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Monday, May 24, 2010
Spring superlatives: South Carolina

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Today, we turn our attention to the Gamecocks’ strongest and weakest positions coming out of the spring:

Strongest position: Receivers/tight ends

Key returnees: Sophomore receiver Alshon Jeffery (46 catches, 763 yards, six touchdowns), sophomore receiver Tori Gurley (31 catches, 440 yards, two touchdowns), sophomore receiver D.L. Moore (seven catches, 99 yards, one touchdown) senior tight end Weslye Saunders (32 catches, 353 yards, three touchdowns), senior tight end Patrick DiMarco (14 catches, 78 yards, one touchdown)

Key departures: Receiver Moe Brown (33 catches, 491 yards, three touchdowns)

The skinny: It was a difficult pick between South Carolina’s pass-catchers and defensive line. But several of the guys the Gamecocks are counting on to play up front defensively next season were either recovering from injury or limited this spring. So we’ll go with the guys catching passes. The Gamecocks are a little young at receiver, but extremely talented. Jeffery had a huge freshman season and is a nightmare matchup for smaller cornerbacks. He goes into the 2010 season as one of those guys who could take off and become an All-SEC player. Gurley’s an inch taller than Jeffery at 6-5 and showed a knack for making big plays last season as a freshman. Steve Spurrier has said the Gamecocks will play Jeffery and Gurley together next season. Moore’s yet another big target (6-4, 198 pounds) and had an excellent spring. DiMarco moved from fullback to tight end this spring, and Spurrier wants to get him more involved in the passing game. The 6-6, 273-pound Saunders is athletic enough to line up inside or outside and catches the ball well. He has NFL talent and is one of those guys who’s invaluable down around the goal line and on third down.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: Senior tackle Jarriel King, senior tackle Hutch Eckerson, junior tackle Quintin Richardson, sophomore center T.J. Johnson, senior guard Terrence Campbell

Key departures: Center/guard Garrett Anderson, center/guard Lemuel Jeanpierre

The skinny: The biggest news of the spring in South Carolina’s camp was Spurrier’s public challenge of junior quarterback Stephen Garcia, who hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Head Ball Coach with his work ethic and commitment level. Spurrier is prepared to play true freshman Connor Shaw at quarterback if Garcia doesn’t have a good summer. As precarious as that situation appears, the offensive line remains the Gamecocks’ greatest concern. Shawn Elliott is South Carolina’s third different offensive line coach in as many seasons, and he wasn’t working with a full deck this spring. Quintin Richardson was out after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Gamecocks need him healthy at right tackle next fall. King recently had his second heart procedure, but should be back to full go sometime in July. Johnson was one of the SEC’s top freshman offensive lineman last season and started every game at guard. He moved to center this spring. Spurrier thinks a couple of true freshmen could end up playing early, in particular A.J. Cann of Bamberg, S.C. However it shakes out, the Gamecocks will have to make significant strides up front offensively from the last couple of seasons if they’re genuinely going to be in the Eastern Division hunt next season. They don't need to be reminded that they gave up 37 sacks a year ago and ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense.