Spring review: Five answered questions

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

Will Kenny Miles return for his senior season?

Running back Kenny Miles used a strong finish to the 2011 season as a springboard into a strong spring practice. Barring a major change in his thought process, all signs point to Miles returning for his senior season, and Miles had the strongest spring of his career as he looked a step or two quicker than at any other point in his time in Columbia.

With Marcus Lattimore and Shon Carson still sidelined with injuries, Miles appeared to be ahead of fellow running back Brandon Wilds. While Lattimore will still be the team's top running back in the fall, Miles should have a leg up as the backup in a very crowded backfield.

Miles should bring senior leadership and experience to the group, and if the spring is any indication, looks poised to play the best ball of his career.

Will the defensive line still be a strength?

(Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE)
Talents like Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson are never easy to replace. While you can't downplay what those two have brought to the South Carolina program, the Gamecocks' d-line should be a team strength again this season.

Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney could form the best bookends in the conference and would be in the conversation as the best pass-rushing duo of ends in the country.

Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles played a major role as a freshman and improved as the season went on. He should be a playmaking force on the interior.

Senior Byron Jerideau has waited for his time to start and holds an edge in the race to play alongside Quarles, but won't take that spot without a potential push from younger players like J.T. Surratt, Deon Green or Gerald Dixon, Jr.

Chaz Sutton would be a starter at DE most other years in South Carolina history and senior Aldrick Fordham will play a vital role as a savvy veteran who can play both end and tackle.

While Ingram's pure pass-rushing ability will certainly be missed, it's entirely possible that the 2012 South Carolina d-line will be as good or better than an excellent 2011 group.

Will young players step up at offensive tackle?

(Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE)
This question could have been re-written as: Will Brandon Shell be ready to take on the mantle of starting left tackle? The answer appears to be yes. Many believe Shell has the potential to be one of the school's best offensive linemen in some time. He's still only a redshirt freshman but appears right on track to live up to his massive potential.

While Mike Matulis, who came on strong late in his true freshman season last year, is likely he team's starting right tackle, the Gamecocks got bonus strong springs from several other players at tackle.

Cody Gibson appears to have grown into his frame and could be ready to play and potentially give Matulis a run for the right tackle job. Gibson did his best last season but didn't seem physically ready for SEC play. Corey Robinson made the move back to the o-line and showed gobs of potential. Robinson still struggles with the speed rush from time to time and needs to develop a mean streak, but the ability is there. Will Sport also earned praise from o-line coach Shawn Elliott.

This is still a young group overall but Elliott certainly seems to have some pieces to work with. It's not out of the realm of possibility that you could see a tackle move inside to help with potential depth concerns there.

Will DeVonte Holloman's move to SPUR work this time around?

Former assistant head coach in charge of the defense Ellis Johnson wanted to move DeVonte Holloman to the SPUR last season -- and he did for a short time -- but no one stepped up in his absence at the traditional safety spots.

Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward made the move again this spring and it would be a major surprise if it didn't stick this time around.

Antonio Allen is an irreplaceable playmaker at SPUR but Holloman has shown a knack to make big plays in his career, and made a bunch of them in the spring. Playing closer to the line of scrimmage as he will at the SPUR should allow him to make even more plays in game situations as well.

The Gamecocks will get back D.J. Swearinger at the field safety spot and Ward appears confident in Brison Williams being ready to start at the boundary safety position. There are still questions about the depth at all three of those positions but the starting spots appear to be settled.

Is there a backup QB in place who the coaches trust?

(Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE)
There's no doubt Connor Shaw is the quarterback of this team. But if the unthinkable were to happen and Shaw would have to miss time because of injury, there is a quarterback on the roster that the staff would trust to put in the game.

Dylan Thompson has improved every year he's been in the program and has rightfully earned the backup quarterback job for now. Thompson has earned the staff's respect with his hard work and growing knowledge of the playbook and how to play the position.

Tanner McEvoy had a strong finish to the spring and looked very comfortable in the spring game. He could make a push for that job in the fall, but if he does, that just means the Gamecocks have more depth at the always-important QB spot.


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