South Carolina Football Spring Practice Start Date: March 6
Garnet & Black Spring Game: April 12
Football is in the air once again in Columbia, SC. Despite getting off to a later start than originally scheduled – opening practice was pushed back two days due to inclement weather – the South Carolina Gamecocks have officially kicked off their 2014 spring football drills.
Coach Steve Spurrier is entering his tenth season at the helm. Although it has taken a bit longer than some fans had initially hoped, the Head Ball Coach has taken South Carolina to the ranks of the SEC’s elite. 2013 marked the third consecutive season his club notched 11 wins.
All that’s missing is an SEC Championship banner. Will 2014 be the year in which South Carolina finally gets over the hump? With a veteran quarterback running the show and a workhorse ball carrier eating up yards on the ground, the Gamecocks should be quite formidable again in the SEC East race.
Returning Player to Watch
Mike Davis, Running Back
Now that Jadeveon Clowney has departed for the NFL, Davis is perhaps the single most accomplished player on the team’s roster. He enjoyed a prolific campaign in 2013, rushing for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns. Davis consistently proved his worth as a productive, durable back last season, and looks ready to carry his successes into this year’s spring drills.
Incoming Player to Watch
Abu Lamin, Defensive Tackle
Lamin is the Gamecocks’ lone early enrollee this spring. The 6’4” 300-pound junior college transfer fielded scholarship offers from numerous SEC schools, including Alabama and Tennessee, before committing to the Gamecocks back in July. With the departures of Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, and Chaz Sutton, South Carolina will replace most of its outstanding defensive line from a year ago. With his impressive size and athleticism, Lamin could step right in this spring and grab a starting position in the middle of the Gamecock defensive front.
Player Under Most Pressure to Succeed
Dylan Thompson, Quarterback
It’s safe to say that Gamecock fans will miss former quarterback Connor Shaw, along with his knack for making big plays at opportune moments. Thompson has played sporadically behind Shaw for the past three seasons. While he isn’t the running threat Shaw was, Thompson is solidly built in the mold of a pro-style quarterback, and should be able to challenge SEC defenses with his arm.
What to Watch for in the Game
Will the Carolina pass-rushers be able to fill the void left by Clowney?
A talent like Jadeveon Clowney comes along maybe once in a generation, and his other-worldly physical capabilities will be sorely missed on the defensive line. Replacing Clowney is virtually impossible, but finding a suitable pass-rusher to take his spot in the lineup shouldn’t be.
His undersized frame may be a concern, but Darius English is a speedy, athletic, pass-rushing end to watch for this spring. Not to be confused with his half-brother, a Gamecock defensive tackle who bears the same name, Gerald Dixon is another end fans should keep an eye on in the Garnet & Black Spring Game. The 267-pounder carries a good bit more weight than English, and logged playing time in nine games last season. If a satisfactory pass rush emerges this spring, Gamecock coaches and fans will rest much easier heading into fall camp.
Either way, Spurrier will likely look to ride Davis’ legs and Thompson’s arm to another successful season in 2014.