Spring Practice Begins: March 20 Game: April 14
The early spring buzz... After two years of mild success, and not enough consistent offense for all the yards cranked out, this is the year Steve Spurrier might have the team Gamecock fans have been waiting for. No, the team isn't as good as it's going to be once this year's phenomenal recruiting class kicks in, but after going 8-5 with skin-of-their-teeth losses to Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida by seven points or fewer, it might not take too much extra to win the SEC East.
The big spring question is... Will all the returning defensive talent turn into production? Sacks won't be a problem, the secondary will turn out to be fine, and the run defense should be better with all seven starters returning to the defensive front. Now the defense has to give up fewer yards even if it means taking fewer chances. The scheme has been all about attacking and getting into the backfield with good results in a bend-but-don't-break style, but now the D has the potential to be dominant if everything goes right.
The most important position to watch is... Offensive lineman. Even with the early departure of Sidney Rice, the skill players are in place to do what Spurrier wants. Now the line has to play well. The tackles should be fine, but the interior will be the issue losing center Chris White and guard Thomas Coleman and Seth Edwards. If all goes according to plan, James Thompson should step into one of the guard spots and provide some nice bulk, but either the coaching staff will have to rely on some newcomers, or there will be a drop-off in overall size.
Spring attitude... Come close to winning the East. There's just enough top talent returning on offense to complement a defense that gets nine starters back led by, arguably, the division's best linebacking corps, but the schedule might be too tough. Four league road games at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas are too brutal for a team that's not national-title level to get through unscathed. If USC can win two of the four, beat Florida at home in the SEC regular season finale, and not screw up at home against teams like Kentucky and Vanderbilt, things could get interesting.
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