South Carolina Gamecocks Football: 8 Post-Spring Game Thoughts
I had a pretty solid idea of what sort of team the Gamecocks had for this year.
After watching the spring game, I actually think the team may be better than advertised in some areas, and have some work to do in others. While you can't take away too much from a spring game, you can always find great player performances that foreshadow good seasons (e.g. Connor Shaw's 2011 spring).
This year, I have ten solid opinions of the team coming out of the spring game. Hold on tight, this really could be a great year.
Fan Enthusiasm Is at an All-Time High
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Believe it or not, the South Carolina spring games have always been big. People love their South Carolina teams, win or lose.
This year, it bordered on huge. With 35,000 people at the Garnet and Black game, the fans spoke loudly for how big of a season they think they are in for. It was impressive enough for the Gamecocks to make a huge impression on some big recruits, including big-time quarterback Connor Mitch.
Connor Shaw Can Push for All-SEC Honors
Connor Shaw has more potential than any quarterback the Gamecocks have had during the Steve Spurrier or Lou Holtz era.
He's added 12 pounds of bulk while maintaining his speed. His accuracy was great during the game, and his patience showed. He completed six of seven passes, looked poised, and maneuvered the pocket without getting the "happy feet" that plagued him last year.
He looked beyond good... he looked great.
Damiere Byrd May Turn the Corner
Damiere Byrd had a disappointing freshman campaign. A kid with as much speed as he has should be dominant. However, he wasn't, and he fell out of the spotlight.
He had a huge spring game. The first play of the game was a deep bomb that found a streaking Byrd for a 70 yard touchdown. His speed is insane, and no one on a fast defense can keep up with him. If he continues to work on his hands and concentration, he could be a great one.
Brandon Shell Already Looks Like a First-Round NFL Left Tackle
First of all, Brandon Shell is massive. He's not obese, he's just huge and powerful. He bottled up Jadeveon Clowney and the slew of other fantastic defensive ends the Gamecocks have.
He may be a freshman, but he is going to be an All-American at some point in his career. He would have been an impact player last year if it wasn't for an injury that gave him a redshirt. He's going to be an impact left tackle.
The Defensive Backs Have Some Work to Do
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When your most impressive player is walk-on Jared Shaw, you may have a slight problem. The defensive backs got burned frequently. Part of the problem may be that the team wasn't blitzing and played a mostly vanilla zone/man scheme.
However, it is concerning to see the lack of depth back there. Hopefully, over the summer the team will find a solid rotation and come around.
There Are Some Really Good Pass-Catching Tight Ends on the Team
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Drew Owens and Kelvin Rainey looked really good as pass catchers. They didn't garner a whole lot of statistics, but they looked smooth in their route running and made a couple of nice catches.
Add Buster Anderson (who did not play) to the group and the reliable Justice Cunningham (also did not play) and you have a group that can make plays.
D.L. Moore Should Push to Be a Starter
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D.L. Moore had a fantastic spring game to cap off a good spring for him. He has the size, speed and skills to be a starter. It would be a great thing for the Gamecocks to have him take the starting spot opposite Ace Sanders, allowing Damiere Byrd to work in the slot with Bruce Ellington.
Tanner McEvoy May Be Very Good
In his first real action as a Gamecock quarterback, McEvoy showed off his athleticism and excellent arm. He finished with eight completions out of twelve attempts and led all passers with 132 yards and two touchdowns.
He didn't use his running ability much, but it's there. The future suddenly looks very bright at quarterback with Shaw, McEvory, and possibly incoming freshman Brendon Nosovitch in the stable.