South Carolina Football: Gamecocks begin spring practice

These are the golden days for the South Carolina Football program.  Coach Steve Spurrier has finally brought a program that was once a cellar dweller in the SEC to compete for championships.  The Gamecocks are coming off a third straight 11-2 season, but all of that is in the past now.

Star players Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington and Kelcy Quarles are gone, and there is no time to dwell on their success.  Spring practice is upon the Gamecocks, and it is time to look towards the 2014 season.

The Gamecocks’ first of fifteen spring practices was supposed to start on Tuesday, but inclement weather postponed the first practice to Thursday.  Practice was closed to the media.

Spurrier has a lot to think about this spring, but for once he won’t have to spend any time thinking about his coaching staff.  South Carolina is very fortunate to not lose any coaches this season to other schools.  The program’s recent success has seen many assistant coaches snatched up by rival schools.

The price South Carolina HAS had to pay for three consecutive 11-2 seasons is having so many players leave for the NFL Draft.

While those outside of the program might say quarterback is a huge question mark, Dylan Thompson has something to say about that.  The senior signal caller will step in just fine this spring and silence all the haters.  Thompson has always had to take snaps behind Connor Shaw, and having a whole spring as the clear starter will do wonders for him.

Losing Bruce Ellington will certainly hurt the wide receiver corps, but the Gamecocks won’t worry too much about the players they have returning.  Shaq Roland, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones and Rory Anderson are all accomplished pass catchers and will help Thompson settle in as the starter.

The biggest question marks are on defense, specifically defensive line and secondary.  South Carolina seems to always have a great defensive line, but replacing Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles will be no simple task.

The half-brother tandem of Gerald Dixon Jr. and Gerald Dixon will go a long way in easing the loss of Clowney and Quarles on the defensive line.  Dixon Jr. is going to help fill the interior by being a whopping 6-3, 325 pounds while his younger half-brother Dixon will help off the edge having already been listed as a starter at defensive end on the spring depth chart.  Both players will frustrate opposing offensive lineman almost as much as they will frustrate commentators.

Losing Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree to the NFL Draft will definitely hurt the secondary, but having a strong linebacking corps in front of them will certainly help.  This will be an important spring especially for Brison Williams.  The senior safety will have to step up as a leader on and off the field for the young players around him.  Freshman Ali Groves is slated as a starter at corner, and all the other starters are sophomores.  They’re athletic and talented, but this spring will be very important for them to learn their positions and technique.

It’s too early to tell how those players will step up on the defensive line and secondary, but this spring will help answer some questions for Spurrier.