Jorge De Los Gallos: Connor, the spring depth chart is out, so let's dive into positional breakdowns. First, the question on everyone's mind. How are we feeling about Drew Williams at longsnapper??
Connor Tapp: Well, let's see. He's from Irmo, which I guess means he spent his entire childhood hanging out at the malls on Harbison Boulevard. That's what people from Irmo do, right? I'm not sure how this translates into longsnapping ability though.
JDLG: We can consult with GABA's official Irmo historian, Chicken Hoops. But we'll table that for now, and look at some of the more visible positions. Obviously, we're breaking in a new quarterback. Kind of. Sort of. Actually, the backup quarterback battle might be a bit more compelling. Right now, Freak Nosty's listed ahead of Connor Mitch, and you have to think that's a byproduct of Nosovitch having seniority and little else. How do you see this shaking out?
CT: The consensus on Nosovitch seems to be that he's an excellent athlete but a bit more raw as a passer. This makes me wonder if it would be him or Mitch going in the game if something happens to Dylan during the first series against Texas A&M. I could see a case that it might be Mitch. His skill set is more comparable to Dylan's than Nosovitich's is, so maybe it's a bit easier to adjust the gameplan on the fly. In the long run, though, I don't see very much separation at all here.
JDLG: Speaking of not much separation, there seems to be a bit of a logjam at right guard. Right now, RS freshman Na'Ty Rodgers and Cody Waldrop are linked by the almighty OR. It seems like Cody Waldrop is too beefy not to be on the line somewhere, but what with the Unlikely Emergence of Clayton StadnikTM, he's also part of a split decision at center. This, obviously, is a good problem to have. I'm very disappointed in Stadnik for being good at football, thus creating this conundrum. Do you think the refs will notice if we just stuff another 300 lb. person somewhere along the line? I mean, it's worth a try, right?
CT: I think we might have to pay Will Muschamp some kind of royalty if we walk up to the line of scrimmage with six offensive linemen, but people on TV tell me that it's important to show the defense a variety of looks. Cody Waldrop had some difficulty staying healthy last season. While that's no guarantee that he'll continue to have such troubles going forward, I think it speaks to the idea that there's a pretty good chance that one or more of our five best linemen get hurt at some point during the season, so it's pretty swell to have a Swiss Army knife like Waldrop at the ready.
One other thing I'm noticing. This offensive line is gigantic. 348, 318, 315, 289, and 334 pounds from left to right. The one sub-300 is Na'Ty Rodgers. He will almost certainly add 11 pounds over the course of the next three years. It's pretty thrilling to have one of those offensive lines that warrants one of those LOOK HOW BIG in-game graphics.
JDLG: Yeah, that's Corey Robinson who weighs 348, who we're certainly happy to have around another year. Did you know: if Elliott Fry lived on Jupiter, he'd outweigh Corey Robinson by 18 pounds? Moving on, I'm noticing roughly 45% of the roster is listed at SPUR. It is a position that seems to come up a lot when discussing the upside of a number of as-yet-unproven players. Sharrod Golightly's coming off a surprising All-SEC season, and backup Jordan Diggs had his moments last year. But, am I alone in hoping Larenz Bryant works his way up the ladder?
CT: It's hard to be too critical of Golightly given how strong he came on late in the season. It's equally hard, though, to watch him at 5'10, 210 pounds attempting to line up across from people like Eric Ebron and think that the ensuing play is going to be anything but a disaster. Diggs and Bryant are more closely built in the Antonio Allen/young DeVonte' Holloman mold and definitely have more upside in the long-run. I think they'll both see the field a lot, but unseating a redshirt senior who is fresh off of an All-SEC selection is not easily done. I'll say this, though: if one of them does overtake Golightly, I think it will mean that we have two or more very good SPURs who can't be denied playing time, not that Golightly isn't getting it done.
I can't help but notice that we've already devoted a lot of words to positions that are more or less rock solid. How excited/nervous are you to finally learn the identity of CB1 and DE1?
JDLG: It's a strange and unnerving situation to not see a single 6'5", 260 lb. megahuman on in defensive end two-deep, but that's where we are. I only hope this new nutritional expert I keep hearing about currently has Darius English strapped to a gurney and is funneling creatine and whole milk into English's gullet. But since we don't seem to have a prototypical defensive end at our disposal, and paired with our lack depth at corner, I wonder if Whammy gets a bit more aggressive calling blitzes to force opposing offenses to think fast and make mistakes. Without the sort of established playmakers with which we've recently been #blessed, shrewd defensive playcalling may be our best weapon.
CT: I'm nervous about the inexperience on the defense and that so much of it is concentrated on the perimeter. I can just imagine Gus Malzahn hammering away at us with fly sweeps and power runs and zone-reads until we have lost the will to keep fighting. It will be interesting to see if the strength on the interior of the defense offsets some of our weaknesses on the outside.
Were you expecting to see Ali Groves listed as a starter? I mean, there are barely enough warm bodies to go around, so I guess it shouldn't be a total shock. Is Ronnie Martin just dead weight at this point?
JDLG: I'm not entirely sure Ronnie Martin exists. I'd guess Groves is listed at starter because he's the only scholarshipped, full-time CB other than McWilliams. Smith's bounced around, Rhodes is a formal walkon, Martin might actually be a department store mannequin. I guess it would have been nice to give Rhodes the nod, since he's been a stalwart and earned his way onto the field after transferring from Western Carolina (where he was also a walkon). Besides, I think we can agree that we're looking at a true freshman starter at cornerback next season.
