The Gamecocks expect a big year from Shaq Roland (No. 4) in 2014.
COLUMBIA, S.C.—To be sure, quarterback Connor Shaw, wide receiver Bruce Ellington and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, along with a few others, will be sorely missed.
Yet South Carolina stands to field a team in 2014 with the best overall depth in coach Steve Spurrier's 10 seasons at the school.
On offense, the Gamecocks lose Shaw, Ellington and guard Ronald Patrick, but return not only all of the remaining starters, but all of the remaining backups as well.
Defensively, the losses are somewhat more significant, with three starters on the defensive line gone, both starting corners and the top backup.
Again, however, all of the remaining starters and all of the remaining backups return.
All of this returning depth is a byproduct of having the fewest scholarship seniors (five) of any team in the nation in 2013.
"We've got a bunch coming back on offense, that's for sure," Spurrier said. "That’s why we signed about 13 or 14 defensive players. Connor and Bruce and Ronald, we're going to miss, but we’ve got plenty of bodies out there."
Barring injuries, the depth is not as significant on the offensive line because line coach Shawn Elliott prefers to rely on his starters.
The depth looms particularly significant at the skill positions.
The Gamecocks' top three tailbacks return, led by 1,000-yard rusher Mike Davis, a possible Heisman candidate.
Dylan Thompson, a senior with plenty of experience, takes over for Shaw at quarterback.
Aside from Ellington, all of the receivers return, and there are signs that Shaq Roland could emerge as the next Alshon Jeffery.
The Gamecocks just put the finishing touches on a recruiting class that should more than adequately address the immediate-need areas on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Spurrier gives all of the credit to his assistant coaches for the recruiting class, ranked 14th-best in the nation by 247Sports.
"The recruiting we’ve done, it’s mostly these assistant coaches," he said. "I come in here and there, but it’s mostly these assistant coaches, the relationships they develop over the course of the year or more that they recruit these kids. In fact I read somewhere that we may have been the only team in the SEC that did not lose a committed player."
Obviously, all of this talk of next season is absurdly premature.
But with recruiting season over, snow on the ground in Columbia and the beginning of spring football approximately one month away, its as good of a hot-stove league topic to discuss as any.
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes obtained firsthand.