With the new season of college football fast approaching, Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks are preparing to bring a new standard of tradition to the campus in Columbia.
Returning 17 starters, this young Carolina team is hoping to capture an SEC title, and become nationally recognized as prime contenders for the BCS.
The offense is looking to lean on its big, physical tightends. Jared Cook and Wesley Saunders are in position to become studs if the passing game opens up. These guys catch the ball and get downfield in a hurry. Cornerbacks will grimace after a collision with the likes of these two.
Throwing the passes to them will likely be second-year quarterback Chris Smelley. His aspirations should be lofty, after a solid couple of games early verses tough competition, including playing time at Georgia, and also at LSU.
Now that Coach Spurrier has had some time to fine tune, Smelley looks to have a stellar season at the helm as Gamecock quarterback. Third-string talent Stephen Garcia is still learning, and due to off-field issues, may have to root for Smelley, as he’s already in Spurrier's doghouse.
As for the running game, Mike Davis is slated to be the starter, and has had flashes of brilliance, but backup Brian Maddox should get carries as well, taking pressure off of Davis and keeping fresh legs on the field.
The offensive line that will provide holes for these two are gelling as a unit, after some ups and downs last season. Leading the way are seniors Jamon Meradith and Justin Sorenson. At 6’5 300 lbs. and 6’7 327 lbs., respectively, these guys are looking to move mountains for any ball carrier behind them.
The rest of the line are potential stars in the making, but are young and thirsting for experience. Sophmore Heath Bachelor, junior Garrett Anderson, sophmore Seaver Brown, sophmore Hutch Ekerson, freshman Quentin Richardson, freshman Kyle Nunn, senior Gurminder Thind, and junior Lemanuel Jeanpierre round out the hog-mollies up front.
Wide receiver is a position the Gamecocks should be confident about--returning for a senior season is solid go-to guy, Kenny Mckinnely. He will be the anchor to a solid cast of receivers.
Sophmore Dion Lecorn is looking to have a breakout season, and freshman C.C. Witlock is a highly touted and skilled receiver who will line up everywhere
The Gamecock defense had an amazing start to the 2007 season, and were ranked in the top ten nationally, but key injuries to star LB Jasper Brinkly combined with nagging secondary injuries, ravaged the young defense.
In addition to returning senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley, the Gamecocks have moved big man Eric Norwood from DE to LB. Norwood had a dominant season at defensive end last year, and hopes to continue the trend alongside Brinkley.
Rounding out the linebacking corps is senior Dustin Lindsay, junior Rodney Paulk, senior Marvin Sapp, and freshman Shaq Wilson.
Up front for the Gamecock d-line is sophmore Cliff Mathews, senior Marque Hall, sophmore Cliffton Geathers, sophmore Kenrick Ellis, sophmore Ladi Adjiboye, and Senior Jordin Lindsay. New Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has been impressed with how they’ve stood out so far.
The secondary for these Carolina Gamecocks may be the strongest part of the defensive unit. Junior Captain Munnerlyn and senior Carlos Thomas are looking to shut down any air assault coming their way.
Backing them up will be senior Stoney Woodson and Sophmore Addison Williams, who both did good filling in when players went out with injury last season.
At the safety position is Emanuel Cook, who is looking to strike fear into the opposition with his mosnter hits. He is backed by junior Darrian Stewart, who also filled in nicely when called upon last year. This group should keep USC in games till the end, and allow Coach Spurrier to work his offensive magic.
Special teams should be improved as well. Senior Ryan Succop will handle the kicking duties, and should do a fine job of it. Returning kicks will be Chris Culliver, who also looks to breakout at safety, after moving from wideout.
Returning punts will likely be corner Captain Munnerlyn, who assumed the role most of last year.
The addition of Tight ends/Special Teams coach Ryan Rychaleski should help Coach Spurrier get his offense on track and in gear. Having Shane Beamer move to the secondary will give him the focus to have them ready for tough SEC passing attacks, with the help of Ron Cooper.
If the injury bug stays away, and the offense gets off to a solid start, this Carolina team has every chance to contend for the SEC and BCS titles.
Early tests against Georgia at home in week three and against LSU will prove tough, but the toughest games they face are against the Gators in the Swamp, and a week later in Death Valley, verses arch rival Clemson.
With only about four months left to the quickly approaching 2008 season, the Gamecock Faithful in Columbia are poised and ready, waiting for something to cluck and get their feathers riled about.