COLUMBIA, S.C. — Now that camp season is over for the South Carolina football team, senior defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth can catch his breath.
“It’s been physical, every day,” Stallworth said late last week.
On Tuesday night, the Gamecocks held their last practice of preseason camp at Williams-Brice Stadium. They’re off Wednesday and Thursday, which is the first day of the fall semester.
The season opener in Charlotte, N.C., against North Carolina State will be eight days away when practice resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.
“I feel more prepared this year,” senior defensive end Dante Sawyer said. “I feel a lot better than last year, coming in. We’re ready this year, for sure.”
Both Sawyer and Stallworth will be counted on heavily on Sept. 2, when South Carolina heads to Bank of America Stadium. N.C. State currently is listed as a 6-point favorite.
That doesn’t mean a heckuva lot to redshirt junior tight end Jacob August, who has a rosy outlook on what could be in store for the Gamecocks in 2017.
“We’re going to be really good this year,” he said. “I think the defense looks good. I think the offense looks good. The special teams look good, too.
“I think, the only thing holding us back, if anything does hold them back, is ourselves. So if we can figure that out, which we’re getting on, getting along doing, we’ll be a good team this year.”
Even if South Carolina is better in Year 2 under Will Muschamp, topping last season’s 6-7 record won’t be easy with a schedule that’s listed by ESPN’s Football Power Index as the fifth-toughest in the country.
Five of South Carolina’s opponents are ranked in the FPI’s top 25: N.C. State, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Clemson. Texas A&M (27) is five spots ahead of South Carolina (32). Louisiana Tech is the only opponent that sits outside of the top 46.
It will be a tough schedule to navigate, but the Gamecocks feel like they’re up to the challenge.