Schedule: The Gamecocks open spring practice Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET. Practices are open to the public. South Carolina will conclude the spring on April 13 with its annual Garnet & Black spring game at 1 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium.
What’s new: Deke Adams is in his first year as South Carolina’s defensive line coach. He was the defensive line coach at North Carolina last season and replaces Brad Lawing, who left to take the defensive line job at Florida.
On the mend: Senior quarterback Connor Shaw will miss the spring after undergoing offseason foot surgery. Other players who will miss the spring or be severely limited because of injury are sophomore linebacker Cedrick Cooper (knee), sophomore safety T.J. Gurley (knee) and redshirt freshman cornerback Rico McWilliams (knee). Sophomore running back Shon Carson and sophomore cornerback Ahmad Christian are playing baseball.
Question marks: The starting linebacker jobs are wide open, and a couple of the true freshmen arriving this summer could end up playing key roles. The Gamecocks lost just about everybody who played meaningful snaps at linebacker a year ago, including leading tackler Shaq Wilson. They also lost starting spur DeVonte Holloman, who was a hybrid linebacker/safety. Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis and redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman will battle it out for the starting middle linebacker job. Sophomore Marcquis Roberts is somebody to watch at outside linebacker, although he’s been plagued by knee injuries. There also a lot of unknowns at receiver, especially with Ace Sanders leaving early for the NFL. It’s a big spring for sophomore Shamier Jeffery, the younger brother of Alshon Jeffery, and sophomore Shaq Roland, who was the Gamecocks’ most heralded signee a year ago. Roland only caught five passes as a true freshman, but is supremely talented.
On the move: Redshirt freshman Kelvin Rainey spent last fall at tight end, but is moving to outside linebacker this spring. He’s expected to battle Roberts for a starting job.
New faces: The Gamecocks have two freshmen who were early enrollees -- quarterback Connor Mitch of Raleigh, N.C., and offensive guard D.J. Park of Dillon, S.C. Also, junior college newcomer Ronnie Martin will go through the spring and compete for one of the starting cornerback jobs. Redshirt freshman Kwinton Smith is somebody to watch at receiver. He’s 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds and gives the Gamecocks a bigger target in their passing game.
Key battle: With Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles both gone, the Gamecocks will be looking for a go-to running back. Sophomores Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds have both shown that they’re more than capable in flashes. Davis is listed as the starter on the spring depth chart, but Wilds was extremely impressive two years ago as a true freshman while filling in for Lattimore. Wilds redshirted last season after injuring his ankle early in the season. The other battle to watch is at defensive tackle between junior J.T. Surratt, sophomore Gerald Dixon Jr. and sophomore Phillip Dukes.
Breaking out: Look for sophomore tight end Jerell Adams to be a much bigger part of the offense in 2013. He earned SEC All-Freshman honors last season and has the size (6-4, 225 pounds) and speed to be a nightmarish mismatch for opposing defenses. Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles was solid last season for the Gamecocks and finished with eight tackles for loss. He could make a move in 2013 as one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league, especially playing alongside Jadeveon Clowney.
Don’t forget about: Obviously, Clowney is the most talented defender in college football and the player everybody the Gamecocks face in 2013 will be scheming to slow down. That said, the guy lining up at the other end for South Carolina has a chance to be pretty dynamic in his own right. Junior Chaz Sutton had five sacks last season and moved inside when the Gamecocks went to their “rabbit” package with four defensive ends. He’s a 6-foot-5, 256-pound athlete who specializes in getting to the quarterback.
All eyes on: It’s Dylan Thompson’s show at quarterback this spring with Shaw recovering from surgery. Every time the Gamecocks called on Thompson last season, he delivered. But this is his chance to be the man and make the quarterback race a hotly contested one in the preseason. The good news for the Gamecocks is that they have two quarterbacks they know they can win with.