Five questions for USC as the Gamecocks open preseason camp:
Is this the year USC wins the SEC East?
Let’s just get this out of the way: USC is NOT going to win the SEC East this year. It just isn’t going to happen. Yes, Florida lost the great Tim Tebow and Georgia has a new defensive philosophy and Lane Kiffin ran Tennessee into the ground in just one year, but it still isn’t going to happen. That doesn’t mean the Gamecocks can’t and won’t have a very good, if not special season. They have not proven they are ready, especially offensively, to consistently win the league games week in and week out to take the title.
Will the offense look more like a Steve Spurrier run unit?
If you would have told me six years ago that Steve Spurrier would have one of the worst offensive teams in the SEC I would have told you to lay off the drugs. It is mind boggling how much his offense has struggled, especially the past three seasons. This year should be better. It will be better. The offensive line is still going to take some lumps. Shawn Elliott is the third O-Line coach in three years which doesn’t bode well for continuity. Also, losing Quinton Richardson and Nick Allison hurt the unit’s depth. There is, however, some talent up front and I don’t envision this unit giving up close to 40 sacks again. Improved play up front, combined with a deep pool of talented running backs and an impressive group of receivers led by Alshon Jeffery will make the offense more productive than it has been the past few seasons.
What about Stephen Garcia?
Unlike Steve Spurrier, I am pretty high on Stephen Garcia. Despite playing behind an awful offensive line he still managed to put up decent numbers in his first full season as the starting quarterback. Even though the Head Ball Coach spent the spring questioning Garcia’s worth ethic and dedication, I’m told the redshirt junior has been doing everything he’s been asked and that the staff believes he will have a better and more consistent season than last. Perhaps the bigger question is how long it’s going to take Spurrier to yank Garcia out of a game for Connor Shaw? It is going to happen at some point, mark my words. I’m not predicting Garcia will lose his job, but the HBC is going to get Shaw in at some point. It will probably be sooner rather than later.
What kind of impact will Marcus Lattimore make?
I played with running backs coach Jay Graham at Spurrier’s media golf outing last week and Graham is very high on the freshman out of Byrnes. Graham is also quick to point out Marcus Lattimore still has never put on pads and participated in an SEC practice. Kenny Miles is still the starter. Jarvis Giles has reportedly had a very good summer. Brian Maddox is also still in the mix. Those are all highly recruited and very capable running backs. Lattimore will play and will play early, just don’t expect a 1,000 yard season out of him this year. That is more of a testament to the returning backs than it is a knock on Lattimore.
Will the defense be among the SEC’s best again?
Yes. Eric Norwood is going to be missed. Clifton Geathers, to a lesser extent, will be missed too. There are still some really good players on the unit though. Cliff Matthews is a beast, Ladi Ajiboye and Travian Robertson are solid up front and Stephon Gilmore is one of the best young defensive backs in the country. Ellis Johnson knows a thing or two about building a stingy defense. He’s hoping this year’s D can force a few more turnovers and maybe even score some points to help ease the burden on the offense.
USC key games:
9/11 UGA, 9/25 @AUB, 10/9 BAMA, 10/16 @ UK, 11/6 ARK, 11/12 @UF, 11/27 @ CU