South Carolina closed out its first spring session under coach Will Muschamp with the annual Garnet and Black Spring Game, and a freshman quarterback was the biggest storyline of the day.
Brandon McIlwain took advantage of his opportunity as the starting quarterback during the Black squad’s 35-14 victory. The quarterback situation was just one of many things South Carolina needed to improve upon after a dismal 3-9 campaign.
Here are the grades from the spring game, including breakdowns of both the first and second units.
No. 1 Offense: B-
McIlwain looked comfortable at times and inconsistent at others. The up-tempo offense rarely fazed him and he showed off his dual-threat capabilities throughout the day. He completed 19-of-26 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel also might have emerged as the No. 1 receiver. Samuel caught four passes for 31 yards, ran for 33 yards and also threw a 28-yard pass on a trick play.
South Carolina’s running game wasn’t impressive. Part of that was because Muschamp left out some schemes that could have exposed his linemen to injury. But the Black squad, which primarily consisted of the starters, ran for only 78 yards on 21 carries.
No. 1 Defense: B
South Carolina’s starting defense had a good day albeit against mostly reserves and held the Garnet squad to just 200 yards. The linebackers showed some promise even without Skai Moore and stymied the Garnet squad’s running game to just 66 yards on 27 carries. Sophomore linebacker Boosie Whitlow had two “sacks” (quarterbacks weren’t actually hit). The starting unit was unable to come away with a turnover, which is disappointing against two inexperienced quarterbacks. There were also a handful of coverage gaffes throughout the game.
No. 2 Offense: C-
It wasn’t a great day for the reserves. Junior Connor Mitch served as the backup quarterback on Saturday, but he also took some reps with the starters. Mitch was decent, completing 9-of-16 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Former cornerback and running back Jamari Smith had a nice day with six catches for 54 yards. Junior Rod Talley led all rushers with 29 yards each, and C.J. Freeman added 29 yards on the ground.
No. 2 Defense: C-
The aforementioned coverage gaffes occurred too many times among the reserves, and it led to big plays for the starting offense. The Garnet squad surrendered 381 yards and showed its inexperience on Saturday.
Overall grade: B-
South Carolina’s coaching staff has to be pleased with McIlwain’s performance, and the first-team defense showed resiliency despite some new players and the absence of Moore. The Gamecocks still lack depth at the skill positions and the running game must improve heading into the fall. Muschamp’s first Garnet and Black Game showed some positives, but left plenty of questions unanswered.