South Carolina’s preseason football camp begins today (July 31), and it’s a surefire sign that before you know it, September 2 will be upon us. While there are a few things we know - like Jake Bentley will be the starter at quarterback and Deebo Samuel/Bryan Edwards will potentially be the featured wide receivers - there are still a few questions that need answering.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the things I’ll be watching for as the team opens camp:
The backup quarterback position
I’d like to think Michael Scarnecchia has this sewn up 100% (and I figured he did a few weeks ago), but the more I thought of it, the more I realized the fact of the matter is that he’s such an unknown quantity that it’s hard to say whether or not he’ll be behind Jake Bentley as QB2. I’d have to say that Jay Urich provides a higher skillset than Scarnecchia, but he’s a true freshman and I’d have to think Muschamp redshirts him unless he shows that he’s ready right away for the backup job. Having said that, here’s hoping that a backup won’t be called into action for extended periods of time this year.
Running back: Who’s the man?
There’s a big old “OR” listed under the running back slot for the Gamecocks on the preseason depth chart. While it’s possible that Rico Dowdle, A.J. Turner and newly-eligible UNC transfer Ty’Son Williams will all get turns in the backfield, the question is who will get the most touches. In my eyes, it’s Dowdle, but with Williams’ nice spring game coupled with the stats Turner put up last year, having three guys that can run the ball decently is a good problem to have. Now, about that offensive line...
Where do the JUCO transfers fit in?
You don’t see Javon Kinlaw, Dennis Daley, Kaleb Chalmers, Eldridge Thompson and Keisean Nixon on the two-deep since they’re JUCO transfers, but expect to see them work themselves into the mix. D-line coach Lance Thompson has the luxury of having a strong DE recruit in Kinlaw at his disposal. Thompson, a tackling machine, can only benefit further from learning under more established LBs like Skai Moore and Bryson Allen-Williams. You can even slot Daley as someone who can provide a big (300+ pound) presence up front behind Malik Young at offensive tackle. Keep a close eye, too, on Chalmers and Nixon as potential options at corner.
Which freshmen could break into the rotation?
Sure, a couple of freshmen are still featured in this year’s preseason depth chart (Dreak Davis, OrTre Smith and Sadarius Hutcherson are on the two-deep behind returning starters), but that’s because a) they enrolled early like Davis and Smith or b) redshirted last year. Jam Williams will almost certainly see plenty of reps in the secondary and position himself at nickel. Shi Smith won’t be a primary target for Jake Bentley, but he’ll figure strongly into a crowded situation at wideout. A few redshirt candidates for me could be TE Will Register, OTs Jordan Rhodes and Jordon Carty, WR Chad Terrell, DE Aaron Sterling and CB Tavyn Jackson.