South Carolina Gamecocks
The expectations are high for South Carolina in Will Muschamp’s first season at the helm. So much that Muschamp went on record and said that the Gamecocks “have the talent to win the SEC East.” Maybe that’s true, but this is still a team that finished with one Conference win last year and a 3-9 overall record. Sure, some of those losses were close and they improbably beat UNC in the opener, but this team still lost to The Citadel at the end of the season. Maybe motivation was lacking, but there aren’t many excuses for that one.
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The early depth chart has Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain competing for the starting quarterback gig. Orth was the guy last year for most of the way, completing 54.8% of his passes for 12 TDs and 9 INTs. However, freshman McIlwain was the MVP of the spring scrimmage and it’d be a surprise if he didn’t win the job by the fall. The freshman threw for 169 yards and two TDs in the spring Game while running for another 30 yards. Orth didn’t play due to a broken collarbone, but it looks like his spot could be gone.
With a top-25 recruiting class coming in, a lot of new faces will run Muschamp’s team. Deebo Samuel looks set to be the top receiver with freshman Bryan Edwards expected to be a top option as well. Even at running back, freshman A.J. Turner could find himself splitting carries with the more experienced David Williams. Incoming freshman Rico Dowdle could also fight for the job once he arrives.
On the defensive side, there were also plenty of positives to draw from the spring Game, most notably on the defensive line. The line is anchored by a couple seniors in Marquavius Lewis and Kelsey Griffin, but also freshmen Keir Thomas and Daniel Fennell could help on the edges. The linebackers are filtered with experience, but a lot of that group’s success will depend on how healthy Skai Moore is. Moore missed a good portion of the spring with a neck injury and he was one of the better linebackers in the SEC last season.
The secondary is the biggest defensive question for USC and that looked to be the case after the spring Game. Rico McWilliams and Chris LAmmons are okay options at cornerback, while the safety position is still up for debate.
Either way, the Gamecocks don’t get any help from their Schedule with their first three SEC Games coming on the road. Starting with two straight losses is a real possibility. Sure, all of their road Games are winnable, but none of them come across as easy. South Carolina will have to take down Missouri and hope for an upset over one of the better schools in the Conference like Texas A&M, Georgia or Tennessee if it wants a chance at a bowl Game.
This group looks ready to play for Muschamp and that can’t be understated, but their wins will depend on what the quarterback can do. Can McIlwain come in and lead the troops consistently as a freshman?
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2016 South Carolina Gamecocks Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt
Sept 10 at Mississippi State
Sept. 17 vs. East Carolina
Sept. 24 at Kentucky
Oct. 1 vs. Texas A&M
Oct. 8 vs. Georgia
Oct. 22 vs. Massachusetts
Oct. 29 vs. Tennessee
Nov. 5 vs. Missouri
Nov. 12 at Florida
Nov. 19 vs. Western Carolina
Nov. 26 at Clemson