At last the long dark of the off-season is nearing its end. Football is less than one month away, and that means that Fall Camp is getting underway throughout the SEC. The month of August will be absolutely critical in determining how each team fares in September, October, November, and beyond. With that in mind, each team has pressing questions they have to answer before the end of the month. We will continue our series by taking a look at the questions facing Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Who Will Win the Quarterback Battle?
One of the more intriguing quarterback battles in the SEC this season is in South Carolina. Starter Perry Orth returns, but he only completed 55 percent of his passes and threw 12 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. Nevertheless, he has experience, which is important.
Also in the thick of the race are freshmen Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain. Bentley is a big kid with a rocket for an arm, while McIlwain offers a threat to tuck and run. In spring practice McIlwain received the bulk of the 1st-team snaps.
Verdict: McIlwain will be the guy. The only question is when. I personally think he will be given the nod from day one. Orth will be a steady option as a backup if McIlwain struggles. Bentley will redshirt.
Who Replaces Brandon Wilds?
In addition to quarterback, there is also a battle at the running back position for the Gamecocks. Last season’s starter, Brandon Wilds, is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He led the team with 567 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. The raw numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but he did average a very healthy 4.6 yards per carry.
So who is in line to replace him? As of Saturday August 13th, A.J. Turner is leading the way. Last season Turner redshirted. He is short but stout at 5’10” 195 pounds. Turner uses negative comments about his size as motivation.
“Even in high school, getting recruited, I didn’t get recruited by certain schools because of my size, and stuff like that,” Turner said. “It’s always, I feel, been a lingering thing. I’m just ready to prove myself, and once I get the opportunity, I’m going to make the most of it. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Also in the mix is David Williams, who was Wilds’s primary backup last season, starting four games. Williams is a bigger back, at 6’1″ 220 pounds. Last season he ran for 299 yards on 86 carries. If Turner has trouble running the ball inside or in short-yardage scenarios, expect Williams to get the call.
Verdict: A.J. Turner looks to be the guy. He is small but explosive. And he runs harder than you’d expect. Williams will spell him and see time in short-yardage scenarios.
Who Steps up at Wide Receiver?
Last season Pharoh Cooper essentially was the South Carolina receiving corps. He caught 66 passes for 973 yards and eight touchdowns. But Cooper is now a Los Angeles Ram. So who will step up in his absence? Deebo Samuel looks to be the number one option this season. Last year he caught 12 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown as a freshman. Those numbers don’t look impressive, but Samuel missed seven games with a hamstring injury. Projected over a full twelve games, Samuel would have caught 29 passes for 386 yards and two scores.
On the opposite side of the field it looks like true freshman Bryan Edwards will be given the first crack. He is a big, physical receiver at 6’3″ 208 pounds. He reportedly impressed during Spring ball. In the slot the job looks to belong to Jamari Smith. Smith came in as a running back and spent time at defensive back before moving to the slot this season. His agility and speed will serve him well there.
Verdict: Deebo Samuel is definitely the guy to watch here, though I think Edwards could also be the guy down the road.
The South Carolina Gamecocks have questions, as do all teams at this stage. How Coach Will Muschamp answers them will determine how well the Gamecocks do this season. Let us know how you think he will handle them in the comments. And come back tomorrow to see which questions the Tennessee Volunteers are currently facing.