It has been some time since there has been a nucleus of young talent at Carolina like there is now. Youngsters dominate the lineup, as South Carolina has started the most true freshman this season, the most in the nation. Jake Bentley has gone from potential redshirt to the proclaimed savior of the team. Rico Dowdle has gone from three-star recruit to one of the top tailbacks in the SEC. Deebo Samuel has gone from injury-prone to dominant in a matter of weeks. There is plenty to be excited about, and the momentum that this team is carrying could, and should, translate into a victory this weekend against the rival Florida Gators. Here are a few reasons for optimism in the world of Gamecock sports:
- Program Trajectory: For Coach Muschamp and crew, the arrow is clearly pointed up. More marquee recruits have been visiting during crucial wins, such as Xavier Thomas last week, and having Jadeveon Clowney and other former stars there for the homecoming game was a huge boon to the recruiting effort. At this point, it is clear that recruits are starting to buy into the rebuilding, as the Gamecocks are closer than expected to competing for an SEC title. Having former players on campus that witnessed the same rise (2008-2010) in the seasons prior to emerging as a national power to talk to recruits is also a huge recruiting pitch. Players want to be a part of something big, and that something big could be in the near future.
- Basketball Season: After posting the best record in program history, the men’s team opens up their season tonight with Louisiana Tech. After losing three starters, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice look to lead a young and largely inexperienced team to the NCAA Tournament. This group has had increasing success in the last few years under Coach Frank Martin, and with some breakout seasons from players like Chris Silva and P.J. Dozier, this team could make some serious noise this year.
The women’s team looks to improve on yet another fantastic season. Debuting at number 2 in the polls, Coach Dawn Staley looks to finally bring in that elusive championship to the faithful fans in Columbia. This team has several marquee players like A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates returning, and with those two on the floor, anything is possible.
3. SEC East Hopes: After being left for dead following a 2-4 start, South Carolina has roared back to life, and a win this weekend keeps their hopes of making it to Atlanta alive. That being said, the team does not control their own destiny entirely, as there are a couple more things that need to happen:
First, Tennessee has to beat Kentucky, and South Carolina has to beat Florida. The next week, LSU needs to beat Florida, and Tennessee has to lose to Missouri. If Tennessee survives the Tigers, Vanderbilt then has to beat them. If all of these events line up the way that they’re needed, South Carolina will find themselves in the SEC Championship game for the first time since 2010.
After a dismal start, this Carolina team has shown resilience and perseverance, taking advantage of an influx of young talent to rise to a 3-game win streak, their first since 2014. Finally, after a few years of average football, this team is showing serious potential, with increasing expectations for next season. Although many weren’t convinced by the Muschamp signing, it is certainly looking like the right choice through nine games. Call it what you will, but if a bowl season is this huge for this fanbase, imagine what an SEC Championship game bid will do.