Schedule: The Gamecocks open practice at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, and all practices and scrimmages will be open to the public. The Garnet & Black spring game will be played on April 9 with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.
What’s new: John Butler replaces Shane Beamer as South Carolina’s special teams coordinator. Steve Spurrier Jr. will take on the duties of recruiting coordinator, and Jeep Hunter will move over to coach the safeties after previously coaching tight ends.
On the mend: Junior linebacker Qua Gilchrist will be out after having shoulder surgery in January. The Gamecocks will also limit senior linebacker Shaq Wilson, who missed all but one game last season with a hamstring injury.
On the move: Senior Akeem Auguste is moving back to cornerback after playing safety last season. Sophomore Chaun Gresham and freshman Corey Simmons have moved from defensive line to tight end, as the Gamecocks attempt to build more depth at the tight end position. Senior Jason Barnes is moving from outside receiver to inside receiver, and don’t be surprised if junior Damario Jeffery goes from the Spur (rover) to weakside linebacker. Jeffery has bulked up to 230 pounds.
Key battle: It’s not just rhetoric, and it’s not simply Steve Spurrier trying to motivate returning senior starter Stephen Garcia. The Head Ball Coach is serious when he says the quarterback competition will be open this spring. Even though Garcia played more consistently last season (save the last two games), Spurrier still isn’t completely sold on his commitment level and focus. If Shaw is the better quarterback this spring, he’ll make a real push in the preseason to take the starting duties away from Garcia.
New faces: Junior college signee Kaleb Broome will vie for the starting job at right offensive tackle. Freshman Kelcy Quarles, who enrolled in January after attending Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for a semester, will get a chance to win one of the starting defensive tackle jobs. Freshman cornerback Martay Mattox and freshman safety Brison Williams are also on campus and will go through spring practice.
Breaking out: Junior center T.J. Johnson has already emerged as one of the leaders on this team and could go from a very good player to an All-SEC player in 2011. Junior free safety D.J. Swearinger is another guy to watch in a secondary that took its lumps last season.
Don’t forget about: Junior defensive end Devin Taylor received most of the accolades last season and earned first-team All-SEC honors. It was a big season for the Gamecocks’ defensive line all the way around, and senior Melvin Ingram was also a key part of the equation. He finished third in the SEC with nine sacks and will start out at end this spring. He’ll move inside on passing downs, and with heralded defensive end signee Jadeveon Clowney set to arrive this summer, the Gamecocks should be even stronger up front defensively next season.
All eyes on: Getting it right in the secondary will be a huge emphasis for Ellis Johnson and that South Carolina defense this spring. The Gamecocks are more talented back there than they played for much of last season and will be looking to shore up their pass coverage. They were 10th in the SEC in passing defense a year ago and gave up 23 touchdown passes.