With one month of college football behind us, has the South Carolina team met or failed expectations thus far?
The Gamecocks are right on par with where everyone expected them to be through [five] games - undefeated. The Vanderbilt game wasn't as pretty as South Carolina had hoped for it to be, but the Gamecocks left with a win and that's all that matters. The semi-quarterback controversy between Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson was short lived after Shaw's performance against Missouri firmly showed that he's healthy and ready to lead the Gamecocks to the next level. South Carolina's defense is once again in the top rankings in most categories in the NCAA. Jadeveon Clowney has been a force through [five] games and is certainly living up to the hype.
What one player has been the key factor in the first 3-4 games?
Jadeveon Clowney has been a key factor on defense through the first games of the season. He amassed 4.5 sacks [in the first four games] and has been a disruptive force on nearly every play. His speed and quickness allow him to pressure the quarterback at will. Clowney receives plenty of attention from the opposing offense, allowing his teammates more one-on-one matchups. His presence alone has helped the Gamecocks be a better team defensively so far this season.
What are the key improvements that need to be made in order to ensure a successful season?
South Carolina's offensive line needs to improve and be a more consistent unit going forward. Protecting Connor Shaw should be a top priority right now, especially with his injured shoulder. South Carolina needs Shaw going forward and if the offensive line can improve on pass protection, it will help limit the hits the Gamecocks' starting quarterback takes the rest of the season.
How would your team define "success" this season?
Success for the Gamecocks this year can be defined by double-digit wins and a division title. Obviously, improvement from last year to this year would be a plus and that would mean winning 12 games or more. This team is talented enough to do so, but can't afford any mistakes the rest of the way, including a tough October schedule. If the Gamecocks can have another season of 10 wins or more, mixed in with an appearance in the SEC Championship game, I'd consider that a success.
What is the most dominant headline the remainder of the season?
The most dominant headline for the rest of the season will likely be whether the Gamecocks play to their expectations. South Carolina will face top-ranked teams in LSU, Georgia and Florida along with an improved Tennessee team. They'll also face off against arch-rival Clemson in the season finale. People felt like the Gamecocks could contend for an SEC title this year, and so far, they have. The big question will be whether they can keep it up against the top level of competition. If so, South Carolina can become one of the SEC greats for years to come.
Thanks to Gamecock Anthem's Adam Garrett for his in-depth contribution to this report.