South Carolina football could be primed for a leap forward in 2017 and a good spring would be the next step toward a successful season.
Here are 5 goals for the Gamecocks with spring football starting Saturday.
South Carolina ended 2017 on a loss, but there was no ignoring the high note the Gamecocks’ offense hit in the Birmingham Bowl. Jake Bentley threw for almost 400 yards and Deebo Samuel was electric. That’s a good launching pad for the Gamecocks, even if it didn’t come in victory, and the 15 practices are the next chance to build positive momentum.
Find secondary playmakers
The Gamecocks roll into 2017 with a good idea of their playmakers and offensive identity. Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Hayden Hurst — 2016’s leading receivers — will be focal points. But who will emerge behind them? Randrecous Davis, Chavis Dawkins and OrTre Smith should have opportunities to establish themselves as key pieces of the offense. Their contributions are needed to diversify the attack beyond Samuel, Edwards and Hurst.
Get better on the lines
The Gamecocks’ biggest question mark position is arguably left tackle, but improvement is needed across the offensive line. The offense can be more explosive, as Bentley believes it will be in 2017. Stronger performance under new offensive line coach Eric Wolford is vital to tapping that potential. On defense, improved pass rush and run stuffing is at the top of the list. The Gamecocks must win in the trenches.
Kicking, punting and snapping
South Carolina is in the interesting position of replacing all of its specialists. Punter Sean Kelly, kicker Elliott Fry and long snapper Drew Williams all graduated. Michael Almond appears to be in line to punt after he started the Birmingham Bowl, while Joseph Charlton will be in the mix. Alex Woznick should get the first stab at kicker and Nick McGriff is the lone snapper returning with playing time. Specialists are key; South Carolina must replace 3 good ones.
It’s a simple goal that is really out of everyone’s control. But staying healthy during spring football –— and fall camp — is of huge importance. South Carolina has few scholarship players at linebacker and safety going into the spring workouts. They must stay healthy, get a full bill of work and keep progressing.