Football season is now mere hours away, and the first game of the season—South Carolina at NC State—has garnered plenty of press.
While all of the subplots are interesting, there is one stat that Gamecock fans can rest their hat on: 16 in a row.
That’s what Steve Spurrier has registered in season-opening games, dating all the way back to his days at Duke—where his only season opening loss was to, oddly enough, South Carolina.
Other tidbits from Gamecock Nation:
Stephon Gilmore will be a busy man Thursday night. Not only will he start and play nearly every down at cornerback, he will also be returning punts—and Spurrier might use him in Carolina’s version of the Wildcat formation. Spurrier loves the way Gilmore runs with the ball (and says he can also pass well) but has to be sure not to overwork the kid in his first collegiate game.
A guy under the radar for some reason is safety Chris Culliver. Recruited as a wide receiver, Culliver made the successful switch to safety last year and performed well. As a junior this season, I think Culliver is ready for a monster season.
The kid has size, strength, and blazing speed—and he’s been known to light up both receivers and ball carriers. Culliver is also a dangerous return kickoff man. Like Gilmore, though, Culliver could be on the field more than he bargained for: Ellis Johnson may ask Culliver to play a bit of corner as well, covering up some of the depth issues at corner.
Between Gilmore, Culliver, and sophomore Akeem Auguste, there should be some exciting plays from Carolina’s secondary, including some pick-sixes.
At running back, the coaching staff feels good about five backs but will likely play just three in the opener. Brian Maddox will start, and Jarvis Giles will see carries within the first two series. Kenny Miles will be the third back to get a look, while Bryce Sherman and Eric Baker remain on the outside for now.
With Sherman’s diminuitive size and ridiculous speed, though, you wonder how long it will take the head ball coach to get the kid on the field for some trickeration.
New offensive line coach and run game coordinator Eric Wolford has been a top-notch addition to the Carolina staff—and his coaching should show up big against NC State.
The offensive line has been pushed like never before, and even though it’s still not a particularly strong aspect of the team, the group has gelled and rallied behind the playmakers getting the carries. Expect a huge difference in the running game from last year.
The biggest question mark to most is what the wide receivers will contribute—especially against a shaky Wolfpack secondary. If the Gamecocks can hit on some big plays, as they have in their scrimmages, confidence would soar.
Tori Gurley, Moe Brown and Jason Barnes will get the first looks, but most Gamecock fans are anxious to see if highly-touted Alshon Jeffrey will make an impact. The receiver crew is full of capable players, but it needs someone to step up as the guy.