The 2015 season marked the end of the greatest coaching era in South Carolina college football history. Steve Spurrier decided to step away from the game after a brilliant, 10-year career at South Carolina. Spurrier will retire with more wins for the Gamecocks than any other coach in program history. He also is the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach a Heisman Trophy winner, with Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel receiving the award in 1996 under his tutelage. Needless to say, South Carolina has a tall order as it looks to move on from a Hall of Fame coach.
On the field, the 2015 campaign was not a great one for the Gamecocks. South Carolina finished the season 3-9, its worst record since going 0-11 in 1999. Needless to say, South Carolina is eager to move past this tumultuous campaign and begin the Will Muschamp era in Columbia.
5 Storylines to Watch in South Carolina’s Spring Practice
1. Will Muschamp Takes the Reins
Muschamp has no shortage of experience in college football or in the SEC. The former Auburn defensive coordinator is following the career trajectory of his predecessor, coming to South Carolina after a previous stint with Florida. Spurrier was much more successful in Gainesville, and Muschamp must prove he is a worthy tactician to follow in the footsteps of two coaching legends in Spurrier and Lou Holtz.
2. Linebacker Skai Moore will be Limited
One of the lone bright spots from 2015, Moore will apparently be limited in spring practice due to a neck injury. Moore is one of the best returning linebackers in the SEC, leading the position in interceptions (4) and coming in third in tackles (111) last season. Hopefully he can recover in time to get important reps with what’s sure to be a new-look defense under Muschamp. He could be the anchor Muschamp needs for a defense that is severely lacking in star power.
3. Recruiting Class’ Significant Improvement since Muschamp’s Hiring
Muschamp has never had a problem attracting top talent to his football teams. Especially on the defensive side of the ball, where he has a proven track record of success, Muschamp has always been successful convincing transfers to come play for him and recruits to sign with him. His short tenure with South Carolina has been no different thus far. The No. 1 junior college cornerback prospect, Jamarcus King, just signed with the Gamecocks. Muschamp also has convinced two premier defensive linemen to change their minds about their destination and come play for him in Columbia. Keir Thomas, a promising defensive end out of Miami Central, de-committed from Florida State, while defensive tackle Kobe Smith changed his mind from Kentucky to South Carolina. The talent is arriving; it will be interesting to see what Muschamp can do with it.
4. Quarterback Position Very Much Up in the Air
The quarterbacks on the current depth chart do not seem to be all that promising. For this reason, it is certainly good news that Muschamp was able to land the No. 7-ranked dual threat quarterback in the class of 2016. Brandon McIlwain is a superb athlete and has committed to play both football and baseball at South Carolina next year. Will he be the next great multi-sport athlete like Jameis Winston and lead South Carolina to a national title?
5. Did Spurrier Leave Enough Talent Behind for South Carolina to Compete in Year One?
South Carolina’s 2016 roster is missing a large portion of the key players from last year’s team, most notably wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who left early to enter the NFL Draft. Although Muschamp has done a good job so far in recruiting, we won’t know if there are enough bodies in Columbia for the Gamecocks to compete in the always-tough SEC East.
Pre-Spring South Carolina Outlook in the SEC
The SEC East is no stranger to new head coaches in recent years. In fact, newcomer Jim McElwain won the division in 2015 in his first campaign with Florida. New South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp would probably argue that those were his recruits at Florida and that he can do the same thing this season in Columbia. It will definitely be a tall task to right the ship for the Gamecocks in year one. Can Muschamp and company pull it off?