South Carolina's Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses Headed into Fall Practice

Lee Schechter@@leeschechterContributor IIIJuly 14, 2013

September 15, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Jerell Adams (89) runs after the catch against the UAB Blazers in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks' football team is stacked with talented young players, though there are still some gaps in the roster as the team heads into fall practice.  

Throughout the spring and summer, the team has addressed many concerns and answered most of the questions.  Players like running back Mike Davis and tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerrell Adams have emerged onto to the scene as potentially major contributors to the Gamecocks.   

Here is a look at the South Carolina Gamecocks' biggest strengths and weaknesses as they head into fall practice.  


Strength: Jadeveon Clowney and the Defensive Line

Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in college football, the top prospect in next year's draft and a total game-changing player.  So it is only fitting that he is South Carolina's biggest strength right now.  Everyone knows about Clowney. 

Outside of Clowney, the Gamecocks have a dominant defensive line that is built to rush the passer and attack the opposing offensive line.  

Chaz Sutton, J.T. Surratt and Kelcy Quarles make up the rest of the defensive line that is bound to terrorize offenses in 2013.  This unit could be one of the best defensive lines in the country, if not the best. 

Clowney anchors this positional unit, but the talent is all there, and the level of play is so deep.  South Carolina also brings in a highly touted defensive tackle recruit in Kelsey Griffin, who joins the squad for fall practice.  Gerald Dixon Jr. will also be a contributor in the trenches.    

Clowney and company are without a doubt the Gamecocks' biggest strength going into fall practice. 


Weakness: Linebackers

While South Carolina is loaded along the line, the team lacks experience at the linebacker position.  

The Gamecocks are trying to revamp a unit that lost all of its leaders.  Talent is not missing at this position, but rather experience and leadership.  

This young unit will consist of Cedrick Cooper, Kaiwan Lewis and Sharrod Golightly.  Behind those starters, T.J. Holloman and Jordan Diggs could have big impacts on the game.  

All of these players do not have the in-game experience that many coaches want in a core of linebackers.  

Digging deeper down the depth chart, Kelvin Rainey is a converted tight end and Larenz Bryant is a true freshman who has huge potential.  

The linebackers are a weakness right now because they are an unproven unit that is very young and inexperienced, though in time the talent is there to turn this squadron into a strength.  


Strength: Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson

All questions aside, quarterback Connor Shaw is back and ready to play.  

Shaw is coming off an efficient 2012 despite battling the injury bug at times.  The senior leader is now healthy, confident and excited to lead his team to victory in 2013.  All of that makes for a deadly combination and a huge strength as the Gamecocks move into their fall practices.  

Beyond Shaw, backup quarterback Dylan Thompson is having a great offseason.  

He has established great relationships with his receivers and tight ends, looks fluid with passes and has showcased that he too has outstanding leadership.  

Thompson has a cannon of an arm and a gunslinger's mentality, making South Carolina's quarterback duo one of the best in the nation.  


Weakness: Finding a No. 1 Wide Receiver

South Carolina's wide receivers are versatile, and each one has his own strengths.  

Shaq Roland is a youngster but is a do-it-all receiver who is likely to become a prime target.  

Bruce Ellington is the "veteran," ready to lead his team and could be the No. 1 receiver.  

Damiere Byrd is the speed demon.

Nick Jones is the small, slot receiver.  

K.J. Brent is the long bodied, jump-ball receiver.

The receivers each have their own abilities that will shine at given times, though there is no standout amongst these players.  

Not to say that the team will not find its No.1 wide receiver, but the weakness going into fall practice is that they still may need to find one and also establish the quarterback-to-wide-receiver relationship that goes along with it.  

South Carolina is a championship-caliber team that has talent at all positions.  From the dangerous tight ends in the receiving game to the young running backs, the Gamecocks can do it all.  

The strengths are plentiful and the weaknesses are limited.  

The Gamecocks' spring practices went very well as players emerged, and now they turn to the fall practices to finalize the team.  South Carolina will be ready to begin its pursuit of an SEC title at the conclusion of fall practices.  


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