Say what?!?!? Are we really only a short three months away until the Will Muschamp era of South Carolina football officially begins and the 2016 college football season kicks off? I guess the calendar doesn't lie.
With spring practice behind them, and summer on the horizon, it seems as if there are more questions than answers for the South Carolina Gamecocks heading into Will Muschamp's first season at the helm. Just how many of those questions can be answered until September 1 remains to be seen.
In tune with our warning, here's nine things the Gamecock faithful would like answered in the coming 90 days until kickoff:
9. Can anyone other than Deebo Samuel separate themselves from the pack at wideout?
We've all heard the praise and glory thrown true freshman Bryan Edwards' way since he signed his letter of intent, but as he recovers from a torn meniscus in his right knee that sidelined him for the remainder of the his senior season, it may take a game or two for the high school standout to really get comfortable out there and trust his knee. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks pass catchers don't have much time as South Carolina opens the season with back-to-back SEC road games. The more experienced wideouts may be asked to step up early in the season for the offense to move the ball. Matrick Belton and Terry Googer, I'm looking at you.
8. When can we expect Jamarcus King on campus?
The widely touted JUCO transfer may be the one new player that will make the biggest impact on the Gamecocks defense this season. The cornerback was expected on campus for the start of the Summer I classes, but as of yesterday that's not the case.
It looks like he'll be arriving next month to start classes in July. EDIT: Question answered! King enrolled today.
7. Is Jake Bentley a legit contender in the 2016 QB race?
Sure, the sudden arrival of top QB prospect Jake Bentley surprised just about every Gamecock follower, but can we really expect him to compete for the job in 2016? While the true freshman is the same age as most college newcomers, he wasn't a part of the 2016 recruiting class until, well, the last second. Do Muschamp and his offensive staff want him to compete for playing time this year and use up a year of eligibility, or will they decide to redshirt him?
6. Just how tough will the Gamecocks' summer conditioning be?
Since stepping foot on campus, Muschamp has made it clear that he plans to weed out the weak through his strength and conditioning program. With a handful of players deciding to transfer during the spring, it was unclear if it was because of they didn't see themselves fitting into the new scheme, or weren't cut out for the required fitness. We may get a better idea of that if anyone leaves this summer.
5. Is there any timetable to return for Shameik Blackshear?
With more talent than experience, the sophomore defensive lineman has been battling injuries from gunshot wounds from a December shooting. After being limited in 2015 recovering from previous injuries, his winter trouble was only a further setback to his Gamecock career. After being forced to the sideline during spring ball, Muschamp has been mum as of late regarding Blackshear's status. Hopefully his picture becomes a littler clearer sooner rather than later.
4. Will a prolonged baseball season effect McIlwain's chances at starter?
Head coaches Will Muschamp and Chad Holbrook have maintained a fluid approach balancing Brandon McIlwain's time between baseball and football thus far, but as the baseball season hopefully progresses into the summer, will it take away from the true freshman's hopes of starting at QB come the season opener? I wouldn't think it would, but time away from the football team only gives more spotlight to Perry Orth and others.
3. Is David Williams ready to become a leader in the locker room?
If you're gonna rely heavily on one guy to carry the running load, as the Gamecocks very well may have to do with Williams in 2016, it'd be nice to see the rising junior take more of a leadership role inside the clubhouse. As a player who has seen significant playing time in each of his three seasons in Columbia, he's one of the Gamecocks' more experienced returning players. I'd like to see him step up as a leader as we progress throughout the summer and prove he's the man to run the ball.
2. What, if any expectations, will the media put on Muschamp in his first season?
As of now, very little external pressure is on the shoulders of Muschamp to win ball games in 2016. Sure, another 3-9 campaign or worse will eliminate any momentum and raise concern, but I don't see it happening. The way the schedule lines up, Muschamp has the opportunity to navigate this team to 5-6 wins. That said, will the media and other outside voices give the Gamecocks any chance to compete in the SEC this coming year, or will they merely be viewed as this year's bottom dwellers? While it matters very little, it'll be interesting to see and hear how the Gamecocks are viewed this summer leading up to and after Media Days.
1. Is Skai Moore irreplaceable?
This is a question that won't be answered in its entirety until the season actually starts and progresses. However, the summer only provides time for someone inside the defensive unit to emerge as the undisputed leader Skai Moore was. While no one person can replace his productivity on the field, someone can step up inside the weight room and film room and become that new vocal leader. Moore's absence should provide a sense of urgency throughout the defensive unit.