Saturday's Garnet & Black Game gave the South Carolina faithful their first real look at the Gamecocks under new head coach Will Muschamp. Aside from the new coaching staff, much of the attention was on true freshman quarterback and 2016 early enrollee Brandon McIlwain.
We asked our staff to review the tape and give us their picks and observations from the scrimmage.
Sydney: Brandon McIlwain
David: Brandon McIlwain
James: Brandon McIlwain
Dan: Brandon McIlwain
Sydney: Boosie Whitlow
David: The entire D-Line
James: Toure Boyd
Dan: Defensive Line
Sydney: Bryan Edwards, A.J. Turner
David: Edwards, Turner, Thomas
James: Wide Receivers Devin Dingle, Bryan Edwards
Dan: McIlwain (obviously), Bryan Edwards, Javon Charleston, A.J. Turner
New Faces (Walk-On's, New Starters, etc.)
Sydney: Javon Charleston
David: Jamari Smith
James: Sherrod Pittman
Dan: Jamari Smith
Sydney: I'm saying "B" because it wasn't perfect (it's preseason!) but there was a lot of good to take out of it. First off: McIlwain was as good as advertised. He has a good arm, great awareness on the field, and a pair of legs that will help him make plays. Deebo Samuel asserted himself as a WR1 threat and A.J. Turner was impressive.
I was also very happy with Bryan Edwards in this one and look forward to what he'll be able to do in the fall, because he's set up to be a nice receiver option. The defense as a whole looked a lot more active - to be expected under a defensive mind like Muschamp's. However, as I mentioned above, it's preseason, and we should take everything with a grain of salt since it's not an actual game, but I liked what I saw on Saturday.
David: The reason I'm giving the spring game this year an A is because it accomplished exactly what it needed to do: give the team and fans some hope. McIlwain looked great, Edwards is going to be a player for us this year and even Turner showed ability with the ball in his hands. Jamari Smith looked like he can help at receiver and the defensive line showed signs of life for the first time in years.
We aren't going to win 10 games this year, but after yesterday I have some hope that we can get to a bowl game. It was very clear that the team has made strides just over the course of spring practice - and that's really what the spring game is about. I feel better today about the 2016 Gamecocks than I did Saturday morning and that's all you can ask for.
James: It's an attempt to be as positive as I can without out dishing out too much praise for a team with more to prove than they've accomplished. And McIlwain's burst onto the spotlight only sweetens the pot, but we can't forget much of the players present on Saturday own a 3-9 2015 record.
Throughout spring practice, you didn't hear or see much bad from the Gamecocks camp. Certainly with only a handful of opportunities for the public's presence, it limits the scope of discussion and exposure, but Will Muschamp and his staff did a great job keeping this spring as positive as they could and heading into the summer and fall, it certainly feels like the player's have embraced their new staff and are eager to right the ship as quickly as possible. The most exciting thing ahead is the fact we will have a real quarterback competition featuring depth and talent, and hopefully that brings the best out of each contender. Like David eluded to, it certainly feels like this team and program are improving each day.
Dan: I think the biggest question mark was answered, or at least addressed. McIlwain really stood out and that alone earns Saturday B. The WRs looked surprisingly solid, but plenty of other question marks remain. There was no clear answer at RB (Turner looked good, but I still think that will be a position battle that continues on, especially once Rico Dowdle arrives) and the secondary looked spotty.
Overall, I was really, really happy with what I saw. The players were flying around and the energy seemed really high. It was enough to get excited about and continue the positive momentum from a surprising Top 25 recruiting class haul. An easy A+ had we seen a Brandon McIlwain-esque standout running the ball, but for now a B+ is spectacular for a team that won just three games last year.