WHAT THEY RETURN: South Carolina brings back one of the preseason favorites for the Heisman Trophy, running back Marcus Lattimore. The sophomore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns during his freshman campaign, including a 212-yard, three-touchdown performance against Florida last season.
Senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was reinstated on Monday after his fifth suspension, but head coach Steve Spurrier expects a quarterback competition between Garcia and Connor Shaw. Garcia went 224-for-349 (64.2%) with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.
Whoever starts this season will have the best wide receiver in the SEC to throw to, as junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery returns after leading the team with 1,517 yards through the air and nine touchdowns last season.
The only trouble on the offensive side of the ball could come on the line, where the Gamecocks return only two starters.
The defense brings back the top two players in sacks on South Carolina last season. Melvin Ingram led the team with nine sacks last season while defensive end Devin Taylor had 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle Travian Robertson will anchor the inside of the defensive line.
The linebacker position brings back Shaq Wilson as the best player at the position. He led the team in tackles in 2009. Rodney Paulk will bring experience to linebacker, but Devonte Holloman will transition into the SPUR position, a hybrid between linebacker and safety.
WHAT THEY LOST: The key offensive loses didn't have their names in the headlines much last season, but they played a big role. Fullback Patrick DiMarco played a key role in the Gamecocks' offense during his career. Garrett Chisolm was the biggest name of three offensive linemen that graduated.
The defense had its biggest loss on the front. Cliff Matthews created pressure off the edge, recording 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Ladi Ajiboye was solid at defensive tackle for the Gamecocks last season, recording five tackles for loss.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: There isn't much doubt here. With multiple starters returning, it's freshman Jadeveon Clowney that should create a big impact. With Taylor and Ingram returning to the team at defensive end, most freshmen wouldn't see the field very often at that position. However, Clowney's skill set will see the field.
Taylor has played defensive end in his career, and in third down situations, the Gamecocks could slide him inside to get Clowney coming off the edge. If Clowney proves he is ready to handle playing every down from the beginning, Ingram could slide inside full time, despite defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson liking him more at defensive end. It's a good position for the South Carolina defense to be in.
POSITION THAT NEEDS TO STEP UP: The secondary for the Gamecocks needs to improve this season. They had success last season in spite of the group's struggles. South Carolina ranked tenth in pass defense in 2010, ahead of just Ole Miss and Auburn, giving up 241.9 yards per game through the air. They also ranked tenth in pass efficiency defense.
The Gamecocks ranked ninth in the conference with ten interceptions, but they led the conference by returning five of them for touchdowns.