Spring review: Five unanswered questions

Gamecock Anthem takes a look at five questions that weren't answered this spring. In a future article, we'll look at five questions that were answered this spring.

Who will be the Gamecocks' go-to outside receiver?

There's no doubt that wide receiver Ace Sanders stepped up this spring and looks ready to take a big step forward in 2012. But Sanders and his back-up Bruce Ellington, who also had a strong spring, play in the slot, and the Gamecocks still need a couple of receivers to step up at their outside 'X' and 'B' receiver positions.

Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. likes to give his veteran players a chance first, so DeAngelo Smith and D.L. Moore will likely have the edge at the 'X' and the 'B' respectively. But they'll have to prove they're ready to be a big part of the offense early on as they won't be without young talent pushing behind them.

Smith's biggest competitor may be Damiere Byrd, who could go from catching just one pass last year as a freshman to being a key cog in the Carolina passing game this season. Byrd consistently got open more than any other receiver this spring, but needs to keep his focus and catch the ball more consistently. He also just needs to continue to get on the same page with quarterback Connor Shaw.

Redshirt freshman Shamier Jeffery will also have the chance to show what he can do at the 'X' and freshman Shaq Roland is also scheduled to start his career there.

At the 'B', Moore will be pushed by redshirt sophomore Nick Jones and redshirt freshman K.J. Brent. Jones had a quiet spring but has never been a flashy player and always seems to play well when he's in the game. Brent nearly played as a true freshman but wasn't forced into action due to the players ahead of him last season. If no one steps up at the position, then Ellington, Jeffery or Roland could also get a look at the spot. Freshman Kwinton Smith is also scheduled to start his career at the 'B'.

Who will emerge as the kicker and punter?

New special teams coach Joe Robinson will have some decisions to make in his first season in Columbia. The Gamecocks are replacing seniors at place-kicker and punter this year.

At kicker, Adam Yates and Landon Ard were neck and neck in the spring. And at punter, Patrick Fish and Mike Williamson were also in a close heat.

While Yates and Williamson appeared to have a slight leg up, Robinson didn't want to name a leader for either race and said it was truly too close to call at the end of spring.

The Gamecocks will get help from two incoming prospects. McEachern HS kicker Nick St. Germain signed with South Carolina in February and Robinson loves St. Germain's strong leg, competitiveness and work ethic. St. Germain will have a strong chance to be the team's kickoff specialist as a freshman and has to be considered a wild card in the place kicking race as well.

At punter, JUCO transfer preferred walk-on Tyler Hull isn't even on campus yet, but may actually have the best chance to win the job. Considered one of the best punters in the country by Chris Sailer Kicking, Hull is considered an instant-impact player who has shown the ability to kick 50+ yard punts with 4.8+ seconds of hang time.

Who will provide depth in the secondary?

South Carolina should be in good shape at cornerback with Jimmy Legree and Ahmad Christian playing reserve roles (and Chaz Elder and Rico McWilliams also potentially helping). But there's plenty of uncertainty regarding the depth at the two safety positions and the SPUR.

D.J. Swearinger (field safety), Brison Williams (boundary safety) and DeVonte Holloman (SPUR) appear to be penciled in as starters, but who will back them up and more importantly, will defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward be able to trust them?

Redshirt freshmen Sheldon Royster and Kadetrix Marcus appear to have the strong edge to be the top back-ups at field safety and boundary safety, respectively. Both players made strides, but both players will need to improve their consistency to earn the coaches' trust.

At SPUR, things seem even less certain. Holloman will probably play as many snaps as he possibly can, but Carolina will need someone to step up in a back-up role. Sharrod Golightly is currently at that spot. Golightly could be pushed by freshman Jordan Diggs who was an advanced player in high school and could step right in and play valuable minutes if he picks up the playbook fast enough.

How will the linebacker depth chart shake out?

There are a couple of things that are certain: South Carolina has experience at linebacker and seniors Shaq Wilson, Reggie Bowens, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery should play a lot. But who will play where? And can redshirt freshman Cedrick Cooper break into the rotation?

Wilson and Bowens both worked at middle linebacker for most of the spring while Smith and Jeffery rotated at WILL linebacker. But at times, Wilson and Bowens were on the field at the same time, and linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said that those were his two best backers at this time.

Wilson and Bowens could start the season on the field at the same time, but that would open up a hole at the second string middle linebacker spot unless Jeffery or Smith could slide over, and would also force one of the two out of the rotation at WILL.

Botkins' goal will be to get his best players on the field while also giving himself the best rotation possible. While the four seniors obviously have a leg up, Cooper has been bragged about since he arrived and could still enter the mix if he's healthy.

Who will provide depth on the interior o-line?

The Gamecocks seem pretty set with A.J. Cann, T.J. Johnson and Ronald Patrick as starters, but the depth behind them is still to be decided.

If South Carolina were to play today, and one of those three players were to get injured, it seems from the practices that Kyle Harris would be the next man up. Harris is listed as the back-up at center and o-line coach Shawn Elliott experimented with moving Johnson to guard, where he played earlier in his career, in certain scenarios.

Kenny Davis and Kaleb Broome are currently listed as the back-ups at guard and both have age on their side, but neither has shown much to this point in their careers at Carolina.

Incoming freshman guards Joe Harris and Cody Waldrop are highly thought of by the staff and could get a chance to show they're ready to play. There's also always the chance that an offensive tackle could get moved to guard.

It seems at this point that South Carolina would be more likely to just use a four-man rotation of Cann, Johnson, Patrick and Harris until another player or two steps up.

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