South Carolina Football: Is There Reason to Hope?

Taylor RobinsonCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

COLUMBIA - NOVEMBER 1:  Eric Norwood #40 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates on the field during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

With the 2009 college football season quickly approaching, Gamecock fans want to know what their beloved team has in store for them.

Should expectations be high or low?

Will this year’s 12th ranked recruiting class be a letdown, or will they live up to their potential?

What will changes in the coaching staff do to harm or help South Carolina’s chances?

One thing that Gamecock fans need to be looking at is who they have on the coaching staff this year.

New to the program is strength training coach, Craig Fitzgerald. His job this summer has been to find a way to light a fire under the players, convincing them that working hard in the gym will pay off on the field.

It remains to be seen whether or not his influence will have an effect on the effort put forth from these players.

Eric Wolford is another coach with something to prove this year. Hired as South Carolina’s running game coordinator, Wolford has brought some major changes to the Gamecocks’ style of play.

Should this new running game prove effective, the Gamecocks could be tough to defend.

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Let’s not forget about good old Steve Spurrier either. Now in his fifth season with the Gamecocks, people are starting to wonder just how long it is going to take him to turn their team around.

It is still too early to use the term overrated, especially with this new recruiting class coming in and nine returning seniors. Gamecock fans should expect to see some positive improvements over the next four years, in the event that Spurrier chooses to stick around that long.

Gamecock fans should also be taking a look at the players whose names have been flying around all spring and summer.

Senior Eric Norwood decided to stay and finish out his college career in South Carolina after briefly playing with the idea of entering the NFL Draft. He will be expected to bring a great deal of energy and leadership to the team on and off the field.

As far as the quarterback position goes, it is anyone’s guess who will get the starting nod come August.

In the spring game, Gamecock fans saw some improvement in Stephen Garcia’s game. While he still wasn’t playing at the star level he was originally portrayed as being capable of, he did start to show off more of his athletic abilities.

Reid McCollum saw some playing time in the spring game and was less than impressive. He seems to have plenty of potential, but just isn’t quite ready to play SEC football yet.

It will be interesting to see what Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus do with this young player.

Freshman corner back Stephon Gilmore showed a lot of promise in early spring practices and the spring game. Coach Spurrier hopes to be able to get the ball into Gilmore’s hands more this season than in the spring game.

Brian Maddox, Moe Brown, Jarvis Giles, Joe Hills, Tori Gurley, Garrett Anderson, and Cedrick Snead are all names that fans should be prepared to hear this season as well.

These are all players that have shown improvements, or in the case of Giles and Gurley, promise.

With the new coaching lineup, an updated roster with strong returning players, and Spurrier’s desire to make this team more than mediocre, Gamecock fans should expect a very solid season from their team.

It may be hard for South Carolina to get an eight-win season in the SEC this year, but they should be very competitive.

There is no doubt that the talent needed for this team to make a good showing in their conference is there. What it is going to come down to is whether or not the players and coaches can bring enough effort and energy into the practices and games to push this team to its full potential.

Spurrier has successfully deflated the expectations of many this season with his less-than-impressed attitude toward his team after their spring scrimmages.

Don’t let that fool you, though.

Spurrier isn’t the type to lie down and die. He will expect a lot out of this South Carolina team, and so should their fans.