Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at South Carolina.
Spring Practice Starts: March 13
Spring Game: April 14
Returning starters: 7 offensive, 6 defensive, 1 specialist
Three Things To Look For:
1. Can anyone fill Alshon's shoes? 2011 might have been something of a disappointment for Alshon Jeffrey, but he still finished the season with 20 more receptions than any other Gamecock and more than a quarter of the team's total catches. The kicker: of the six other 'Cocks to finish in double-digits in receptions, only two of them were wideouts, and neither Ace Sanders (at 5'7") nor Nick Jones (at 5'9") are about to follow in Jeffrey's Hail Mary-haulin'-in footsteps. Not many receivers can, but finding someone who can stretch the field and win the occasional jumpball is no doubt a high priority for Steve Spurrier and Co. this spring.
2. Can the secondary still be trusted? The Gamecocks play a somewhat unorthodox 4-2-5 system that puts a premium on smart defenders that can play both the run and the pass, a system that worked to the tune of the nation's No. 2 pass defense last year. Unfortunately for new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, four of the five starting players in that secondary from ay era ago are gone, including star corner Stephon Gilmore and ultra-reliable safety/linebacker hybrid Antonio Allen. Ward will need senior corner Akeem Auguste to not only show he's over the injuries that cost him the entire 2011 season, but provide a steadying presence as Ward attempts to fill the other four open slots.
3. Who's going to lead the offensive line? With Stephen Garcia utterly lost, Marcus Lattimore injured, and Connor Shaw unsteady in his first few starts, what little offensive production the Gamecocks got in the middle third of the season was largely due to an unheralded line that nonetheless deserved to rank among the SEC's best. But the two bedrocks of that line -- tackle Kyle Nunn and guard Rokevious Watkins -- have graduated. Guard A.J. Cann and tackle Mike Matulis are capable of making sure there's no dropoff along the Gamecock front, but how well the line actually jells during spring camp will go a long way towards determining if Shaw and Lattimore continue to have room to operate this fall.
To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule.
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