Here at the University of South Carolina, the students have returned to campus. With them comes a lot of talk about the upcoming football season.
The topics have been varied, but one thing seems to be on every Gamecock fan’s mind. It can be summed up into two words: nine seniors.
Some are focusing on the negatives of the situation. Nine is an incredibly small number. There just isn’t any way around it. This is a young team in what looks to be an impressive Southeastern Conference this year. The fear is that they will be eaten alive.
Others are trying to remain positive. While the number nine is much smaller than any Gamecock fan would hope to see, the players that are returning for their senior season are, for the most part, high performance, experienced players.
It also needs to be noted that while South Carolina has the smallest number of seniors in the conference this year, they will also be losing the least amount of players next year. Florida alone will be losing 19 seniors. So, regardless of how this year turns out for the Gamecocks, fans have to be excited for next year.
Everyone seems to be looking forward to the return of linebacker Eric Norwood this season, and if you know anything about Gamecock football then you understand why. Norwood is one of the key players for this defense. He has the ability to not only make big plays, but he also has a way of getting the crowd excited. He was the SEC leader in sacks last year.
Center Garrett Anderson is another player that fans are excited to see on the field this year. He is a smart, athletic player who opposing defenses have no choice but to make room for.
Having his experience out on the field this season will no doubt be a comfort to Gamecock fans. He has played in 35 of 38 games the past three seasons.
Other seniors bringing with them a lot of experience are strong safety/”spur” Darien Stewart (23 career starts), wide receiver Moe Brown (52 catches in his career), and defensive tackle Nathan Pepper (most starts of any returning player with 26). These guys bring a lot of leadership qualities out on the field with them.
So, what does having only nine seniors mean for the Gamecocks?
It means that those nine seniors have to seriously step up on the field and in the locker room. They need to bring such leadership and excitement to the team that it seems impossible that there are only nine of them. If these players use the experience that they are bringing with them into this season to become positive, vocal leaders, there is no telling what kind of season the Gamecocks could have.
On the flip side of that, should some of the seniors have lackluster seasons or fail to be a positive influence on their younger teammates, this season is sure to be a long and painful one for Gamecock fans.