5 Questions for 2010

With SEC Media Days finished and just over a month until kickoff, the South Carolina Gamecocks are gearing up for what they hope will be their most successful season yet. Look inside for five questions the Gamecocks will try to answer this year as they battle through another difficult SEC schedule.

Five Post-Media Days Questions for USC

1. Will the Gamecocks take the next step in 2010?

It is clear that expectations are at an all-time high for the South Carolina football program heading into fall practice and looking towards the beginning of the 2010 season. With the media picking the Gamecocks to finish third in the SEC Eastern Division at Media Days, it is apparent that some may not share the same optimism.

However, these preseason prognostications will not temper the fervor of Gamecock fans as they head toward a September 2nd matchup with Southern Miss.

USC's defense will again try to be the strong suit of the team as they return two first team SEC defenders in defensive end Cliff Matthews and safety Stephon Gilmore.

With an experienced quarterback under center, talent at running back and wide receiver, as well as the SEC's third-ranked defense from a year ago, the Gamecocks definitely have the talent to compete for a trip to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game. But as always, it remains to be seen if they will live up to the hype.

2. How will Stephen Garcia evolve as a quarterback while facing stiff competition from Connor Shaw?

Coach Steve Spurrier made it very clear at SEC Media Days that he will have two quarterbacks ready to play at the beginning of the season. But he also made it apparent that Stephen Garcia is the quarterback he expects to win ballgames for South Carolina.

Garcia brings some pretty impressive numbers into the season after starting every game under center in 2009. Last year, he ranked second in the SEC as he threw for an average of 220.2 yards a game while accounting for twenty-one touchdowns.

While he has yet to play in an actual game, Connor Shaw also impressed onlookers this spring with a unique combination of athletic ability that allowed him to show off through the air as well as with his legs.

The Flowery Branch, GA product will have Gamecock fans watching as he looks to break into the playing rotation and make meaningful contributions at QB in 2010. But look for Garcia to fully establish himself as "the man" if USC aspires to meaningful postseason accomplishments.

3. Can the offensive line make significant improvement under first year coach Shawn Elliot?

While South Carolina did improve its rushing yardage per game under coach Eric Wolford, the Gamecocks still ranked last in the SEC in rushing yardage and tied LSU for the most sacks given up over the course of the season in 2009. After Wolford left to assume the head coaching position at Youngstown State, Steve Spurrier reached out to Appalachian State assistant and Camden native in Elliot, who departed the Mountaineers after twelve years as an assistant. Gamecock fans will no doubt be pleased with Elliot's championship pedigree after he left Boone, NC with a pair of national titles.

Elliot will look to make significant improvements to the offensive line unit with his fiery and passionate coaching style. USC will return several key components of the offensive line, including Jarriel King, Kyle Nunn, Garrett Chisolm, and T.J. Johnson. Quintin Richardson will miss the season after once again undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Still, with several key elements back, as well as a fresh crop of recruits making their way onto campus, Coach Elliot will try to improve his offensive line as they stack up against some of the best defenses in America over the course of the season.

4. What will the addition of Marcus Lattimore mean for the USC rushing attack?

There is no doubt that when the Gamecocks get the season started, all eyes will be firmly fixed on #21 Marcus Lattimore as he takes his first snaps in a USC uniform.

The highly touted running back out of Byrnes, SC will look to make big contributions to the South Carolina offense and try to live up to his five-star billing off the bat, but he will face stiff competition from returning rushers including Brian Maddox, Kenny Miles, and Jarvis Giles.

Coach Jay Graham will also look to partner with Coach Elliot to improve the running game, and move it out of the basement of the SEC. Coaches and fans alike expect a talent like Lattimore to improve the Gamecocks on the ground, and many are pinning future SEC title hopes squarely on the back of the young running back.

5. How will pending NCAA investigation affect the Gamecock playing rotation at tight end?

As fans of numerous schools across the country are finding out, the NCAA is getting very serious about possible rules violations involving agents and their relationship with collegiate athletes.

One such investigation is occurring in Columbia as the NCAA looks at a party in Miami attended by Gamecock tight end Weslye Saunders. The senior TE figured to be a big part of the Gamecocks passing attack, but it will remain to be seen whether or not he will suit up for USC this season.

Saunders is no doubt already facing a short leash after a brief suspension this offseason, and will face stiff penalties from the NCAA and USC if he is found guilty of any wrongdoing. Fans can breathe a small sigh of relief as former fullback Patrick DiMarco has been practicing at tight end this offseason and will look to get on the field more during his final season as a Gamecock.

DiMarco was also given the Joe Morrison award as the top offensive player of the spring, and he'll try to continue that success this fall.

Should Saunders face any sort of suspension, DiMarco may find himself as one of the key elements of the 2010 Gamecock offense.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories