revolving door at quarterback, that will put more pressure on a rebuilding defense. Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and Nunez are the other options at quarterback.
Cooper gets hurt There’s one proven playmaker on offense, and it’s Cooper. If he’s not in the lineup, things get harder for everybody on offense. Mitch won’t have a proven weapon to throw to; the running game will have little complement, and Deebo Samuel will have to be a No. 1 receiver as a freshman.
The linebackers and secondary aren’t that good The bulk of last year’s defensive struggles were blamed on the defensive line, which didn’t allow improving linebackers and defensive backs a chance to do much. If the defensive line improves and it turns out the linebackers and defensive backs weren’t that good, it won’t help much.
Steve Spurrier retires If the Gamecocks lose three more games in the fourth quarter, Spurrier might decide he’s had enough. No one in garnet and black wants to think about that eventuality, but everyone knows it’s coming one day.