UPDATE: Check out Leftover Hot Dog for more thoughts on the Spring Game.
These are the five things I really want to see when the Garnet and Black teams take the field today. I'd love to hear what the rest of you think in the open thread.
5. A Receiver Reaching 100 Yards
McKinley showed us how much of a class act he is today by taking out space in the paper today to thank Gamecock Nation for its support during his record-breaking career. While we here at Garnet and Black Attack wish Kenny luck in his future endeavors, the fact is that his departure leaves us with a glaring hole on the offense. While a number of our returning receivers--among them Jason Barnes, Moe Brown, and Dion LeCorn--have shown promise over the past couple of years, no one has cemented a spot as the go-to guy. Whether it be one of the returning guys, spring standout Tori Gurley, or TE Wesyle Saunders, someone needs to step up tomorrow.
4. Solid Play from the New Defensive Roster
While Eric Norwood, Darian Stewart, and much of the defensive line, return, the losses of Jasper Brinkley, Emanuel Cook, and Captain Munnerlyn leave major holes to fill from last year's stellar defensive unit. Who's going to step up and win these spots, and, perhaps more importantly, are the reserves going to be good enough to step in if the starters get injured? We need answers to these questions tomorrow.
3. Steve Spurrier Successfully Opening Up the Playbook
Last spring before Stephen Garcia was suspended, Spurrier promised that we would see more zone reads and designed QB runs. Garcia's suspension, though, left Spurrier with more traditional QBs Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher, and Spurrier stuck with his Cock'n'Fire playbook. This year with Garcia seemingly the certain starting QB, Spurrier is again talking about expanding his playbook to fit Garcia's skill set, and reports out of practice are that Spurrier is doing just that. Personally, I think it's a good sign that Spurrier is willing to set his pride aside and adapt to the times and his young QBs unique skills. However, we now need to see it work.
2. Big Performances from the Running Game
Spurrier has recently said that if the season began today, Brian Maddox would most likely be the starter. I liked Maddox's play in limited action last year, so I fully support Spurrier's confidence in the player. However, I believe that when we get into the season we will again to some degree see a tailback committee approach, with Maddox sharing time with Eric Baker, Jarvis Giles, and Kenny Miles. That's fine with me; we now have a decent stable of backs, and we should take advantage of the fresh legs that depth offers us. What I care most about is that these guys produce better than last year's abysmal unit. A lot of the burden, obviously, is also on the offensive line, which block the run atrociously last year. The backs and linemen need to produce this year for us to move forward offensively; reports are that they've played well in practice, and it would be good to see that continue tomorrow.
1. How Well Will Stephen Garcia Play?
I hate to steal The State's number-one spring storyline, but let's face it: is there anybody in Gamecock Nation who's thinking about anything more than Stephen Garcia right now? The story with last year's Spring Game was Garcia's absence due to suspension and the barrage of interceptions and general shoddy play by Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher. When autumn rolled around, we predictably had an awful offense.
This year, though, with Chris Smelley gone, the promising young Garica has a tight grip on the starting spot, and reports are that he's learning the offense, playing well, and, perhaps most importantly, keeping his nose clean. We've been talking about Garcia's promise for sometime around here, but the future is now for Stephen. We need him to step up and lead this team, starting today.