CFN SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On USC's Spring
Raise the roof!
Raise the roof!
Posted Mar 16, 2011

With spring ball kicking in, we start rolling out analysis for each team's off-season sessions. Check it out as CFN's SEC Bloggers give you five different perspectives on some key questions facing the South Carolina football team this spring. How much uncertainty is there at QB? Will success breed complacency in Columbia, and who stole the Gamecocks once A+ pass defense?

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs' Spring, March 15, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring, March 11, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring, March 9, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring, March 6, 2011

Brian Harbach: On how much uncertainty should we expect at quarterback

Bit timely that. The media in the state of South Carolina could be described as the proverbial ostrich with their heads buried in the sand. They ignore facts and do their best not to ruffle the feathers of the Head Gamecock when discussing the obvious uncertainty at quarterback.

The situation in Carolina is an absolute mess, has always been a mess and will continue to be a mess - as long as Steve Spurrier is in Columbia. That doesn't mean there isn't talent at the position and that doesn't mean that Spurrier doesn't know what he is doing... It is the way it will always be.

When you combine Spurrier's expectations for the position with inconsistent coaching and recruiting, you get the quarterback roulette South Carolina has now. Sure Garcia is the starter and the local media will fawn over the stats and ignore the problems - including his recent suspension Tuesday for violating "team rules". But Connor Shaw is going to get reps in 2011, and it should shock nobody if he is starting by October.

After details of Garcia's pre-Peach Bowl party leaked out, a number of Carolina fans had heard/seen enough, and here comes Shaw competing in his second full spring practice. Garcia has shown talent but precious little leadership; Shaw has less experience, but he might very well be the better leader - and with all the talent on offense, that just might be the better option. There is no way of knowing what is in Spurrier's head, so anyone puffing their chest out while screaming that Garcia is the man no matter what isn't paying attention.

Could Garcia end up the starting quarterback for every game this season? Of course. But are you willing to bet your house on it today? That's all you need to handicap this situation. And with every snap Shaw takes this week (as Garcia sits in the doghouse), Shaw's place on the first team gets more solid.

Gabe Harris: On what position is undergoing the biggest overhaul

The Gamecocks bring back the majority of their team, which rightfully has them as the favorite to return to Atlanta in December. As such, finding a position that's going through a major overhaul is a challenge, but that's a good problem to have for Steve Spurrier.

One of the strengths of last year's SEC East champs was its offensive line. It paved the way for Marcus Lattimore to have one of the all-time great freshman seasons in SEC history. However, even with three starters returning the offensive line is going through the biggest overhaul from top to bottom, and finding the same cohesiveness will be the challenge this spring.

LT Kyle Nunn, C T.J. Johnson, and RG Rokevious Watkins will hold their positions on top of the spring depth chart. Senior Terrance Campbell will finally get his chance to start at LG, but he'll be backed up by redshirt freshman in A.J. Cann.

JuCo signee Kaleb Broome and another redshirt freshman Cody Gibson will battle for the starting job at right tackle. But that means a player who has never played a snap for USC will be starting at tackle in the first game.

The biggest concern for SC is that while the starting lineups have good experience (minus RT), the backups consist of two freshman, two sophomores, and a JuCo transfer. Columbia better hope the OL stays injury free, because without them, Alshon Jeffrey and Lattimore won't have the time or space to repeat their magical 2010.

Barrett Sallee: On what happened to the Gamecocks once A+ pass defense

There's no getting around the fact that the Gamecocks' pass defense was horrendous in 2010. Just how bad was it? SC gave up 242 yards per game - "good" enough for 97th in the country. With the talent on that roster, that's inexcusable.

It's good news/bad news for the 2011 version of the South Carolina secondary. The bad news - nobody is gone. The good news - those players do have the talent.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, safety Devonte Holloman, SPUR Antonio Allen, safety/cornerback Akeem Auguste and safety D.J. Swearinger all return, and hope to cure whatever it was that ailed the Gamecock secondary last season. They looked overworked, out-of-sync and generally confused for the majority of the year, and that's not something that can be easily fixed during a season. With another full offseason of practice, they should be able to get the kinks worked out and start 2011 off on a new - and better - foot.

If they don't, the Gamecocks will have a hard time defending their SEC East title.

Russ Mitchell: On if success will breed complacency in Columbia

What success? With five - yes, five - losses, we can safely debate if South Carolina or Charlie Sheen had more winning in 2010/11.

Let's be clear, without one specific player, SC was an also ran in 2010 - even in the mediocre SEC East; so there's no room for complacency. Don't think so?

As badly as Georgia played in Columbia last year, it was a one possession game until a fourth quarter field goal by Spencer Lanning made it 17-6. The difference? Freshman Marcus Lattimore had both of the Gamecocks touchdowns, plus 182 yards on a staggering 37 carries, in only his second game as a collegian. Hellooooooo Mr. Lattimore.

In SC's losses, Lattimore was absent - literally or figuratively. In the first loss to Auburn he had just 33 yards on just 14 carries. Against Kentucky, the Gamecocks were up 28-0 to start the second half when Lattimore went down with an ankle injury... and SC gave up 31 straight points while scoring none.

In the loss to the Hogs, Lattimore had 30 yards on 11 carries. In the second loss to the Tigers, 84 yards on 16 carries. And we all know what happened in the Peach Bowl.

Yes, a first SEC Championship game looks nice on a banner - but it was cheapened by the abysmal overall performance of the East, and the absolute thrashing the Gamecocks received once they landed in Atlanta. Before we even think about using the words "complacency" and South Carolina in the same sentence, let's just keep Lattimore healthy and getting 20+ carries a game.

Barrett Sallee: On how bad this team would be without Marcus Lattimore

In a word... bad. In two words... really bad.

In South Carolina's five losses last season, Lattimore averaged just 45 rushing yards per game. In its nine wins, he averaged 108. There was a lot of weight on Lattimore's shoulders as a true freshman, and that will only increase as he progresses through his Gamecock career. Alshon Jeffery is a stud wide receiver, no doubt, but Lattimore is the straw that stirs the drink in Columbia.

Assuming he's the starting quarterback (which may be assuming too much), Stephen Garcia is still average-at-best, and South Carolina lost its second-best wide receiver Tori Gurley; so there still will be a ton of pressure on Lattimore to just stay healthy, much less preform at a high level. The South Carolina coaching staff was very high on slot receiver Ace Sanders last year, but he never emerged as the play-maker that they envisioned. He may have to in 2011, just for insurance purposes.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.

SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On Hogs' Spring, March 15, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On LSU's Spring, March 11, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On UGA's Spring, March 9, 2011
SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts On MSU's Spring, March 6, 2011

Related Stories
State of the Hogs: Weapons
 -by  Mar 16, 2011
Important Spring for ‘These' Gators
 -by  Mar 16, 2011
Relf Taking Charge Of State's Spring Season
 -by  Mar 16, 2011