South Carolina Football: Complete Spring Game Preview
Gamecocks fans, football season is finally here.
Well, sort of.
South Carolina ends its spring season with the annual Garnet and Black spring football game, and it's the first dose of big-stage South Carolina football since the 2013 season's bowl game.
The Gamecocks have been hard at work this spring trying to find answers to fill the defense and turn the offense into a finely tuned machine.
This Saturday, the public catches a first glimpse of the team's progress, while head ball coach Steve Spurrier can experiment by testing his players on a bigger stage despite the fact it's just a spring game.
Spring football is a great way to learn about your team for the next season.
Here is your complete preview for South Carolina's Garnet and Black Spring Game.
Nickname: Garnet & Black Game
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC
Video: Live on ESPNU
Admission: Free to the public
Format: Four 12-minute quarters with a continuous running clock. Offense vs. defense.
Position Battles to Watch
Last season, the "Spur" linebacker spot saw one of the hottest position battles on the team. Sharrod Golightly and Jordan Diggs went down to the wire. Golightly prevailed and went on to have a very successful year, but Diggs is now right on his tail again.
While bigger and more physical, Diggs is still quick and has more potential as the younger player. The staff is noticing Diggs' progress, while Golightly has fought off injuries this spring.
Diggs can use the spring game to prove he deserves a chance to start.
This battle is even tighter than last year.
J.T. Surratt is one starting defensive tackle this fall. The rest of the players at the position are trying to earn the other starting spot and playing time in general.
Considering the depth and talent at the position, there is a lot of room for movement. Abu Lamin, Kelsey Griffin, Deon Green and company will have a lot to prove if they want to work their way up the depth chart. The competition is fierce.
Just like the interior slot on the line, the end positions are up for grabs. Darius English looks to be holding his ground as one starter, but the other end is yet to be determined—as are spots in the rotation.
Since it is the biggest area of concern for the Gamecocks, all eyes will be on the secondary. Brison Williams is finding a home at cornerback, but there are still a lot of spots open and questions that need anwering.
Can Rico McWilliams show that he is capable of matching up with top receivers?
Will the players who were recently shifted around prove they can hold their own in coverage?
Who will seize their opportunity?
The secondary will be the biggest storyline during the spring game.
Dylan Thompson will be the starting quarterback—no questions asked.
Who will be his backup?
Perry Orth and Connor Mitch have been dueling throughout the spring for the No. 2 quarterback position. The lead goes to Mitch, but a big spring game from Orth could inch him ahead of his fellow signal-caller.
On the other hand, Mitch could just as easily distance himself from the fast-rising walk-on.
Bulking Up and Physicality
We've all heard that the defensive line is bulking up, especially the defensive ends. Darius English and Cedrick Cooper needed to pack on the pounds to compete on the edges.
It's now time to see if these guys are getting bigger and learning to use their physicality.
Watch for the defensive ends to try to make a statement. They are also in the heat of a position battle.
In the last spring game, we saw Jadeveon Clowney standing on the sideline in street clothes. That was until he ran from the sideline and caught a pass in what was dubbed the "off-the-bench" play.
Spurrier is known for his trickery—especially in the spring—and he has already promised fans a big surprise, according to 247Sports.
Look out for Spurrier's slick surprise.
What the Experts Are Saying
David Cloninger of The State offers some insight into the offense from the final spring practice before Saturday's spring game.
Carson definitely has the speed to play a lot. Just going to have to find ways between these linemen.— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) April 10, 2014
Boy, Thompson looks sharp. Threading passes through dime-sized windows. Got a very under-rated arm.— David Cloninger (@DCTheState) April 10, 2014
For those waiting on the trick play, Spurrier told 247Sports:
You know we've got the off-the-bench play. It's going to be a little different this year. I want the fans to know, it is going to be a surprise. We have a surprise celebrity catcher on the off-the-bench play. I can't tell you who it is yet, but we've got a surprise one coming.
Rory "Busta" Anderson (Tight End): Torn triceps
David Williams (Running Back): Hamstring
Connor McLaurin (Fullback): Leg
Kane Whitehurst (Wide Receiver): Foot
"Busta" tore his triceps and could miss a lot more than just the spring game. While he isn't expected to miss any of the season, it's important to note it can be a very serious injury.
David Williams has missed some of the spring already. He wore the infamous yellow injury jersey to mark his status. He is supposed to play a little in the spring game, but don't look for him to do too much and risk tweaking his hamstring.
The others are battling injuries still, but they are nowhere near the severity of Anderson's tear
Sharrod Golightly has also been banged up this spring, but he will be fine for the game. He is not currently listed as having an injury.
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