What new toys will Steve Spurrier get to play with?
South Carolina returns a wealth of experience at almost every offensive position, so there won't be that many new faces for Gamecock fans to be particularly excited about. Though he's buried on the running back depth chart, the most intriguing offensive weapon might be redshirt freshman David Williams. He was rumored to have run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash during winter workouts and brings a different skill set than what bruisers Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds have to offer.
Even though he's entering his first season as the unquestioned No. 1 starting quarterback, there's a considerable amount of excitement about what Dylan Thompson brings to the table. Given the incredible amount of talent around him, there's a very real sense that he could be on the brink of engineering one of the best offenses in South Carolina history. Even behind Thompson, the backup QB race has been intriguing. Connor Mitch appears to be the most likely candidate to back up Dylan, but Brendan Nosovitch and walk-on Perry Orth will also factor into the conversation.
How will the defense line up?
Lorenzo Ward has teased that the Gamecocks plan to deviate from the 4-2-5 defensive alignment that has been a staple at South Carolina since Ellis Johnson was hired in 2008. For the first time in recent memory, the Gamecocks aren't teeming with defensive line talent but have more than enough good players to go around at linebacker. Consequently, it wouldn't be surprised to see USC to show some 3-4 defensive fronts on Saturday.
Of particular interest will be how changes in scheme effect personnel. Defensive lines in a 3-4 defense are typically composed of a space-eating nose guard -- between J.T. Surratt, Gerald Dixon, Jr., and Abu Lamin, this should be a problem -- and a pair of hulking defensive ends. While the 3-4 plays to Carolina's strength at linebacker, the Gamecocks' size at defensive end is a rather glaring weakness. Likely starter Darius English has finally been able to hit close to 250 pounds this offseason, and this is being regarded as a triumph. Its not uncommon for 3-4 defensive ends to weigh close to 300 pounds.
Will Mike Matulis stay on top at right guard?
It wasn't expected that there would be many surprises on offense this spring, but Mike Matulis' emergence as starting right guard certainly qualifies. Matulis burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2011 and earned Freshman All-SEC honors despite struggling mightily in his first start, a horrific 16-13 loss to Auburn. Since then, Matulis has struggled through injuries to both shoulders and appeared as though he might be on the verge of being out of football altogether.
But Matulis began the spring at backup right tackle and moved inside to right guard, the position vacated by Ronald Patrick following the expiration of his collegiate eligibility. Coming into spring practice, it was expected that Cody Waldrop, Na'Ty Rodgers, and perhaps Will Sport or D.J. Park would compete for the starting right guard position. Waldrop and Rodgers are still in the running for some significant playing time, so this should be a fun battle to track.
How much work will Brison Williams get at cornerback?
Brison Williams had a bit of a gut last season. I don't mean this as a slight. I am of the firm belief that guts make college football great, but they aren't accessories typically worn by cornerbacks. This is one of the reasons that I was skeptical that the talk of Williams cross-training at cornerback would result in much more than having a veteran strong safety who could play reasonably effective man coverage in dime packages when the situation called for it.
And yet here we are. Spring practice is nearly over and the Brison-Williams-at-cornerback experiment persists. Williams says that his weight is down to around 205 pounds, and the reports from secondary coach Grady Brown have been nothing but positive. Meanwhile, Williams' abdication of the starting strong safety position has resulted in more reps for the likes of Chaz Elder, T.J. Gurley, J.J. Marcus, and Chris Moody.
Who will be the celebrity off-the-bench pass-catcher?
Every year, Steve Spurrier has a player run off of the bench in the middle of a play to catch a touchdown pass during the spring game. Typically, this is used as a means of rewarding a walk-on player who has put forth an exceptional effort during spring practice. Las year, it was used to troll America having Jadeveon Clowney, who some thought to be gravely injured, run onto the field in his street clothes to catch a deep pass.
Steve Spurrier hinted at practice on Thursday that he had a surprise in store for South Carolina fans that the off-the-bench pass-catcher would be a local celebrity. Here's a list of the biggest celebrities with ties to South Carolina:
- Darius Rucker
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- Dawn Staley
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Connor Shaw
- Alshon Jeffery
- Ric Flair
- Marcus Lattimore
- Thomas Ravenel
- Governor Nikki Haley
- Aziz Ansari
- Kwame Brown
- Kristin Davis
- Stephen Colbert
- Darla Mooore
- Sidney Rice
- DeWayne Wise
- Michael Roth
- Matt Price
- Jackie Bradley, Jr.
- Jermaine O'Neal
- Kevin Garnett
- Mary Louise-Parker
- Jamon Meredith
- Brett Gardner
- Shepard Fairey
- Raymond Felton