South Carolina starts its first practice under Will Muschamp on March 15. The State will take the 15 days of the month leading up to that to look at 15 “keys” for the Gamecocks as they prepare for Muschamp’s first season. This is No. 12.
After a 3-9 season, maybe not having a lot of returning starters is not a bad thing. Either way, it’ll make for a lot of moving parts this spring.
The Gamecocks have four offensive starters returning and the most important of them, quarterback Perry Orth, is expected to be in a battle for his starting job all spring and maybe into the fall. Wide receiver Matrick Belton, center Alan Knott and tackle Mason Zandi are the remaining returners on offense.
Defensively, the Gamecocks have six returning starters but that number includes Jordan Diggs as a safety, and Diggs will play linebacker under the new coaching staff. Linebackers Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman, defensive linemen Marquavius Lewis and Taylor Stallworth and cornerback Rico McWilliams are the remaining defensive starters.
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Look for the new staff to try a lot of combinations at least early on in spring practice as they familiarize themselves with a new roster and see who they like where.
The one aspect of the game that does appear shored up is special teams, where starting place-kicker Elliott Fry and starting punter Sean Kelly return. Fry was 20-for-28 last year and finished second in the SEC with 1.7 field goals per game. Kelly was fourth in the SEC in punting average (44.25 yards per kick).