Josh Kendall

USC spring football practice scorecard: Muschamp era set to begin

South Carolina begins its first spring practice under coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday.
South Carolina begins its first spring practice under coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday. gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina’s spring practices begin Tuesday, and the Will Muschamp era starts with new coaches, new players and plenty of unanswered questions.

Five key questions

1. Who will win the starting quarterback job – Brandon McIlwain, Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez, Perry Orth or Michael Scarnecchia?

2. How physical will first-year head coach Will Muschamp’s practices be compared to his predecessor Steve Spurrier?

3. Can the Gamecocks identify enough offensive playmakers to give new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper any chance for success in 2016?

4. What will the offensive line pecking order look like by the time the spring game rolls around?

5. What wide receivers, if any, will prove to be ready to replace last year’s offensive MVP Pharoh Cooper?

The coaches

WILL MUSCHAMP

Head coach

The second former Florida head coach in a row to lead USC, Muschamp was 28-21 in four seasons with the Gators.

BOBBY BENTLEY

Running backs

Longtime head coach at Byrnes High, Bentley had short stint at Auburn before being hired to shore up state recruiting.

SHAWN ELLIOTT

Offensive line

The only holdover from Steve Spurrier’s staff, Elliott will be entering his seventh season at South Carolina.

COLEMAN HUTZLER

Special teams coordinator/linebackers

An assistant for Muschamp at Florida in 2014, Hutzler was a defensive assistant at Boston College last year.

BRYAN MCCLENDON

Wide receivers/co-offensive coordinator

A former Georgia player and assistant, McClendon is a top recruiter and likely will be asked to lure top Atlanta players.

MIKE PETERSON

Outside linebackers

A standout linebacker for Spurrier at Florida and a 14-year NFL veteran, Peterson is in his first full-time assistant coaching job.

TRAVARIS ROBINSON

Defensive coordinator/defensive backs

A 34-year-old who worked for Muschamp at Florida and Auburn, Robinson is taking his first shot at leading a defense.

KURT ROPER

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

A former quarterback at Rice, Roper was a longtime David Cutcliffe disciple before joining Muschamp at Florida.

LANCE THOMPSON

Defensive line/assistant head coach defense

A Citadel graduate, Thompson worked for Nick Saban twice and coached at Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Ga. Tech.

PAT WASHINGTON

Tight ends

Another longtime SEC assistant, Washington has coached 18 seasons, including at Tennessee as WR coach.

Watch In addition to the spring game, practices will be open to the public on March 29 and March 31, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The new practice fields are located at the west end of Gamecock Park. Parking is available in Gamecock Park with access off National Guard Road.

Player position changes

DARIUS ENGLISH

Senior outside linebacker

Formerly an undersized defensive end, English is a better fit as a pass rushing linebacker in Muschamp’s 3-4 defensive system.

HAYDEN HURST

Sophomore tight end

The walk-on who will be 23 when season begins spent time in Pirates organization and could help after switch from WR.

ULRIC JONES

Junior defensive tackle

Huge (6-6, 284) JUCO transfer was reserve DL last year before being switched to OL last half of season. Now he’s back at DT.

JAMARI SMITH

Junior running back

The Florida native has ping-ponged between DB and RB, and now he’s back at RB where there’s an opportunity for snaps.

BOOSIE WHITLOW

Sophomore outside linebacker

Like English, Whitlow played DE last year, but his frame looks more like the prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker.

SKAI MOORE

Senior linebacker/safety

After originally deciding to leave early for the NFL, Moore was lured back partly by the opportunity to play some safety this year.

If they aren’t playing a spring sport, and they already have their credits done, it’s much more beneficial to them academically, socially and athletically to come to campus midyear. They are at a much slower pace. We are able to do a much better job with them academically. It’s a huge benefit and in just about every situation I have been a part of, it’s been a very positive experience.

Will Muschamp on having midyear enrollees

SPRING NEWCOMERS

BRYAN EDWARDS

Wide receiver

Hasn’t played football since knee injury ended season at Conway High in October, but is expected to contribute when he’s healthy.

C.J. FREEMAN

Running back

A three-star prospect from North Carolina, Freeman saw chance to compete right away at RB if he could get a head start.

BRANDON MCILWAIN

Quarterback

The Most Interesting Man in Columbia at the moment, McIlwain will put baseball on back burner as soon as spring football starts.

CHRIS SMITH

Cornerback

Another defensive back from Rock Hill, Smith was lightly recruited out of South Pointe but has chance to contribute.

KOBE SMITH

Defensive tackle

At one time a commitment for both N.C. State and Kentucky, this Georgia native saw chance for early playing time at USC.

KEIR THOMAS

Defensive end

Another young DL looking for early playing time, Thomas was a three-star prospect who drew interest from Arkansas and Auburn.

PLAYER DEPARTURES

SHAQ DAVIDSON

Sophomore wide receiver

A four-star prospect who never got on the field because of a knee injury, Davidson left the team this offseason.

ERNEST HAWKINS

Junior linebacker

Hawkins went to JUCO before spending one uneventful season at USC and then deciding to leave team.

AL HARRIS JR.

Junior cornerback

The son of longtime NFL DB Al Harris, Harris Jr. was a part-time starter last year but decided to transfer after the bowl game.

DAVID JOHNSON

Senior defensive end

Another part-time starter during his career, Johnson left the program this offseason after recording 20 tackles last season.

D.J. NEAL

Sophomore wide receiver

Maybe the most costly of this year’s transfers, Neal had eight catches for 104 yards and showed impressive athleticism.

South Carolina holds a special ceremony on National Signing Day to recognize midyear enrollees Chris Smith, CJ Freeman, Kobe Smith, Keir Thomas, Bryan Edwards and Brandon McIlwain.

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