COLUMBIA — It’s a glorified scrimmage, and even the most enthusiastic ticket holder doesn’t get much out of it. Spring games are celebratory because the weather is nice and it’s the last football game in four dreary months, but the final fall predictions for an April intra-squad are a wild ride.
South Carolina coach Shane Beamer knows that, but he also knows there’s something to be learned from South Carolina’s April 16 spring game.
“I think there’s something to be said for the guys, when the lights come on they take their game to another level. Even coming into the stadium for scrums, the mentality has to be different and the guys have to step up,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how many of these guys handle this.”
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Gamecocks’ spring ball, held back by the thrill of USC winning three of its last five games last fall and smashing North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Beamer’s infectious enthusiasm permeated the fanbase and any excuse to pack Williams-Brice Stadium is welcome.
To raise the mood this year, a 7 p.m. kickoff and around 20 high-priority recruits among a group of other signers and prospects, as well as one of the most high-profile players in the history of the program about to debut, even though it’s not a real game.
But that’s enough to whet the appetite for Sept. 3, when Georgia State visits the season opener.
What does USC need to show on Saturday to keep optimism afloat?
Not since Jadeveon Clowney has a USC newcomer generated so much buzz. When Spencer Rattler, former Heisman Trophy favorite and next star out of the factory that makes Oklahoma quarterbacks, said he was moving to the Gamecocks, it immediately resolved the question of who would start at the most important position in the game after a season where four QBs took turns under center.
No one expects him to light up the sky with epic jumps or set Olympic sprint records on Saturday, but a mastery of offense, setting a pace USC has struggled to find all of last season? It’s almost a must.
on the ball
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield complained more than any team wearing orange last season and even after admitting he was sometimes hard-headed, had to take the reins away from others moments, it didn’t bring him much from the fans. the eyes. It’s a short leash this year, but with a season to install a system, and now that he has his QB, it’s time to go.
The Gamecocks have exceptional talent with Rattler, wide receiver Josh Vann and tight end Jaheim Bell (who won’t play Saturday with a hamstring). They will only get better when tight end Austin Stogner arrives from Oklahoma.
But will the running game be strong with MarShawn Lloyd, who is healthy but struggled to show it last year? What about his competition for the departure gig, Wake Forest transfer Christian Beal-Smith? It’s not just Rattler who needs to carry the attack and although Satterfield keeps it simple on Saturday (every manager does in the spring) there needs to be consistent success on that side of the ball.
Luke Doty will start at quarterback for Team Rattler is not on, then the other QBs will cycle back and forth. Colten Gauthier and Braden Davis will have their chance.
Rattler is clearly the starter. But the depth of construction is crucial. USC entered 2021 knowing Doty would start and hoping he wouldn’t get hurt because the position was so thin. Not only was he injured, but it happened in pre-season camp.
The Gamecocks weren’t the worst team in the SEC to stop the rush last year, but with 175 rushing yards allowed per game, they were far from the best. With most of that talent back, at least on the inside, USC just has to be much, much better.
USC has two good assists in both Jordans, Strachan and Burch, but with the sack pretty much neutralized in the era of spread and quick-release offenses, it’s up to the inside players to constantly stop the run. Saturday won’t reveal any concrete answers, but seeing the rotations and finding out who has to play and who can competently replace everyone who’s out…it’s vital.
The Gamecocks defensive backs look set for next year: Cam Smith and Darius Rush at corner, RJ Roderick and Devonni Reed at safety, David Spaulding at nickel.
But they will need replacements and at least get a quick look at who will be on the nickel as Spaulding is not expected to play on Saturday. The Gamecocks bet on defensive backs in their latest signing class and some of the starters should benefit from extended action.
Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.