Burning Questions for South Carolina's Spring Game
The Gamecocks are expected to once again be in the mix in terms of the SEC title race in 2014, but they'll need players to step up at key positions for that to happen.
After losing some big-time players to graduation and the NFL draft, Spurrier and company will need to fill the holes quickly since South Carolina starts the season off with a tough home matchup against the Texas A&M Aggies.
But that's what spring practice is for, and the staff has been working hard to identify who the breakout players might be on this team this upcoming season.
Let's take a look at several burning questions heading into this weekend's spring game:
1. How Much Has Dylan Thompson Progressed?
Thompson has the unfortunate task of replacing Connor Shaw, who may go down as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in SEC history. Shaw was tough as nails and was the ultimate leader on the field for this South Carolina team during his time in Columbia, so Thompson has some large shoes to fill.
The junior wasn't overly impressive on the field last season, but now that he's the definitive man under center, that should give him the confidence to keep getting better and better. This spring should go a long way towards getting him much needed reps to prepare for a pressure-packed season.
2. How Good Can This Receiving Core Be?
What should help Thompson the most in his new role is the talented group of receivers at his disposal. Gone is Bruce Ellington, who the led the team in receiving in 2013, but the Gamecocks have a plethora of potential breakout stars at this position.
Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland, and Nick Jones all figure to be reliable targets for Thompson, as will be tight end Rory Anderson. Roland and Jones caught five touchdowns a piece last season, and there's a good chance that number goes up if Thompson reaches his potential.
3. What Will the Defensive Line Look Like in the Post-Jadeveon Clowney Era?
The absence of a player like Clowney cannot be overlooked. He completely changed the way teams prepared for the South Carolina defense, and there's certainly going to be a massive difference in the way teams approach this defensive line.
J.J. Surratt will have to be the man on the line in 2014, but beyond that, there are definitely some question marks for this unit as a whole. It's been a while since there's been this much concern with the line. But then again, players like Clowney don't come along very often.
What are you most looking forward to in South Carolina's spring game on Saturday? Let us know by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow FanIQ College Football or myself on Twitter!