While Malzahn may wreak havoc on the edges, are you feeling as okay as I am about the middle 25-or-so yards of the field from a defensive perspective?
CT: Oh, absolutely. It's remarkable to think how far we've come in that regard over the past year. I have a lot of confidence in Kaiwan Lewis and Skai Moore at the Mike and Sam linebacker spots. (I'm OK with Marcquis Roberts, T.J. Holloman, and Jonathan Walton behind them. I'll feel a lot better about the depth once Bryson Allen-Williams arrives). I think we'll get another year of SEC average play from J.T. Surratt (this is a compliment), and between Gerald Dixon, Jr. [checks to make sure he has the right Gerald Dixon], Deon Green, Abu Lamin, and Kelsey Griffin we're going to find a strong player to line up next to him and maybe even a second one to push for his starting position.
Speaking of Lamin, he's listed third at defensive tackle. This is just a temporary YOU GOTTA PROVE IT ON THE FIELD thing, right?
JDLG: I'd have to think so. It may be as much for the current players' morale as it is for him. Could cause a bit of tumult if coaches slotted hype ahead of on-campus blood, sweat, and tears. I also suppose it's possible Lamin's contributions are limited year one, but I choose to irrationally expect him to be Quarlesian out of the gates. By the way, I'm noticing Griffin didn't get that medical redshirt after we decided to play him sparingly in 2013 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Hey, let's talk about offense again because, frankly, it could be a lot more fun to watch this season than defense. It must be noted that our top 3 running backs all have 100-yard rushing SEC games to their credit, and it's quite possible that the 4th has as high a ceiling as any.
CT: I think I'm as excited to see David Williams this spring as I am to see anybody else. Even though Mike Davis isn't going anywhere at the top of this depth chart (even if we witness his body parts contort in ways that suggest serious injury, we learned last season), Williams brings a skill to the table that Davis and Brandon Wilds lack: breakaway speed. Even though Williams is buried at RB4 for the time being, I think his differentiated skill set helps him find a way into the offense somehow, even if it's lining up in the slot and coming across on a fly-sweep in zone-read plays.
I'm a bit surprised to see Nick Jones not listed as a starter. I feel like we keep hearing about him blossoming into a productive member or the receiving corps, but he's slotted behind Damiere Byrd (who isn't expected to play while recovering from knee surgery) and Pharoh Cooper (who hasn't started a single game at wide receiver). I do like the aggressive placement of Cooper, though. The kid needs the damn ball in his hands.
JDLG: Yep. Cooper seems like the heir-apparent to the Renaissance athlete role, and I don't doubt he'll be the source of some fireworks this season. As for The Dilophosaurus, I agree that it's a bit surprising he doesn't get the starting nod but all the same, he knows he'll play. We know he'll play. I'm sure the coaches would just as soon list 4 or 5 starting receivers if there was space. Speaking of pass catchers, we're entering the third season of Jerell Adams and Busta Anderson cohabitating the tight end position (of course, Justice Cunningham was ahead of both in 2012.) Last year we saw a bit less reliance on tight ends than we might have anticipated-I mean, prior to last season, we were both worried that a big year could push both guys into the draft. Keeping both in Columbia seemed highly unlikely, and yet here we are. Do you see our pair of big TEs seeing an increased number of targets this season?
CT: Tight ends caught 41 passes for South Carolina in 2012 and 32 passes in 2013. That's good for a dropoff of about 25 percent, but when you think about it as just nine fewer passes that both went toward and were caught by either Adams, Anderson, and Drew Owens, it doesn't seem like that big of a chasm. That said, I think their involvement in the offense will be higher in 2014 than it was in 2013 if for no other reason than that plays that would have ended in Connor Shaw scrambles will instead end in Dylan Thompson dumping it off to a tight end running a hitch route or sumpin likaat. (Of course, things could get murky depending on if you want to count h-backs K.C. Crosby and Kelvin Rainey as tight ends or as something other than tight ends.)
Anything else jumping out at you? Pharoh Cooper has taken over kickoff return duties in addition to punt returns.
JDLG: I view return duties as such fluid situation (even during the season) that I can't imagine much thought was given to slapping Pharoh's name on both roles for now. Not to say that he wouldn't be a fine option, but I doubt it means everyone else is locked out. I see Tyler Hull is still atop the punt depth chart, so let's hope he's spent some time in the offseason developing his [this thought shanks out of bounds at the 48 yard line].
I think we're about down here. Final question for you: best name on the roster?
CT: I worry that I've been desensitized to the greatness of some of the names that have been on the roster for a few years, but I feel pretty confident going with Abu Lamin. We're pronouncing three vowels in ways that we don't normally pronounce them and the potential for lamination-based wordplay is exciting. His name also goes very well with his appearance. There just seems to be something mystical and genie-like about him and his name works in service of that, IMVHO. (All people with Middle Eastern-sounding names are genies, right?)
JDLG: Yes. Plus I could totally see him in a flowing sultan's getup. In any case, let's hope Abu Lamin is planning on Aladdin' a little something to our defensive line! [is arrested for high treason]
CT: [takes a second mortgage out on GABA to bail out Jorge]
[two years pass]
[the man from the bank comes and yanks the deed out of my hand in front of the weeping children]
[all of our posts are dragged out to the curb to be picked up with the trash]
[a janitor finishes mopping up the living room, takes one last look around at the empty mansion, sighs while shaking his head, and turns off the lights]