South Carolina has begun preparations for the upcoming 2012 season.
The Gamecocks started practicing on August 3 and have already had four practices this fall. South Carolina is well on its way toward continuing the success they've built up the past two seasons. The ultimate goal for USC this season is an SEC Championship.
All the work the Gamecocks put in during fall camp will ultimately decide whether South Carolina is able to capture its first SEC title.
There are a few goals that the Gamecocks must realize this fall camp in order to be successful this season.
Here's a look at those goals.
One of the unsolved mysteries for the Gamecocks this fall camp is who will win the placekicker position and the punter position.
The Gamecocks lost veterans Jay Wooten and Joey Scribner-Howard off the team last year and are looking at some relative unknowns to fill their shoes.
At the placekicker position, the leading contenders are Adam Yates, Landon Ard and Nick St. Germain. Yates is the veteran of the bunch with Ard (redshirt freshman) and Germain (true freshman) there as well. No one player has stepped forward so far this fall camp, and it will probably be a decision that comes right before the first game.
The punter position has Mike Williamson, Patrick Fish and Tyler Hull all in the mix for the job. Fish is currently on scholarship, while Williamson and Hull are walk-ons. Williamson was listed as starter at the beginning of fall camp and has worked hard to remain out front. Hull was a recruited walk-on who will get a shot at the position as well.
Finding reliable players at these two positions are critical for the Gamecocks success for 2012. South Carolina needs to make this a goal as they move forward with preseason camp.
South Carolina had its fair share of injury problems during the 2011 season and certainly needs to work to remain at full health heading into 2012.
The Gamecocks are already down one cornerback as freshman Rico McWilliams suffered a knee injury that will require surgery and cause him to miss the entire season.
Staying healthy is crucial to any team's success, and the Gamecocks are working several players back into the mix after missing a lot of time last season due to injury.
Marcus Lattimore, Shon Carson, Akeem Auguste and others all suffered severe injuries and missed time last year. These players all are healthy and ready to go for 2012, but there needs to be no setbacks on their recovery.
Healthy bodies in practice and at the start of the season gives your team the best chance to win.
Remaining injury-free should be a realistic goal that the Gamecocks should have during fall camp.
Ace Sanders is expected to make a big jump in production for the Gamecocks in 2012.
Everyone else behind him remains a question mark.
There is no doubt about the talent level at the wide receiver position for South Carolina, but a lot of youth and inexperience is littered up and down the depth chart.
The Gamecocks need to find some wide receivers who can help step in and ready the production that was lost when Alshon Jeffery went to the NFL.
Several players like Damiere Byrd, Bruce Ellington, Shaq Roland, Kwinton Smith and DeAngelo Smith all have their eyes on playing time. It's an open competition behind Ace Sanders so these young players have a chance to make quite an impact for South Carolina this fall.
Who steps up this fall will likely be determined with who becomes a viable threat during preseason camp. This is a very realistic goal for the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks lost a talented cornerback this past season when Stephon Gilmore made his way to the NFL.
The three-year starter was one of the major faces of this Gamecocks defense and him leaving left a void at cornerback for South Carolina.
Luckily, South Carolina had a veteran waiting in the wings in Akeem Auguste. The senior redshirted last year after foot injury sidelined for nearly the entire season.
The Gamecocks also have Victor Hampton returning who is expected to be the other starter for South Carolina.
But who's behind them?
South Carolina lost freshman Rico McWilliams to injury, but there are a few talented underclassman who could make an impact. Redshirt freshman Ahmad Christian pushed for playing time last season before redshirting and South Carolina brought in Chaz Elder from Georgia in the 2012 recruiting class. Jimmy Legree and Cadarious Sanders are two veterans along with freshman Chris Moody rounding out the cornerback spot.
South Carolina has front-line talent in Hampton and Auguste. The Gamecocks will need to find players who can fill in as backups for this season out of the rest of the group. Christian and Legree will likely step in often to spell Hampton and Auguste.
This is a crucial position in this defense and will likely need its backups to play a major role this season. There is some talent there. All they need now is to showcase it on the field this year.
South Carolina's offensive line was a problem in the early years for Steve Spurrier.
Several high profile recruits never panned out for the Gamecocks, but now, there is top-notch talent led by a great offensive line coach in Shawn Elliott.
The starting group of offensive line has the potential to be great this season. The group is led by senior center T.J. Johnson and has some potential stars in tackles Brandon Shell and Mike Matulis. The guard position is led by A.J. Cann and Ronald Patrick. This is a solid group of offensive linemen for the Gamecocks.
However, you can't rely on your starters all season long. Depth needs to be built, and this is the perfect time to find out who can help the Gamecocks this season in a backup role.
South Carolina will need some of the interior players like Kyle Harris, Will Sport and Kaleb Broome to increase their production this preseason. The Gamecocks do have sold tackle options in Corey Robinson and Cody Gibson.
There are enough pieces for the Gamecocks behind the starting group to be solid for the Gamecocks. Each of these players will need to show their worth this fall camp so South Carolina can rely on them this upcoming season.