The South Carolina Gamecocks played their spring game two days ago. There were some good moments, and there were some moments that weren't so good. But all in all, I say it was one of the better spring game experiences in recent years as there was a certain level of excitement not seen recently. In my spring game preview, I wrote about some position groups to keep an eye on. Let's grade out how they performed.
Improved Quarterback Play:
With both Orth and Nunez out with injuries this spring, the two QB's to watch tomorrow will be Mitch and Brandon McIlwain. What I would like to see out there from those two guys is a command of the offense, leadership, and good decision making. As a QB, when you do those three things, the stats and scoreboard will take care of itself.
It's fairly obvious that, out of the three QB's that played, Brandon McIlwain easily had the most productive day. The true freshman was responsible for three touchdowns total (1 on the ground, and 2 via the air). He was also fairly accurate going 19-26 on the day for 169 yards and no turnovers. Granted, most of these throws were a variety of screens or intermediate throws. But all-in-all, I was pretty impressed with McIlwain. Connor Mitch had an ok day, he made some nice plays, but also showed the same tendency to be inaccurate throwing downfield. Mitch was 9-16 on the day for 139 and a touchdown. All the QB's did a good job of taking care of the football, as there were no interceptions thrown on the day.
A #2 Option at Wideout:
I think it's understood that Deebo Samuel is, at the moment, out top receiving threat...I, and many others, think Bryan Edwards could be that guy this year...
Deebo had a nice day with 4 catches for 31 yards, 33 rushing yards and even threw a 28 yard pass! Bryan Edwards showed up and caught 3 balls, 2 of which were touchdowns on jump balls in the endzone. I think the real story of the wide receiving corps however was the emergence of Jamari Smith. Jamari has kind of bounced around from position to position throughout his career, but perhaps he's finally found a home at wide receiver. Jamari was able to get the ball in space and proved capable of making guys miss in the open field.
Let's Get Defensive:
While Muschamp has said at times that they (the secondary) are getting better, and that he likes their effort, they are still not where he wants them to be. This isn't surprising, but it is a bit worrying. There are a few ways to cover up a poor secondary, but the front-7 better be elite
The secondary was a bit up and down Saturday afternoon. While there were several nice plays on the ball (Chris Moody had a nice pass breakup in the redzone), the secondary did look lost at times. One of Bryan Edwards TD catches was on a secondary bust where a linebacker got matched up on Edwards. Rico McWilliams had 2 pass breakups on the day. While there is some worry to be had for the secondary, there is help on the way in the form of an elite JUCO DB JaMarcus King.
We need guys like Marquavius Lewis, Kelsey Griffin, Boosie Whitlow etc. to show that they have made strides since the new coaching staff arrived in Columbia.
Skai Moore (injury), Dante Sawyer (injury) and Jonathan Walton (due to a newborn baby) did not participate Saturday but I thought the front-7 looked solid. They seemed to have a decent grasp of what gap control is and how to tackle. There were several instances that a Gamecock runningback was swarmed by a host of Gamecock defenders and pushed back for a loss. It was an encouraging performance from a group that has struggled to create havoc in opponents' backfields the past couple of years.