Checking in on South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- I'll be in Gamecock Land the next couple of days checking in on the defending Eastern Division champions.

Sort of seems weird to write that after all those years of seeing South Carolina wallow in mediocrity.

But not anymore.

The Head Ball Coach has this program on the move, and the Gamecocks are my favorite to win the East again in 2011.

They opened spring practice on Tuesday and will practice again today and tomorrow.

The big story around here is that senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has been suspended (again) for the first part of the spring.

We'll see how he responds from that suspension, which stems from some late-night partying in his hotel room that turned rowdy the week of the bowl game last season.

More importantly, we'll see how Steve Spurrier responds from what is another issue with his senior quarterback.

It's obviously a big spring for Connor Shaw. If he plays well this spring and does what Spurrier asks him to do, I believe there's a very good chance that he will be the Gamecocks' starter next season.

I doubt that Garcia's just going to stand around and let that happen. However it shakes out, he once again finds himself on double-secret probation.

I'll catch back up with everybody later today after visiting with Spurrier and some of the players. The Gamecocks practice at 4 p.m. ET today.

If everything falls right defensively, this has a chance to be the best defensive line the Gamecocks have put on the field in a long time, and they were pretty stout up front last season with a league-leading 41 sacks. It will be interesting to hear what assistant head coach for the defense Ellis Johnson has to say.

One of the unsung heroes last season for the Gamecocks was first-year offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, who once again is looking for the right combination up front this spring.

Hey, just having the same offensive line coach for the second year in a row is a win for the Gamecocks when you consider the way they've gone through those guys under Spurrier.

I think Elliott is a keeper. I like the edge he brought to that group last season.