Well guys, it's almost that time of year again! Our South Carolina Gamecocks report for fall practice today and practice officially opens on. After a very disappointing year in 2014, Steve Spurrier wants you to not listen to our enemies and to know your Gamecocks are going to be just fine. Hell, even the Preseason Coaches Poll doesn't think we'll be too bad. Nonetheless, there are some serious questions marks on this team. Let's take a look at what might be the interesting developments to follow throughout fall camp.
Who's Going to Play QB?
It's pretty unsettling when your returning leading passer is also your top receiver. Yep, that's right. Our main man Pharoh Cooper is also our leading passer coming into the 2015 season! However, outside of the Wildcat package, I wouldn't expect Pharoh to get under center all too often. While it is widely rumored that Connor Mitch is in the driver's seat to be QB1, Spurrier has, in classic Spurrier fashion, not ruled out playing another quarterback or even multiple QB's. I think come opening day in Charlotte, Connor Mitch will be the starting QB, but you never know with the HBC.
Now, obviously Connor Shaw ended up being the most successful player in school history. But the similarities between Connor Mitch and Connor Shaw may stop with the spelling of their first names. Or maybe Connor Mitch will live up to his first name and became an SEC legend. Who knows? (Just so y'all know, I'm not predicting ANYTHING. We all saw how my prediction of a 500 year reign of the SEC in basketball has turned out thus far.) But I digress. It will certainly be interesting to see how the QB competition turns out. In an ideal world Nunez can redshirt, Mitch takes over at QB and throws for 2,500+ yards, and Orth and Scarnecchia will duke it out for the QB2 spot. However, as many of us know from all aspects of life, things rarely, if ever, go perfectly according to plan. Keep an eye on this battle throughout August.
Can We Get Back to Playing South Carolina Defense?
Last year was embarrassing. We couldn't stop anybody. Every time we thought, "Hey, maybe those guys have figured it out!", they would turn around and blow a two touchdown lead. They looked tentative, timid and unsure of themselves. They couldn't get pressure on the QB, couldn't stop the run, looked lost at times in the secondary and the list goes on and on.
So Coach Spurrier brought in Jon Hoke to fix things. Hoke, in turn, brought his more traditional 4-3 alignment as the base defense. I think Hoke had some interesting quotes and thoughts in that article. Something that really caught my eye is the "it's about how we play" philosophy that he has brought. Instead of getting caught up in over the top game-planning, it seems Hoke will want to focus much more on playing fast, physical, and confident. Despite Kirk Botkin being confident with his linebackers, I think if Hoke can get us into the top half of the SEC with the defensive performance, I will consider that a success for this year. I think the pieces are there to have a good, not great, defense that should be able to get enough stops to put our offense in position to win a few ballgames this season. I also think Hoke and his 4-3 defense will bring a fair amount of increased physicality to our defense. And maybe the extra linebacker will help us defend more traditional offenses, such as LSU, with more success.
Who's Going to Lineup Opposite of Pharoh?
Our wide receiver depth chart essentially looks like this: 1) Pharoh Cooper 2) Terry Googer (we think?) 3) Who Knows? That's not to say that somebody won't step up to complement Cooper but, as with the majority of the team, there are loads of question marks all over the field. I do think Googer will be a solid, and possibly very good, number two option opposite Pharoh. However, beyond that there is a great deal of questions to be answered. Spurrier Jr. seems to think that DJ Neal and Jalen Christian will be able to come in and have an immediate impact. But, as we all know, it's hard to judge a guy until he's put into a real game with real defenders coming after you. Behind the QB battle, this is the most important scenario for the Gamecocks to get figured out.