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South Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina: Keys and a pick

It’s finally here.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

We did it, y’all: The long, hot summer without football is finally over (well, it’s still way too hot outside, but I digress). At noon tomorrow, the South Carolina Gamecocks kick off their 2018 season against the fellow avians from Coastal Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium. We’ve talked a lot about the Chants, but here are some things we’d like to see from the Gamecocks in this one.

The keys

Iron out some kinks with the offense. We’ve been hearing about it for years, but with new offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon in place, it’s time for the up-tempo talk to become a reality. Will the Gamecocks continue to use it on a situational basis, or will it be how the offense operates by default? The discussion this fall has seemed to lean toward the latter, but we won’t know until we see that unit on the field. This matchup against Coastal is a great opportunity for a tune-up and to hammer out the core philosophy.

Take steps toward solidifying the secondary. It’s no secret that South Carolina’s defensive backfield is the biggest question mark on the roster, with the departure of key veterans and an infusion of new faces. The Gamecocks have enough bodies to not really be considered thin here, but so much of that depth is inexperienced or otherwise new to the program. Aside from stalwart Rashad Fenton and sophomore Jamyest Williams, fans will have a lot of new names to learn. Among them is freshman Jaycee Horn, who has received rave reviews from the coaching staff and earned a starting spot at nickel. Now that the players are finally seeing live action, it’d be great if a couple guys started to emerge for the Gamecocks.

Get reserves as much playing time as possible. It’s been a very long time since South Carolina has had the luxury of a non-Power 5 opponent in Week 1, so hopefully the Gamecocks can take advantage of that. With a huge showdown against Georgia looming, it’d be ideal for some key backups to get a little seasoning — and for starters to rest and avoid injury.

The pick

You never really know what’s going to happen in season openers, especially if you’re a Gamecock, but South Carolina should roll in this one. There might be fits and starts early on, with nerves and some inexperienced players in the mix, but FBS newbie Coastal is not quite ready yet to take advantage and mount a serious upset bid. I’ll go with 41-10 Gamecocks.