COLUMBIA, S.C. — Nothing breeds confidence like consistency.
After years of competing in fits and starts and taking two steps backward for every step forward, South Carolina's football fortunes seem to have stabilized.
One bowl victory away from finishing 11-2 for a third consecutive year, and with an abundance of returning talent on hand, the Gamecocks could be poised for that breakthrough season they have yearned for all these years.
Here are five things South Carolina needs to do to keep the momentum rolling:
Take advantage of bowl practice
The extra practices afforded by a bowl game provides a perfect time to rest your regulars and get some younger players much-needed reps.
South Carolina needs to prepare well for its opponent but also practice with an eye toward developing talent for next season.
Expect a particular emphasis on developing the younger players on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Win the bowl game
South Carolina's dramatic 33-28 victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl was one of the most talked-about games of the bowl season.
That was largely because of the hit Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, which garnered an ESPY Award as Play of the Year.
The hit, coupled with South Carolina's victory, in turn made the Gamecocks one of the most talked-about teams in the offseason.
It certainly could not have done anything but help the Gamecocks in recruiting.
Another strong performance in a bowl game will lend a feel-good vibe to the Gamecocks heading into the offseason.
Finish up strong in recruiting
While most of the heavy lifting has already been done on this year's recruiting class, there are still some big-time recruits whose decisions hang in the balance.
If the South Carolina can grab a few key recruits late, it could solidify what is shaping up as a small but solid class.
The Gamecocks also would do well to make sure they have addressed some immediate need areas like defensive line and the secondary.
Have a solid spring practice
With the aforementioned holes on the defensive line and secondary, this shapes up as one of the more important springs for the Gamecocks if they're going to carry their momentum of the last three seasons into a fourth.
Even though senior Dylan Thompson is considered the heir apparent to Connor Shaw at quarterback, at the very least the Gamecocks are going to need to develop a backup.
Expect the Gamecocks to give plenty of work in the spring to rising sophomore Brendan Nosovitch and redshirt freshman Connor Mitch.
If staff changes occur, make great hires
No staff changes are anticipated at this time, but it wouldn't come as a shock if there was some movement.
In either case, South Carolina needs to be prepared to fill openings with the best available coaches to maintain momentum.
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